Between Bystanders and the Impacted
How are we to look at what lies beyond our directly experienced and limited realities? Through the informatization of society that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, we are now made aware of the “other” to a historically unprecedented extent. I held the delusion that society, through this change, would fragment into decentralized communities that recognized each other’s differences. But instead, we face a US president who calls for building walls on borders despite the lessons posed by 9/11, the Iraq War, the November 2015 Paris attacks, and the war in Syria. The same communal categories of oldーreligion, skin color, languageーstill separate “this” side and “that” side today.
“The new communication technologies, which hold out the promise of a new democracy and a new social equality, have in fact created new lines of inequality and exclusion, both within the dominant countries and especially outside them”ー“Empire” Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
We can’t directly experience the stories and events that make up outside realities. What is needed now is not simply the passive reception of information, but a way of imagining those realities that lie beyond our immediate perception.
The exhibition is a book whose pages are turned by the whole body. Unlike a movie theater, viewers in an art gallery must move to view each of the works. This action is dynamic and switches “on” the imagination. The artists whose works I reference, including Beuys, Smithson, Alys, Gonzalez Torres and Sehgal, challenge the viewer to question her immediate reality, instead directing her imagination outside of the museum, and to the “other” present inside the museum.
“They have to contend with areas that are not really based on the kind of representations that they’re familiar with, like objects in galleries or paintings on walls. In other words, they have to contend with the physical landscape rather than the insularity of a white room.”ーRobert Smithson
“What I try to do really is to spread stories, to generate situations that can provoke through their experience a sudden unexpected distancing from the immediate situation and can shake up your assumptions about the way things are”ーFrancis Alys
Strategies that cause the viewer to physically move and lead the imagination towards outside realities and the “other” are most effective in information societies.
On the other hand, voluntary and improvisational types of group-based activities, such as the carrying of Omikoshi and jazz, can only be accomplished through communicationーthat is, directing participants’ imaginations to the “other”. In order to support the weight of an Omikoshi, 30 to 40 carriers must voluntarily and randomly relieve each other in turns. Members of a jazz band alternate in improvising over a shared rhythm. Physical mediums and group efforts, in short, structures supported by groups, require voluntary or improvisational actions that make the group dynamic.
My work derives from these two vantage points, in other words, strategies that invite the viewer’s imagination to outside realities and the “other”, and voluntary or improvisational group activities brought about by participants imagining the “other”. Ultimately, the only way to unite these two approaches is through the accidental and poetic visual. The imagination directed to the “other” through voluntary and spontaneous group activities is condensed and universalized through documentation/representation in an art work, and then restored by the imagination of the viewer in the exhibition acting upon this work. Art that moves people across temporal, spatial and contextual boundaries is beautiful precisely because we can’t know the realities that lie beyond; it is this beauty that drives me to create.
If, while waiting for my food at a restaurant, I learned that a family member or friend had died, or, if the person next to me was suddenly shot and killed, I would lose my appetite for whatever was placed in front of me afterwards. But, I eat today knowing very well that people on the other side of the planet are dying. Through imagining the realities beyond us, we can form groups that transcend pre-existing boundaries. This in turn changes our perception of other communities and impacted groups around the world; our own identities are remade in the process.
“This process of coming to see other human beings as "one of us" rather than as "them" is a matter of redescription of what we ourselves are like.”ー“Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity” Richard Rorty
2017 Tsubasa KATO