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"Year Without a Summer"  2017, installation, variable dimensions
Installation view at Maho Kubota Gallery, "Year Without a Summer" June 30, 2017 - August 5, 2017
Photo by: Keizo Kioku 


Beginning her artistic career in Japan, Midori Harima relocated to the United States in 2001, working initially in San Francisco, and then moving to New York in 2005.
Harima is well-known for a practice that involves creating objects by photocopying some of the myriad images found in magazines, newspapers, and other conventional media onto archival paper, which she then pastes and layers to produce hollow three-dimensional paper objects. She has used this characteristic technique since graduating from university, and at the “The Bay Area Award Show 2002” group exhibition at New Langton Arts in San Francisco in 2002, the year after she arrived in America, Harima revealed an installation that provided an intense visual experience, featuring two giant tigers confronting each other menacingly and, a little ways off, a fawn, paralyzed with fear and apparently crying out. The year 2002 was when global power shifts and changes to the structure of geopolitical confrontation were transforming the globe due to the events of 9/11 in the United States the previous year.
At a 2008 installation entitled America, she exhibited twelve coyote sculptures made using the same technique. Visible through a thin, translucent curtain, all the coyotes stare at a point in midair in the center of the circle, giving the viewer an opportunity to stop and consider what the coyotes might be looking at. Recently, she has focused on issues related to democracy and the economy, and distanced herself from her photocopying technique. Her “Roadside Picnic, Chapter Two” exhibition featured plaster casts taken of garbage found in the course of her daily life, assembled into mobiles. This was followed by the “Democracy Demonstrates” project, in which the artist created and photographed 365 sculptures corresponding to each day of the yearlong project. This began in 2015 during a residency at MMCA Goyang, run by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, South Korea, and continued afterwards in NYC, eventually being presented in 2017 at the Kala Art Institute in Berkeley, California. From her early work to these recent projects dealing with the garbage that society finds a nuisance, Harima’s art clearly displays both a literary approach to representing our world and the quintessential artistic motivation of wanting to capture elusive beauty, such as that hidden in plain view at the side of the road. Many of her works are constructions in which the thoughts of individuals confront waves of absurd, immense forces. Since primeval times, the individual has been swept along and tossed about by natural threats far exceeding human imagination and, in modern society, by conflicts between uncontrollable forces. Paradoxically, the individual is also part of these absurd and immense forces. Using that fact as a starting point, Harima’s art raises unanswered questions long-held by the individual, a small existence onto which the artist or viewer projects herself.
The title of this solo exhibition, “Year Without a Summer,” is a reference to the year 1816 during which an abnormal weather event occurred, the usual summer did not arrive in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Records show that rivers in North America froze and crops experienced catastrophic damage in July and August of that year. The cause is said to be a volcanic eruption in far off Indonesia that occurred the previous year. The new works for the exhibition were conceived based on Harima’s experiences traveling to Poland, which she visited last fall. Harima states, “Over the last few years, my interests have often led me to issues related to capitalist economies, and consumption, and the systems in which these have been internalized. A major motivation for these works was to question what we are participating in by purchasing products.” Her decision to visit Poland was a natural extension of her concern regarding this topic. Although thinking that she might find something during her travels that would hint at solutions to the unanswered questions, in Poland the artist ended up coming face-to-face with two more overwhelmingly incomprehensible things that are impossible to represent. The unanswered questions that were waiting in Poland are definitely connected in some manner to our modern-day map, and are not some fabricated fantasy in a faraway country.
This exhibition takes the form of single installation consisting of sculptural works of three human figures, paper sculptures of items imagined to be their belongings, such as bags and shoes, and collages constructed from fragments of things brought back from Poland. Printed images represent something that existed in the past, but by materializing the images so that they reappear in a different form, the artist sets up something that is overwhelmingly incomprehensible. This process is also an attempt to connect the artist’s personal experiences to the grand narrative, presenting a painstaking portrayal of the form and direction of the immense and incomprehensible forces in today’s world and of the thoughts of individuals rocked by those forces who continue to question their situation. Harima explains: “I am attempting to fix conflicting experiences onto one sculpture, such as: the active movement of one’s gaze and consciousness when confronted by an overwhelmingly incomprehensible image of a past event about which nothing can be done, for example, war, and the active movement of one’s gaze and consciousness when attempting to somehow comprehend the events in the image by relying on fragments found therein; and the passive movement of one’s gaze and consciousness when looking at consumer products, the gaze and consciousness at that time being extremely limited and having internalized the values of others.”
An incident occurring in one place on the map indirectly has a fatal impact on another place far away. Taking the absurdity of the phrase “year without a summer” as a metaphor applicable to the entire exhibition, and at the same time confronting the absurdity head on to reveal within it an opportunity to discover an answer, this exhibition is the artist’s attempt to open up a new frontier. The body of work presented is meticulously crafted with a solid approach that deals ambitiously with a major topic without indulging in deviations from logic, and without excluding the artist’s personal awareness and feelings towards beauty, which are the essence of art. And as the “Year Without A Summer,” this ambitious group of artworks creates winter in midsummer Tokyo.

MAHO KUBOTA GALLERYでは6月30日より播磨みどりの新作展「Year Without a Summer」を開催いたします。2001年に渡米、最初はサンフランシスコで、2005年からはニューヨークに拠点を移し、播磨みどりは作制作を続けています。
播磨の作品では、雑誌や新聞など既存のメディアに溢れるイメージを抽出してアーカイヴァルペーパーなどにゼロックスコピーし、それらを張子状に組み合わせて彫刻を制作する手法がよく知られています。初期の頃より特徴的なこの手法により、渡米後翌年の2002年にサンフランシスコのNew Langton Artsでの「The Bay Area Award Show 2002 」というグループ展では、威嚇し合うように向かいあう二頭の巨大な虎と、すこし離れた場所でいななくように立ちすくむ子鹿、という強烈な視覚体験をあたえるインスタレーションを発表しています。2002年は前年のアメリカ同時多発テロ事件により、世界の対立構造と権力の地図の概念が劇的に変化をとげていく渦中の年でした。
2008年の「アメリカ」と題されたインスタレーションでは、同じ技法で制作された12頭のコヨーテの作品が発表されました。薄い半透明のカーテンごしに見えるコヨーテ達の視線は一斉に円環の真ん中の中空に向けられており、コヨーテの視線の先に何があるのか、鑑賞者が立ち止まって考えるきっかけを与えました。近年は民主主義と経済の問題に着目しゼロックスコピーの技法から離れて、日々の生活の中で見つけたゴミを形どってモビールの作品にした「Roadside Picnic」という展示を発表、さらに1年間、毎日自分が消費したゴミという括りで素材を絞り、1点ずつ制作したオブジェを写真に記録した「Democracy Demonstrates」というプロジェクトを韓国国立現代美術館/ゴヤンレジデンシー(2015年)やアメリカ・バークレーのKala Art Institute(2017年)で発表しています。初期の作品から近年のゴミという社会の「厄介ごと」を扱った作品に至るまで、播磨の作品には私たちの世界を表象する文学的なアプローチと、路傍の片隅にあってともすれば見逃してしまう美を捉えたいというアートの原初的な動機が顕著に表れています。そこには、不条理で大きな力のうねりと、それに対峙する個人の思念という構造が多くみられます。原始の時代より個人は、人間の想像力をはるかに超えた自然の脅威に、そして現代の社会では制御不能な権力対立の中で、影響され、翻弄される存在です。逆説的に個人はその不条理で大きな力の一部でもあるのです。その事実を起点として作品は播磨自身、あるいは鑑賞者が投影する個人という小さな存在が持ち続ける「未だ答えが見つからない問い」を浮かび上がらせているのです。
今回の個展のタイトルである「Year Without a Summer」とは約200年前の1816年に北ヨーロッパや北米を中心に実際に起こった、夏のない、異常気象の年のことをさします。その年の7月、8月には北米の川で凍結が見られ農作物が壊滅的な被害を受けたと記録されています。原因は前年、遠く離れたインドネシアで起きた火山噴火だと言われています。一方、展覧会のための新作は播磨が昨秋訪れたポーランドへの旅の経験をもとに構想されました。「ここ数年の自分の興味は資本主義経済とりわけ消費の問題、それを内面化した制度に行き着くことが多くなりました。商品を買うということで、私たちは何に参加しているのかということが、今回の作品の大きな動機になっています。」と語る播磨は、その興味の延長線上でポーランドを訪れることを考えました。「未だ答えが見つからない問い」の答えのヒントを旅の過程で見つけられないかと考えたアーティストは、結果としてその地でさらに表象不可能な二つの「圧倒的にわからないもの」に対峙することとなりました。その地でも待っていた「未だ答えの見つからない問い」、それらは遠い国の絵空事ではなく、現在の私たちの地図とどこかで確実につながっているのです。
地図上のひとつの地点で起きたある出来事が間接的に、遠く離れた別の場所に宿命的な影響をもたらしていく。「Year Without a Summer」という言葉のもつ不条理を展覧会全体を覆うメタファーとして引用しながら、その不条理にまっすぐに立ち向かい、そこにひとつの答えのきっかけを表出させることはアーティストの新境地を開く挑戦となることでしょう。アンビシャスなまでに大きな主題に取り組みながら論理的に逸脱することのないソリッドな態度で制作に臨み、アートの本質であるアーティスト個人の美への意識と感情とを排除することなく丹念に作り上げた作品群が真夏の東京に冬を出現させます。


© MIDORI HARIMA. 2001-2020