STATE ODF DOUBT: 7 ACTIONS TOWARDS DILEMMA
19 - 28 July 2012
Art Lab Akiba, Tokyo, JAPAN
co-curated by Emma Ota & Sakiko Yamaoka
Malaysian artist chi too, as a fellow with of the Asian Public Intellectuals Fellowship (by the Nippon foundation); has been undertaking a residence in Tokyo since October 2011 and will be returning to Malaysia at the beginning of August (2012). During his stay, he has undertaken 7 different performance actions in response to the Second World War and atomic bombing incidents. chi too's concept for his work in Japan was a strenuous mission of diplomacy and cultural exchange, which most people would flinch from. Aiming to tackle issues of mutual understanding between Japanese and Malaysian people, in particularly in relation to WWII, their respective experiences and memories and attempt to fill the gap between their awareness of each other.
In this exhibition, just before he departs for home, we will show documentation of his performances and solicit critiques and feedback through the exhibition space and discussion events.
View exhibition website here
View works from the exhibition here
View exhibition response and critique documentation here
7 Actions Towards Dilemma
by Emma Ota
If Certainty is dangerous territory then Chi Too has made it his mission to move to far safer ground.
It began with a game of hide and seek, some egg throwing, then developed into a sharp row, which was apologized humbly for by washing feet, but then raised its head again in a patriotic chant, went on to collect 1000 stitches and now penance will not end until 60 million blades of grass have been cut.
In the pursuit of a particular dialogue or confrontation Chi Too has been digging up history for the last 10 months and has put back on our plates what we thought had been removed and disposed of. Forced to look upon the organs of identity, society and nation, we might rather withdraw from the table, but Chi Too has denied our leave and asserted that we take our portion.
In each of his actions Chi Too has carved out a challenge and ruptured our “accepted” reality but in each incision he has made into the social body he has increasingly grappled with his own condition, subjecting himself to a dissection of his motives and the consequences of his work, and he has now reached his final point of emergency.
While aiming to hold us all account for our actions, our past, our values, he can not escape his own responsibility as an artist, and he himself must be held account for his 7 actions. The privileged position of the artist to question the world around them has no standing if we do not in turn question the artist back.
And so while we chew upon Chi Too’s platter of loss, erasure and misunderstanding, perhaps a question of our own might rise from our throats.
What is the question which you find upon your tongue?
Come here and
Spit it out.
Here we present not an exhibition, but a question, an inquisition.
This is not only an interrogation of ourselves but here the tables are turned and the artist himself is subjected to our questioning.
Here we have no consensus, no tacit agreement, we have no assurance of the justice of our acts or judgment, we, and the artist, are placed in a dilemma where a move in any direction may have unforeseen consequences, but where to freeze is forbidden. We are all brought to the stand in a state of doubt.
In this interrogation room the evidence and witness reports of Chi Too’s 7 acts are put before us.
Then over two days, upon 21st July and 28th we call you to proceed in a cross-examination of the artist and his perpetrations.
State Of Debt
by Sakiko Yamaoka
The artist Chi Too, with the support of the Nippon Foundation, has been undertaking a residence in Tokyo since October 2011 and will be returning to Malaysia at the beginning of August. During his stay he has undertaken 7 different performance actions.
Chi Too's concept for his work in Japan was a strenuous mission of diplomacy and cultural exchange, which most people would flinch from, aiming to tackle issues to mutual understanding between Japanese and Malaysian people, in particularly in relation to WWII, their respective experiences and memories and attempt to fill the gap between their awareness of each other. However for this purpose he has employed a technique of “play” which is filled with both creative and moral nuances. (A title of one performance was Pika-boo. Including the meaning of the child’s game and also the Japanese “pika” used to refer to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.)
I had the opportunity to join in Chi Too's third performance as his counterpart. In this case we continuously slapped each other's faces in 5 crowded public spaces. Here Chi Too was attempting to research the response and condition of Japanese people within public space. He came to my town early in the new year and proposed this collaborative project. Listening to his words I sensed a sympathy with him as an artist, holding a similar approach to the merge of the real with the creative. And from here I became lightly involved in his project. But contrary to my expectations this was not such a light undertaking. He had no mercy. His hands hit even my ears, and caused considerable pain. But I continued to stand in front of him because at such a time we artists must consider how the concept may be pushed further. This was in the 5th month of Chi Too's stay.
I am not sure at what point it happened but I came to realize that his concept had moved away from mutual understanding to more of a challenge of "Haven't you forgotten something?" Why did this happen? Then he began to undertake performance with the objective “to tackle, even if impossibly, the greatest taboo for Japanese people”. He continued his challenge while taking a bold change in direction.
Now he has just 1 month left of his stay. But the project has not yet ended. What did he want to achieve here? What is mutual understanding? Is such a diplomatic term, seemingly demarking a geometric relationship, actually possible to achieve in the relation between living beings? Did he seriously wish to solemnize the ritual of mutual understanding? Did he really have the intention of overcoming the “emotion” attached to such geopolitics and lead us into more radical territory within art? (If so that is wonderful and I am willing to come into the conflict with you).
But when all is said and done he has “a debt” towards me. This is the fact that I will "never forget" that pain of being slapped. Yet it probably hurt him too. Of course we can not compare our pain. I considered it from various perspectives but in the end I can not tell whom is indebted to whom. There is nothing more difficult than sharing pain between one person and another.
I don’t want him to return to Malaysia before we have settled our score (otoshimae*). Rather than a "Malaysian", I want him as "an individual artist" (to use a post modern globalization induced term of fine art) to share the unique experiences and creative benefit he has encountered in these 10 months. It is “our” method of “settlement” as artists to raise this to the realm of creativity by any means possible. Finally he will show us this, surely.
*Otoshimae is a term referred to in the world of the yakuza
Photos by Emma Ota and Sakiko Yamaoka