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Talk Event "Half Dead"

Guest : Kenji Miyatani (Art enthusiast, Freelance writer)

Presented by : Yoshiaki Takahashi (Artist, EFAG Director)

Fujimura Thank you very much for coming to the talk event for my solo exhibition today. First of all, I would like to talk about the motivation behind this exhibition. One of my favorite artists, Jiro Takamatsu (1936-1998), wrote this passage in his book.

  — It is true that various products and buildings today, such as the motorcycle, which is loved because it is fraught with death, have an "anti" functional element in itself, and are loved (from "Questioning Absence").
  Motorcycles can be a useful tool, but they can also be deadly - an accident, for example, can be life-changing. I was strangely struck by the line, "We are risking death at the same time" as we gain convenience. I worked for a design company for three years after I left college, and while I was driving on the highway at work, I was suddenly struck with the feeling that I would die if I turned off the wheel. It was a strange feeling of "dying" just by turning the wheel a little while while running straight. It's like being half-dead and half-alive. This experience, combined with the aforementioned passage by Jiro Takamatsu, motivated me to create this group of works.
  Next, I would like to talk about the title of this exhibition, "Idea". Let's talk about what this is in the first place. The idea is that there was a philosopher named Plato in ancient Greece, and it is a concept of philosophy that he espoused. It's kind of like the idea of ideology. According to Plato's idea of love, we can imagine the feelings we have for our family, our best friends, and the people around us, such as "caring for", "caring for", "liking", "disliking", and so on. However, I don't think it can be said that the feelings I have for that person and the feelings you have for your loved ones are 100% the same. But why is it that we certainly have an image of love and we can share it? This is what the Idea Theory explains. Plato called the image that has become the common perception of everyone, the Idea, and what is it? Where does it come from? This is what I was thinking about.
  The reason why I gave this title to my solo exhibition and my works is that I wonder if the various things we see in our daily lives - including myself - are inherently indeterminate, just as the shape of what we think is different from the shape of what other people think is different. and the idea that, like cars and motorcycles, they make irreversible choices and are quite unstable and distorted. Now, Miyatani would like to share his impressions of this exhibition.

Miyatani Pleased to meet you. Thank you for your invite today. I love looking at works of art because I want to expand my sense of self. I watch movies, music, and these kinds of art works because I want to have an experience that pulls me into a completely different sense of what I've been thinking about.

  Looking at Fujimura's previous works, for example, a work in which the window is distorted ("Conversion"), the common sense that people have had about the window and the feelings he has when he looks out of it in his daily life becomes disconnected from the space in front of the work. You are supposed to be able to see your reflection in the mirror, but it's distorted, or it's supposed to be sunny, but it's raining outside. When there's a discrepancy between the space and my sense of myself, I see a different me than I had before, and I feel like I have a bird's eye view. It makes you question how you've felt, how you've seen it, and how you've assumed it to be. That bird's-eye view is close to the idea you explained earlier. What we think is not true, there is an absolute value of an Idea in another world. When I see his work in front of me - when I see a phenomenon that cannot be explained in words - I feel a new self thinking about the question. It creates a bird's-eye view of the situation. I think that's what makes his work so interesting.

  I'd like to talk about the "highway episode" and the nature of "including Death" step by step, but first, may I ask you to explain each of your works? What prompted you to take the plunge into a new form of expression, and why you didn't focus on installations like your previous works?


Fujimura If you take a look at this, you'll see that there's something in common: the idea is to connect two things into one. I'm going to talk about the "highway episode" earlier, but at the time I had two choices in my mind: die or live. I think the situation of two being one can be applied to many things. The door piece ("Anyway the winds blows") has a single door at the end of a tapered passage with two openings. In other words, there are two entrances. Which way does that door close, when you have two choices, and which one do you choose? I wanted to show that this state of being is the state of "living". The meaning of this piece is that a variety of choices, from the small to the big, are always at our fingertips. In terms of the pencil work ("Idea"), I had the idea that tools have a certain vector, and that the way they are used is limited by their structure. Even if you use it, you won't be able to use it any more if you continue to scrape it down. This means that things have a new life expectancy = a new way of being used. That means giving the idea a form that disrupts the original premise of "this is what a pencil is".

Takahashi Speaking of "idea", there's the story of Plato's cave.

  —The idea exists as an invisible thing, and man is in a cave, looking at the walls of the cave all the time with his back to the entrance of the cave. The human being lives there, thinking that the shadows of things on the wall are real because of the light behind them and the light that comes from behind them. The world outside that cave is the world of the Idea, the real world that no man has ever seen.

  In other words, an Idea is not just something that is visible to the eye. It also seems to be a kind of spirituality. The motifs chosen for this exhibition are everyday items, which are familiar to their original appearance. I think it's in a state where you can tell that the pencil has been processed. Why is that? I don't think that what I was looking for in this work was the moment when things cease to be things, or the concept of that kind of thing. In fact, the concept of a concrete pair is also visible. What are your thoughts on that?

Fujimura You asking Why is it specific in the form?


Takahashi That's right.


Fujimura This goes hand in hand with the theme of my past works, and to some extent I have set my own rules. In the first place, what does it mean for a thing to be a thing? For example, when you think of a beer bottle, it might be "hard" or "made of glass" or maybe even "cold". I call the elements that make up an object = attributes, but I feel that leaving the attributes intact and deforming the form will cause contradictions and discomfort. The chair remains a chair. It's because he thinks it would be oddly uncomfortable for a chair to be a chair but still be something new. We believe that this sense of discomfort asks the viewer to question the true nature of the object.

Miyatani I think there's a lot of danger in general installation works that they leave the impression that they're just "esoteric works" because they're preceded only by uneasy feelings about the work. It's the difficulty of verbalizing, and asking "What's this?". I think it's due to the fact that it's hard to formulate your own ideas due to the feeling of anxiety. In this group of works, however, the shapes of the objects (motifs) come into view first. There is a state in which "what is this" is easily recognized and shared. It's like, "Is this what a chair" or "That's not normal," which makes it interesting. I think there is an ease of understanding or immersion that is presented by the tools.

Takahashi I think when the three of us talked about the work before, we talked about Sartre's existentialism, but personally I was more interested in that than the Idea. Existentialism is the idea by the French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) that "existence precedes essence". For example, paper knives exist for the purpose of cutting paper = essence, and they exist for that purpose. It's a state of being that has a purpose before it exists. It is a being created as a tool for cutting paper. Human beings, however, have no purpose, but rather existence first and foremost. From there, you live your life, so you find your purpose for living later. I think that was partly due to the fact that God's presence was so great in the Western culture of the time. There is already a human essence, a purpose for living, and we live according to it. The motif of the daily necessities in this exhibition is that they exist with a purpose ahead of them, and it's quite interesting to see the way they face that purpose. It's like taking something that exists for a purpose and stripping it of its purpose (use) and showing it.


Miyatani Sartre said, "Only human beings, existence precedes essence," and I think it can be said that this work humanizes the tools. It's losing its original form as a tool = it's stripping away its essence, so it's only existential. By making us lose sight of our purpose, we have become only existential. But Sartre also explained that "anxiety is proof of freedom". When you have no purpose, you are free to make your own choices and you are in a state of anxiety. Put differently, an anxious state is a proof of freedom.

Miyatani I had talked with Fujimura about eliminating anxiety before the exhibition, and today's society itself has created a lot of things to eliminate anxiety. I thought that would lead to the question of what it means to live. Contemporary tanka poet Hiroshi Homura (1962-) says something like, "Living is not the same as surviving." First of all, "living" is a state in which there is anxiety, but also freedom. To a large extent, "surviving" is about alive. Make money, eat, and sleep. That's the only state in which we're extracting it. I can't have a choice, and I want to eliminate my anxiety as much as possible. If we just do that, won't we lose the sense of "living"? The contents of this article are as follows. I think that's partly because it's close to the existential narrative of this work, which is "a state where you just exist and your purpose comes after you.

Fujimura I thought about this feeling a lot when I was working. Work and make money. In terms of survival, there was a great sense of being able to do that. I had some money to play around with. But after I quit my job, I started to get impatient, and if I didn't do what I had to do, I would run out of money and not be able to eat. That's very unsettling, but on the contrary, I try to make a living by mobilizing all the knowledge I have and the connections I have with others. It's a feeling of being nervous every day.

Miyatani If we relate it to Jiro Takamatsu's episode, "including Death," I think it is also important to consider how much death is included in our lives and works. Hiroshi Homura also says that he didn't think of living and surviving as two different ways of life, but that they overlap in some respects. In the midst of all this, I'm leaning too much towards living life now, and it's hard to feel the fullness of life. No matter how hard you try, if you have too many things that you can't handle, you'll feel empty.

  I would like to talk about adventure as an example in another field. I think there are a lot of things that adventurers are challenged to do that would seem like "why would you do that" to someone with a normal life. Many adventurers have explained that it is because "life shines in the face of death", but a journalist named Honda Katsuichi (1932-) more clearly defined adventure as "an act that is clearly a danger to life" and "an act that is initiated on its own initiative. This "being proactive" is crucial, for example, if you take a national highway and wait until you're run over in order to taste your life, it's not an adventure. In a sense, you have made your own choice of life, but your death is in the hands of a car, which cannot handle itself - in other words, it is a passive act.  To be an adventure requires one to make one's own judgments and take responsibility for one's actions, and to assemble one's own living independently is the freedom of adventure. And that freedom is always side by side with death. The freedom to directly and creatively create one's own survival = living is what adventure is all about.

  When you think about it this way, the act of creation is truly an adventure, and the artist makes his own choices and takes responsibility for his work. Furthermore, if the work is life or death (of functionality or common sense), it is adventurous. It may also have the same appeal as the sense of urgency you feel when you're reliving a book or video adventure. In this exhibition, instead of the so-called notion of life and death as life, the purpose is lost as functionality dies, uniqueness emerges, and a new life as a work of art shines through. Or maybe the same is true for us humans who see it, and it is similar to the question of whether living in a certain social system, without critique of one's senses, cannot be said to be alive.

Takahashi Time is running out, so if you have any questions, please let us know.


—It looks like a pretty crafty, specialized piece of work. I was wondering what you think about the workability of this. I think still can use the pencil. I feel like I'm not dead, but what do you think about that in terms of function?



Fujimura What do you mean by workability?


—If you're talking about loss of function, in my thinking,  to get  fold it. But why is it going through so much work?



Fujimura I want these works to look like they've been there from the beginning. Maybe that's what's coming out in the handy habits and manual labor. If to make it unusable, I think there are many ways to do this, for example, to break it, but I want the thing to be a thing. Because I think it's a method that causes inconsistency and discomfort.

Takahashi The title of this talk is "Half Dead", but if you look at Fujimura's past works as well, you'll see that he's transforming the object, but not killing it. Therefore, I thought it could be viewed as a gift of new life, rather than a gift of death. We don't kill them, we rebuild them. I think it's possible to think that it might be deformed in the process.


Miyatani When dying, it just become a deading object. I guess the sense of death is closer to the sense that death of function = denial of the cliché. When you look at the emotions that are happening at the time, you find yourself renewed rather than having a death there. If you think about it that way, you could say that the function is not completely dead, but it is dead as far as the common sense goes.

Fujimura I was doing a retrospective of Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978) in Tokyo, Is the act "he's doing in the Splatter series destruction?" I saw a sentence that said. In response, he said, "This is not a destruction, it's an initial move to be reborn into something new." Maybe what we're doing against pencils is more of an update rather than a death of function is right. It's not that it's necessarily going to end, but it's going to be reborn. The title of the talk is like, "Is it over or will it continue?", but by asking that question, it will continue anew...


Miyatani If you just stay in a stable place, there's no spark of life there, and in a sense, it can be considered "half-dead" in the sense that you're in a state of being dead. When you get to the free state that you have broken out of, you are reborn from the stable place you were in before, and your former self is dead. I interpret "half-dead" as an expression of living in the face of a choice.

  When I see the two as one, I feel uneasy and a sense of discomfort when I explore the boundary between the two, even though the two are in the same shape. This is common to past works in the sense of updating the common sense of things. What's more, the effect of the fusion of the two substances. I can see that there's also a message for people meeting people and reactions and things like that. Fujimura believes in "love" quite seriously, so maybe that's the part of the makes it work.


Fujimura Thank you very much for listening to us for a long time.


(2019, 6. 16)

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