Teaching In Socks

Kobe Biennale
November 16, 2009, 4:03 pm
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I’m usually not a huge fan of installation art–I find it too often grays the area between art and furniture. Not that the two mediums are mutually exclusive. Instead, I would say that it’s extremely difficult to be just a good artist or just a good interior designer. The ambitious blending of these two fields  tends to result in things like pieces of garbage hanging from the ceiling with fishing line or chairs made of broken glass.

That in mind, this weekend I went to Kobe Biennale art exhibition. The exhibition takes place at many sites through the city, however the focal point was in Meriken Park, at the Port of Kobe. There, organizers had a erected a small, improvised outdoor museum.

Origami was promised- "Origami Shrine" by Goco Tomohisa

The highlight of the Biennale was the “Art in Containers” International Exhibition. Thirty contemporary artists–all who have some connection to Kobe–were chosen, and each were tasked with creating an installation piece inside a 40 ft.  deep  shipping container.

As I said before, I am not a huge fan of installation art; however, I do think the utilization of shipping containers buoyed the effectiveness of some of these pieces. Having a defined space provided a clear segmentation between each piece while elegantly condensing and focusing some of the art in a manner that enhanced the experience.

Cardboard sculpture Buddha- "BUTSU" by Honbori Yuji

That’s not to say that I loved every piece. Some of them were the typical over-thought and under executed installations that modern art is often criticized for. There was the boring 3-D animation from the early 90’s on a wall container, and another that was simply a dark space with weird sounds. I actually didn’t stay in the any of the darkened containers  for any extended period of time. I’ve seen to many crime shows to feel safe when alone in a pitch-black shipping container; at any moment the door could slam shut and not reopen until days later some detective finds your frozen, dead body in Arkhangelsk and he then has to get in his Lieutenants face just to start making inquiries with the local organized crime syndicates.

On the whole, many of the installations were interesting. My particular favorite involved a container where the walls and ceiling were covered in tiny wall clocks. The sound of hundreds of clocks ticking simultaneous was one of those unique art experiences (clock shops excluded). Also, a in the container at the same time as me lady had the audacity to touch one of the clocks. Of course, the clock she touched and another fell off the wall and shattered on the floor.  I somehow was able to catch the entire spectacle from her initial arm extension to her sever and instantaneous reaction of regret (it’s a universal expression). I don’t really like performance art either but this was like my own private candid camera show, except for the part where she actually looked at me and I had to quickly reply “daijobu” (everything is okay).

Walk into the light

Also, this is Japan, so there was some cool large scale origami. There were other containers that had a more circus atmosphere–funny mirrors and one with just a bunch of fans and mounds of confetti that you could play in. While one might dispute the artistic endeavor of these installations, the fun quotient of them can really be debated.

watch your head


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