Saturday, 31 March 2012

NMAO Osaka 35th anniversary exhibition flyer

Here you go, the flyers have arrived.

"The 35th Anniversary: The Allure of the Collection" 35th anniversary exhibition will be on view at The National Museum of Art, Osaka between 21 April and 24 June 2012.
Our contributions to the exhibition catalogue already went to print.  For our online readers, we have already introduced the following works from the museum's collection:

Unzipped Humanities (1) - Marcel Broodthaers  La signature. Serie 1. Tirage illimite (1969). 
Unzipped Humanities (2) - Jorg Immendorff Das Bild ruft (letztes Selbstportrait II) 1998.
Unzipped Humanities (3) - Jean-Pierre Raynaud Auto Portrait (1980).
Unzipped Humanities (4) - Miroslaw Balka φ51x4, 85x43x49 (1998).

Still a few posts to go. We are waiting for the catalogue now. Cheers.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Unzipped Humanities (4): Learn about - Miroslaw Balka

Welcome to the collection of The National Museum of Art, Osaka.

This post is about Miroslaw Balka, a Polish artist whose Blue Gas Eyes cannot forget. The darkness.

Miroslaw Balka, BlueGasEyes, 2004

The absence. The objects left behind the sweat, the tears and the salt.  The lost humanity.

The danger that it would all be forgotten.

Miroslaw Balka photo (2010)


"The 35th Anniversary: The Allure of the Collection" exhibition opens at The National Museum of Art, Osaka on 21 April 2012.
Our contributions to the Collection exhibition catalogue already went to print. For updates and texts in the Japanese language authored by The Bosa Bosa Review, please check again around April. You can read the English version here on the blog.

Unzipped Humanities (1) covered Marcel Broodthaers and his work La signature. Serie 1. Tirage illimite (1969), while Unzipped Humanities (2) introduced to our readers Jorg Immendorff's Das Bild ruft (letztes Selbstportrait II), also in the museum's collection. Unzipped Humanities (3) discussed Jean-Pierre Raynaud's work Auto Portrait.
We hope you enjoy. Cheers.

Welcome to the museum's collection:

Miroslaw BALKA   φ51x4, 85x43x49  (1998).

We have been working on Miroslaw BALKA's φ51x4, 85x43x49, for the collection catalogue.

watching the chair, the handcuffs, the rope

separating the salt and the wounds


Miroslaw Balka was born in 1958 in Poland. In his works he makes use of objets trouves, and with these he brings about collective memories of lost presence. He applies subjective particles: salt, dust and ashes onto materials such as wood, steel, terrazzo and carpeting. In 2009, his installation "How It Is” has been commissioned by Tate Modern for its Turbine Hall. He currently lives and works in his home town, Otwock.


Curatorial Night Beat @ The Bosa Bosa Review

 φ51x4, 85x43x49  is an artwork from 1998 (wood, steel, salt and plastic, φ51x4cm, 85x43x49cm). Courtesy The National Museum of Art, Osaka).

An old chair is hanging from the ceiling with a rope, it is tilted and has a hole in the middle of the seat. Two wheels of the size of handcuffs are placed on the back of the chair. 

This image brings back to memory medieval instruments of torture, where the victim would be placed in a chair and the iron restraints would be tightened, usually with a fire heated underneath. The hanging of the chair could imply the hanging of a victim as well. Balka's chair does not touch the floor, and this lack of contact keeping spaces at a distance is a common feature in his works, as it can be seen in the sarcophagus-like works 50x40x1,190x50x40,190x50x40,190x50x40 (1992). The chair does not leave tracesssss.

On the floor, a steel disk covered in salt. The salt spread on top of the disk symbolises human tears and sweat, and it has been previously used to cover a whole bed as night fear. There are two holes in this disk. Two holes in the disk have appeared before in Balka’s work, such as 380x230x13,69x67x13 (1993) , where they were filled with ashes, symbol that something, someone once was/lived/ has been and departed. Balka's works often cross the line between life and death, they belong to a world in-between, which is nothing but dark.

In this particular work the holes are left empty, and empty-filled is one of Balka's key contrast-pairs, presence as absence and absence of presence of the human body. He drills holes into the very idea that something/someone has been removed from existence. All these redefine the intangibility of human traces.

While this work might make think of medieval instruments of torture, Balka did not necessarily show interest in medieval subjects. Most likely this work has a contemporary meaning, that of a living memory. The collective memory of people who have known communist Poland is haunting his works and with this, Balka is celebrating the “living traces” of his own memory.

Balka’s objects filling galleries and museums, white cubes with white salt, and spaces with memories are obviously political, they deal with the politics of change, of a historical reality disappeared quickly from the collective memory as if it had never existed. "Culture is terminally-ill with amnesia", wrote Andreas Huyssen in Twilight Memories: Marking Time in a Culture of Amnesia. With this chair installation again, Balka is sculpting from memory. 

Miroslaw Balka's How It Is at Tate 2009 © Guardian
uploaded by TheGuardian on 10 Nov 2009 

Along with the rapid change, the mass marketing of nostalgia has been pushed forward. While the computerized present is defined by an overflow of information and random-access memory industry bound up with forgetting and therefore producing amnesia, the past belongs to a read-only memory, not re-writable.  No cyberspace crowdedness is used in his works, no super-technology, no dazzling visual effects, no impressive pattern. Balka does not re-write history, yet he recreates a memory of the body in pain. He recreates the emptiness. The deep dark. The helplessness. The meaninglessness of what people have been able to do to other people

Useful English -Japanese glossary:

Miroslaw BALKA     ミロスワフ・バウカ

“How It Is”   あるがままに

Related links:

Miroslaw Balka How It Is installation at Tate Modern (2009-10) 

Topography exhibition at Modern Art Oxford (2009-2010)

Fragment exhibition at the Akademie der Kunste Berlin (2011-12)

Read also Marck Prince's article Miroslaw Balka, published in Frieze in connection with the Nonetheless exhibition at Galerie Nordenhake, Berlin (September 2011).

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Untitled. Japan.

One year passed since the earthquake/tsunami catastrophe.
I have not done much. I have not helped anybody. I did not go there.
I did worry. I did panic. I did buy batteries, water, flashlights.

One week after the disaster, I sent an email to all the people in my address book.

My good friend Emily donated to the Red Cross right from London.
Sebastian, full professor of philosophy at Alma Mater, embarrassed himself with a very short reply: “Contemptible”. I realised that having in your address book mostly academics at top universities is sad and useless.

Out on the streets of Osaka, no one could care less. Shopping was thriving. Life is short, go buy more, was the survival idea which struck people 346 miles away from the affected area.
Transport from the northern parts of the country became difficult. The food in Tohoku got banned. For radiation reasons.

Lots of things changed quickly. Shortage of food supplies. Only 2 bottles of water per person in every supermarket across the country.

I went to Tokyo 3 weeks later. No water anywhere. No cup noodles. No lights at night.
The Tokyo smart fashion style became inaccessible to the southern areas. Logistics issues. Osaka’s lame style started moving south and making profits within weeks. Osaka was not doing bad at all.
Many foreigners disappeared from Tokyo. Teaching English, that is what they know to do best in this country, had to wait a little. The German embassy closed its doors in the capital and moved to Osaka.

Survivors back in Tohoku were asked if they would leave the temporary shelters to move somewhere safe. Family is very important over there, so no one left. Sometimes kids were send to Sapporo for the summer, to play and forget. Sometimes pregnant women would move south to protect their body from radiation. Most of the time, they chose to stick together, for better, for worse, in sickness and in health.
Ganbare Nippon, that is, Go, go, Japan ! , became the political catchphrase of the year. Patriotism revived. Charity events boomed. Greasy haired wealthy members of the safe and sound areas of the society were honoured with classy invitations. Listen to that violin. Feel those strings vibrating. Give a little. Get more.

Looking charitable became a must. Grants were pouring like mad. Universities created opportunities for high school students in Tohoku. Each and every event donated something. Undistributed funds got to a new level. On the news, the Japanese Red Cross looked puzzled.  Foundations prioritised catastrophe-related artworks, events and workshops. Artists took advantage. Every single installation crap was meant to be for them, the victims.

The rest, you can figure out.

I wish I have done more.


Last year’s letter:

Japan 11 – 18 March 2011 : A Brief Insight

There is not much I can say in a few words about what happened in northern Japan in the past week. I know that the international press is speculating a lot, and scaring you plenty. No, not all you read is true. Yes, according to what I have read, more than 25000 bodies are expected to be discovered under debris along the Pacific coast, mainly elderly people and babies, both Japanese and non-Japanese. Thousands of survivors are trapped right now in schools, and basically, freeze. Electricity is down, food and drinks scarce, each blanket is shared by 7 people on average. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces have been struggling for a week to find more survivors and help the ones in need. Yet, things are quite overwhelming. After the 8.9 earthquake (with over 150 aftershocks, and a little one of over 6.0 shaking Shizuoka a couple of days ago), well, you already know, the rubble caught fire and a lot of inhabited places burnt to scratch. Within minutes, the tsunami came, sweeping away towns. Many people have drowned - many means thousands. 4 bullet-trains are still to be found (they could be on the bottom of the ocean or in collapsed tunnels). Then 2 days ago the snowstorm came. All in the same area. Now, about the 4 stricken reactors at Fukushima and the radiation leaks, and all people stuck in their homes with windows closed and heaters off, they need tremendous help, too.

I do not know what to say about the international help received, but I have a hunch that it is not enough. The French and British embassies in Tokyo are showing, to my disappointment, the greatest panic and very little concern with the issue of helping. On the contrary, discussions across the world seem to have already shifted towards the politics of who gets most out of this disaster.

My plea is, if you can and wish to help, then do not hesitate to help.

For those of you who can and wish to do so, please check out the following links. If you know any others, do not hesitate to pass on the information.

Thank you.

Stay safe.


Thursday, 1 March 2012

Create your own Obsessive Artwork

Creative promotion involves a lot of things.

But when a marketing campaign to promote the arts makes the public feel involved, the creative potential of the initial idea becomes unpredictable and all the more interesting. has come up with something new. REcreative asks you to

create your own obsessive artwork

and submit it here.

The best project will be chosen by a panel of judges including the Curator of the Exhibition Frances Morris, the Directors of Tate Modern and the South London Gallery; Chris Dercon and Margot Heller and Yayoi Kusama's studio.

The artist chosen will win a trip to Tokyo, Japan to visit Kusama’s studio later this year.

Now that is a challenge (for UK citizens and permanent residents). Considering the worldwide Kusama-mania these past few months, the idea REcreative UK had will probably turn into a very successful event.

Tokyo is a great place !

Good luck with your submissions.

P.S. Should you win, feel free to ask questions about Yayoi Kusama's Japan anytime.