28 May 2009

Tabaimo at Moderna Museet

Earlier this year (31 Jan – 19 April), installations by Tabaimo (束芋) were featured at the Moderna Museet on Skeppsholmen Island in central Stockholm, Sweden. The exhibit was curated by Lena Essling.

The event included a screening on February 5th of films by Keiichi Tanaami and Shuji Terayama that were chosen by Tabaimo. A summary of the event can be found on the Moderna Museet’s website here. They also posted a video of an interview with Tabaimo about her art. Her views on animation and spectatorship are quite fascinating so I’ve provided a transcript (with some minor grammar revisions) of the English subtitles below.

In this interview with Ulf Eriksson, Tabaimo discusses in depth the three installations used in the exhibition: public conVENience (her contribution to Tokyo Loop which she has transformed into an installation/2006), dolefullhouse (2007) and midnight sea (2006/2008). Tabaimo seems to do a combination of careful planning (researching locations) and letting her art evolve as she works. The latter of which really surprised me as her films seem so meticulously planned and yet she claims to have a working method as fluid as the sea that inspires her.

Interview transcript:

By connecting [a] series of drawings, I can express things in a way [that] a single image could never convey. I was with this aspiration to achieve a greater impact [that] I embarked on animation. Viewers need to be active and participate in my installations. Even if approaching the piece creates a sense of discomfort. I create situations that make viewers feel uneasy and participate more actively.

I try to capture the images and themes that come to me while I work. Later all these images are integrated into a whole, the piece itself. Hopefully, that’s what creates magic. . . that images evolve that I hadn’t even pictured beforehand. That’s my creative process: not being able to predict the outcome. Hopefully, the results will even surprise me.

[re: public conVENience, 2006]

The interesting thing about public lavatories [is] how your privacy is maintained only by thin walls between the stalls. That’s why I chose the setting, in spite of its dark connotations. During the research phase, I videotaped public toilets and collected lots of footage from typical lavatory environments in order to create this piece. I let the lavatory be a stage. Then I thought about what might happen, such as a door swinging open. . . someone fixing their hair, or washing their hands. Then I created characters to populate the space. Then I leave them on their own. I have no idea what they will do. I simply follow their leads.

A public lavatory at a park is generally something you want to avoid. they aren’t usually very clean. Even though they are meant for public use, they are often fairly sleazy. Lots of things happen in lavatories. People like to gossip there. But there are also men who like to take pictures of women in secret. Most anything can happen. Crimes can be committed, while extremely commonplace activities also take place [there].

There is an interesting similarity between public lavatories and the internet. People have always scribbled things on the walls of the stalls. Nowadays people post similar messages on internet sites and bulletin boards. In both forums, generally anonymous authors direct their messages to a faceless crowd. The same anonymity exists. So the lavatory is a metaphor for this kind of internet communication.

[re: dolefullhouse, 2007]

In “dolefullhouse” it’s important to be observant. The question of whose hands are involved is very important. “Dolefullhouse” resembles a Western-style dollhouse. But you can sense that another, real, house encompasses this ideal miniature. A world exists on the outside. I want to create layers of worlds. The main thing in this piece is how viewers see themselves in relation to what’s going on. Could it be their own hands moving the furniture? Or do they identify with the dolls inhabiting the house? Or do they view the house from above, as pure spectators?

In this piece, it’s important which world you would choose to inhabit. You will also experience the piece differently depending on where you are in the room. I don’t determine who’s who or who does what. I want people to have a regular-sized dollhouse in mind when they look at the large dollhouse projected in front of them. That will cause different sensations depending on how close they are to “dolefullhouse”.

[re: midnight sea, 2006/2008]

This piece is called “midnight sea.” The dark sea at midnight both frightens and fascinates me. It’s like the very darkness of the water is pulling me under. I’m not entirely sure what creatures are moving under the surface, but I tried to create the sense of hairs passing inside the body. I tried to follow the movement of these hairs under the skin. The Japanese word for wave also means wrinkle, and the shifting surface is like the skin of an elderly person. Under the surface you can see things, they’re actually organs or bones. I wanted to create a sense of a foreign object moving inside a body.

This is something very abstract that I don’t really understand myself. As I mentioned earlier, about the way I like to work, I want to create something I cannot predict beforehand. “Midnight sea” is one of the pieces that represents this concept the most. The ancient tradition of a connection between the human body and water is deeply imbedded in my consciousness.


If any of my readers has attended an exhibition by Tabaimo, I would love to hear about the first hand experience either in my comments or by e-mail. I have only seen her work on video or in photographs/prints.

Tokyo Loop / Animation