imamura hajime at the itami shiritsu bijutsukan


On October 28, the next to last day before the end of the exhibit, I went to the Itami Shiritsu Bijutsukan with my friend Mayumi Vava to see an exhibition of Imamura Hajime’s work. I’m dead glad that I went. Imamura’s newest work is conceptually related to the idea of fungal parasitism — he’s even given a series of lectures on mushrooms — but with the twist that parasitism turns out to be the explosion of imaginative force that allows for the transformation of everyday objects. Physical space as well is transformed as Imamura’s sculptural elements turn portions of the museum into almost organic, rhizomic, or mycological spaces of exploration. In the image above you can see a portion of Imamura’s Passivity-Sculpture, a kind of biomorphic, aluminum-based geometric growth that engulfs the exterior of the museum. The effect of this sculpture, however, isn’t of enclosure, but rather of explosion, or — as the Shiseido Gallery’s life/art ’05 exhibition description says about a similar piece — “a unique sense of floating weightlessness.”


Of course, museums are terribly forceful about not allowing photography these days, which is a real shame since many of Imamura’s pieces would really lend themselves to the camera. The image above isn’t from the 2006 exhibit in Itami (titled Over the Ground, Under the Ground), but is rather taken from the DVD that comes with the Nomart Editions Imamura book (Hajime Imamura: 1981-2006). I believe this image is taken from Utakatasanpo, a 2005 solo exhibition at the Kyoto Art Center. The pieces pictured above are quite similar in tone to Parasitism, my favorite of Imamura’s pieces at the Itami museum. As in the image above, several everyday objects — a chair, a set of file drawers, a wooden bucket, and a strange white human sculpture — sprout stems that lead up to flat, transparent, orange “caps” that hover in the sky. The effect is at once of immense growth and of a sudden transfer of attention from the everyday to the force of imaginative space. There is an optical illusion at work here: the caps appear to be floating, tugging on the objects they are tethered to and ready to escape into space, but in fact the stems function as posts rather than strings, and are the functional underpinning of the illusion of flotation rather than a kind of “leash” that denies flight. There’s a very interesting commentary here about the cohabitation of the fantastic and the everyday and/or the necessity of the everyday as a basis for artistic expression. Imagination is parasitic, but it’s a beautiful parasitism that always reminds us that art that pretends to sheer transcendence is a kind of fakery. Buyer beware!

Imamura’s other works were equally tremendous — especially a group of electrically-powered spinning tops (looking quite like the discs pictured above) that he placed strategically around a part of the museum that is a reconstruction of a traditional Japanese warehouse. There was something so wonderfully incongruous about the beautiful flotation of the tops in empty space as registered against the massive, dark, and heavy wood beams that were the supports of the structure that we were standing in. It was so incongruous, that we became hungry. So we headed out from Itami, and back to Ishibashi where — since Imamura’s work reminds so much of flight — we went to my favorite yakitori-ya (Tanuki-ya) and ordered a plate full of chicken tails.

Link to the Itami Shiritsu Bijutsukan site.

Link to an Metropolis Tokyo article on the Life/Art ’02 exhibition, featuring work by Imamura.


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