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Art in America: 


 Momoyo Torimitsu at Deitch Projects and the Swiss Institute


Paul Laster


Billed as an international competition of three life-size robots of American, European and Asian businessmen, Momoyo Torimitsu's Inside Tracktrans-formed Deitch Projects into an arena for corporate battle. The gallery's entranceway set the corporate stage with a mahogany reception desk, gray rug, low tables and side chairs, business journals and the artist's drawings (titled Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday) of elderly male officers. The main gallery continued the theme, suggesting a corporate lobby or boardroom with its industrial carpeting, ubiquitous potted plants and noble photographic portraits of smirking cyber-capitalists.


Clad in business suits, the robots (named Mark, Gunther and Lee) were at the ready in soldierlike belly-crawl positions on the floor and were periodically activated by gallery attendants. In a darkened side room, a looping video (projected on a two-way screen that was visible from the street) showed the corporate soldiers invading an actual business, clambering onto the elevators and challenging one another in the halls of commerce.


At the nearby Swiss Institute, Torimitsu presented Horizons, an extensive installation that consisted of an army of miniature businessmen roaming a landscaped diorama. One hundred battery-operated crawling figures (refashioned with the cloned heads, clenched fists and tailored suits of Mark, Gunther and Lee) swarmed a simulated terrain of trade.

Standing over this competitive Lilliputian world of palm trees, oil derricks, fuel tanks, corporate headquarters, mountains and farmland, the spectator could assume the role of passive observer or, by repositioning the figures, hands-on participant. Monitors displayed live feeds from cameras hidden in the palm trees or perched atop buildings. A previously shot seven-minute video of a struggling mass of the tiny robots, accompanied by a battle-charge soundtrack, ran continuously on a corner screen. On a nearby bench, a pile of broken-down CEOs slowly grew, leaving only 23 badly worn players still on the field by the show's end.


This pair of ambitious exhibitions continued the Tokyo-born, New York-based artist's dia0logue with global commerce begun 10 years ago with Miyata Jiro, a groveling automated, life-size salaryman that she took on a world tour. Dressed as  a nurse, Torimitsu assisted him as he crawled through the financial districts of major cities, astonishing bystanders. While her robots still have the ability to evoke wonder, when left unattended and motionless, as they were most of the time at Deitch Projects, they can also disappoint, which gave the Swiss Institute's show of miniatures the competitive edge.


--Paul Laster


COPYRIGHT 2004 Brant Publications, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale  Group

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