Tadasu Takamine

TKG+ Projects, Taipei, Taiwan

BY Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva in Reviews | 05 SEP 16

For ‘Brothers’, his first presentation in Taiwan, Japanese artist Tadasu Takamine has created a site-specific light and sound installation, Brothers-Synesthesia (2016), in which viewers are implicitly invited to participate. Suspended from the ceiling of a darkened room, two lights move in synchronization, speeding up and slowing down, casting circles of light on the ash-covered floor. The installation produces hissing sounds and clicks while you make your way through the partial darkness. At the end of the space, in a back-lit chamber separated by a partition, three photographs (the series ‘Brothers-Solicitude’, 2016) show two men in briefs wrestling in an empty warehouse. Their forearms are conjoined in white plaster casts. The wrestlers, the titular brothers we assume, do not look at one another, but keep their gazes fixed on the floor. In comparison to the kinetic installation, the photographs seem at once absurd and poignant.

Tadasu Takamine, Synesthesia, 2016, kinetic installation, dimensions variable

Brothers-Synesthesia is part of Takamine’s series of circling-light works, the first of which, Bumps on the Earth, was exhibited at Kyoto Municipal Museum of Art in 2015. There, three lights were installed to dramatic effect: intense sound, light and movement aimed at echoing the power of nature within the context of the post-Fukushima trauma. Here at TKG+ Projects, the experience evoked is an internal one: the subtle connections between the senses. Indeed, the tension evoked by the brothers’ fight could only cease if the casts joining their arms were broken, perhaps suggesting an interior battle, a splitting of the soul, as much as the push-pull relationship between siblings. By using the word 'synesthesia' in the title, Takamine alludes to the fact that sensations and emotions are not homogeneous but, rather, turbulent in nature, spilling from one sense to the other.
The performative energy of the body forms a common thread through Takamine’s varied and versatile oeuvre, which spans more than two and a half decades. The body as an ensemble of movements, emotions and site of potential for interactions takes centre-stage in his practice, which often seems to foreground instinct rather than intellect.

Tadasu Takamine, Kimura San, 1998, video still

The video Kimura-san (Mr. Kimura, 1998) shows Takamine giving his disabled friend a hand job, and talking about what it means to him. It provoked controversy at the time for its treatment of two taboo subjects. Not unlike Marina Abramovic´’s famous performance Rhythm 0 (1974), in which the artist put herself at the mercy of an audience with access to a variety of objects that included a loaded gun, Takamine points to the all-submissive body of his disabled friend, who can’t stop anyone from harming or pleasuring him. Mr. Kimura is a victim of the Morinaga Milk incident in the 1950s, in which powdered baby formula was found to be contaminated with arsenic; at the time the film was made, Takamine had been his carer for five years. ‘I want Kimura-san to be a superstar some day,’ we hear the artist say. ‘He can’t refuse others,’ he adds, seemingly fascinated by what he sees as a kind of power resulting from this vulnerability.

A selection of historical works have been included alongside the central installation at TKG+ Projects to showcase Takamine’s career. These include his well-known video God Bless America (2002), a stop-motion film showing the artist and an assistant in a red studio. The couple performs, eats, copulates and watches TV while, in the foreground, a large, superimposed clay head, resembling a mutant George W. Bush sings the patriotic song. Elsewhere, in To the Sea (2005), Takamine filmed his wife’s face as she endured labour contractions, in a work that is part voyeuristic and part empathetic.

Cristina Sanchez-Kozyreva is an art writer based in Hong Kong. She is co-founder and editor-in-chief of Pipeline magazine.