BY Gregory Williams in Reviews | 09 SEP 99
Featured in
Issue 48

Aki Fujiyoshi

BY Gregory Williams in Reviews | 09 SEP 99

Like any number of Existentialists before her, Aki Fujiyoshi poses intractable questions: to what extent do we make an impact upon our physical surroundings? And in a related sense, in what way can the imprints we leave behind make a collective statement that describes a unique self? Instead of looking for answers in abstract theories of somatic presence, she scrutinises the seemingly insignificant things with which she comes into regular contact for signs that she's left her mark in the world.

Fujiyoshi's most recent work continues to reflect her interest in the environments and working methods of detectives. On display in the gallery were photographs, casts of numerous small objects and brief notes, all of which documented the contents of her apartment when 'investigated' on a given day in April. Though the style of presentation suggested a crime had been committed, there were no images of blood stains or overturned furniture to imply foul play. It was the very lack of any overtly incriminating evidence that led one to pay close attention to messages possibly hidden in a leftover bagel or a spool of thread.

The most evocative piece in the show was a simple wooden vitrine built according to the layout of Fujiyoshi's apartment. Over a crudely rendered floor plan she scattered a vast array of dental-plaster casts taken from the corners and edges of random items that typically occupy valuable space in most urban dwellings: a set of keys, a plug, a pager, a pile of coins, a few pills. The fact that all of these impressions are mere fragments reinforces the notion that such an exploration can only ever amount to a partial and inaccurate assessment of one's existence.

Fujiyoshi is working in the tradition of documentation that has been developed by numerous artists during the past several decades. From the extensive archives of Gerhard Richter and Hanne Darboven to the museological exercises of Mark Dion and Fred Wilson, a running commentary on the drive to accumulate has long manifested itself in the art world. For her part, Fujiyoshi appears to be less interested in setting things aside for the sake of posterity than in securing her own physical position within the here and now. By concentrating on the most mundane articles within her household, she attempts to function as her own anthropologist of the present.

The alignment of Fujiyoshi's own corporeality with her work is carried out in several blurry, close-up photographs - many of them video stills - of her fingerprints on a cigarette lighter, a glass lantern, several beer bottles and casts of her footprints made in the vicinity of the apartment. When isolated and captured in cement, these bulky forms lend a rather absurd sense of mass and permanence to a passing moment. Not content to merely record her existence via readymade, inanimate objects, she responds to the age-old compulsion to produce some of her own detritus for future researchers and art historians to examine.

Fujiyoshi's work plays on the universal anxiety regarding any individual's degree of autonomy; it is an issue that has particular significance for an artist, yet one in which everyone can participate. Though her physical presence in the apartment is tentative and fleeting, the very familiarity of the materials she highlights makes her predicament entirely recognisable. In fact, one is forced to acknowledge how generic most external details of our lives really are. Still, when imbued with humour and given the proper visual twist, such uniformity can acquire a beauty all its own.