by Owen Schaefer The first thing you encounter on entering the Post Fossil exhibition at…
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Drawing occupies a strange land in the art world. It seems that every other month or so, someone announces the rebirth of drawing (usually coinciding with the opening of an exhibition focusing on drawing, strangely enough) — which of course is the passive-aggressive way of saying that it drawing had, in fact, been dead up until now.
What does an exhibition space lend to an artwork? Most galleries are careful to keep their walls looking pristine in an effort to achieve the “negative space” that modernism insisted would allow art objects to be free of context, to exist in some sort of pure state of art.
Hogwash of course. The context simply shifts to being a white-walled gallery — our chosen temples of art, which grant everything shown inside an aura of the sacred. But would an artwork be diminished by being shown in a factory? Some might. Others could very well be improved by it, no sarcasm intended. Context is always going to be a part of the equation, and its importance can by downplayed or played up.
A couple of weeks ago, I met a woman named Michiko Ogura who announced with tongue-in-cheek pride that she represented the smallest gallery in Tokyo — and added, “…maybe in Japan.”
Now how could I possibly turn down an opportunity to see something like that? Would it be one of those tiny buildings jammed in a space where no building was meant to go? Would it be in a broom closet?
Would it be bigger than a bread-box?
It’s interesting that “ugly” comes up as a form of valid argument against the ArcelorMittal Orbit (and let’s just go with “Orbit” from here on out. I die a little inside each time I have to type that name.) For the most part, people expect art to be by turns ugly, strange or beautiful. But when it comes to architecture, all of that changes. No one wants an ugly building, and strange won’t win many fans either. And one thing that seems most unsettling about Orbit is that it occupies that uncanny zone between being sculpture and building. As a sculpture, it could easily have been planned on a much smaller scale and had a similar, if not identical, effect. But as a kind of building it feels rather purposeless and self-aggrandizing. There is of course a great history of self-aggrandizing art and architecture out there, so that can hardly be held against it.
Well, maybe it can a little.
There’s a kind of guilt that comes along with having fun with art. It doesn’t seem to add up. It seems more like play, and admittedly, a great many of the one-night-only displays seemed to lack a whole lot of depth. But with the entire event put on chiefly by the Tokyo government, it’s not as cynical as you might imagine. And it did manage to transform the mood in Roppongi from its usual meat-market feel to something far more festival-like.
Some time back, I naively subscribed to two Canadian “arts” newsfeeds — one from the CBC and one from the Globe and Mail — thinking they would keep me abreast of what contemporary artists are up to in my home country. Two years of daily reading later, I have been kept well abreast of which gala film openings were attended by Brad Pitt, the latest news about Michael Jackson’s doctor, and how the contestants performed on last night’s American Idol. I kid you not.
It isn’t as though I needed more proof that Miwa Yanagi is a genius, but now Rat Hole Gallery has quietly put on a solo exhibition involving a handful of her photographic works (less than a handful, really… more like a half-handful, but happily it was a half-handful that I had never seen), plus one brand-new, never-before-screened video work of Brobdingnagian proportions… or at least that describes the people in it.