A New Relationship between People and People, or People and Place

 

Toshifumi Takei

curator of Fuchu Art Museum

 

It was at a three-person show called “Morphe’95 : City Crack”, held at Mizuma Art Gallery, Tokyo, that I first met the artist Momoyo Torimitsu. Her exhibit Pleasure of Destruction, Merry-go-round was placed at the central space of the gallery: it was composed of FRP (polyester resin) made high school girls, in sailor suits (high school uniform), getting down on all fours, and goats of the same material sitting down. All of them - two bodies, respectively - were arranged alternately on a red disc. The disc, 3meters across, was rotating under power, and visitors could enjoy getting astride on the girls. Whereas the high school girls, dedicating themselves to others’ pleasure, seemed to be a parody of the sex business, I rather felt that they expressed a sense of incongruity to the structure of our society in which youth are just forced to be obedient. The work was wired, belying the pleasant appearance. Next to the work I found the artist herself. Exchanging a few words with her on that occasion, I actually was surprised to know that the work had been made by a female artist.

 

In the next year, I visited the Gallery MY in Kanda, Tokyo, to see her solo show, Coming in the gallery space, I noticed a large rabbit, plumped up by air pressure, staring at me. The rabbit was like a common character for children, but I often remember the cheap, glittering red vinyl material, though I don’t know why. The balloon rabbit was so tall that it was bent forward to avoid hitting its head on the ceiling. The Gloomy pose with deep disconsolation moved me beyond words. The work, entitled Somehow I don’t feel comfortable, was later reworked as an installation comprising of 2 rabbits, 2000. It seemed to reflect her warped emotions in childhood - a glimpse of something like disgust for behaving like a girl, or repulsion against soft suppression.

 

As observed above, the work by Torimitsu has a sharp critical mind to society. What made her famous most is Miyata Jiro, a businessman-style robot. Back to 1994, when the work made its first appearance; the robot determinedly proceeds at a crawl - a scene that will never be forgotten by those who saw it. The typical Japanese corporate warrior Miyata Jiro seems to be a satire on Japanese corporations in the period of the overheated bubble economy. Accompanying this Miyata Jiro, Momoyo Torimitsu does a street performance with herself disguised as a nurse. The middle-aged Miyata Jiro has a receding brow, but he is very confident of himself, and somehow he is a man you just cannot dislike. Like the high school girls, the man, who only repeats the same actions, is weird. Every work by Torimitsu has been a great shock to viewers, and has left a vivid impression.

Torimitsu’s unique Talent was efficiently demonstrated in the collaborative project with local factories entitled “MADE IN SUMIDA: Momoyo Torimitsu ands family-run Factories,” held in Sumida-ku in 2001. In the catalogue, Taneo Kato, who planned the project, says about her: “Torimitsu is an artist who has an eye for reading social phenomena of each era, and brings viewers, or more precisely, those who happened to be there, a chance to review society or their lives through her three-dimensional work. I agree with his opinion: viewers become unknowingly involved in her work by the overwhelming force of the material objects, not by frivolous words. Today sees not a few idea-first works of art without sufficient plastic substantiality, but as for the work by Tiramisu, a sensual element of three-dimensionality is persuasive for viewers.

For the current Open Studio Program, we used clay to try a participatory collaboration. This trial, new challenge for Tiramisu, received excellent responses from participants, which I think, was due to explicit concept uniquely proposed by the artist. At5 the studio during the artist’s absence, there occurred a reverse phenomenon: the general participants would lead the program, as if the relationship between artist, viewers, and the art museum was shaken.  The Program Style in which everyone could feel free to participate in making construction together with the artist using clay enabled various people to get in the construction, including a kind of those who have not appeared before. What was born there was changing clay construction with the passage of time, of course, and in addition, a new relationship continued between people and people, or people and place. The ripple that Momoyo Torimitsu created from the open studio begins to spread undoubtedly.