Through seemingly simple proposals, Koki Tanaka (1975, Mashiko, Tochigi, Japan) invites those who participate in his actions to create something unexpected, encouraging them to reconsider their usual gestures. Such is the case in the series in which the artist asks professionals from various fields to make something together, including, amongst others, A Piano Played by 5 Pianists at Once (First Attempt), 2012, and A Pottery Produced by 5 Potters at Once (Silent Attempt) 2013. A number of these works were conceived and produced in response to the earthquake and tsunami followed by Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, as a way to freely investigate the event. For the artist, the work sought to capture the utopian period that followed the disaster, in which people "didn't have compassion for others but simply shared uncertainty, and people started to help each other to get over that uncertainty".
Analogous sensations and reactions can be provoked by banal or unusual events, not only by extremely traumatic ones. In fact, in his work, Tanaka almost always operates on a scale that could be defined as "micro", dealing with the everyday lives of ordinary people who he invites to take part in his actions and proposals. Despite the underlying optimism of his work, which gives us a glimpse into a more understanding and empathetic society, where interpersonal relationships are based on dialogue and a willingness to listen, Tanaka's work should not be considered pacified or simplistic in that it also shows the failings in the processes he puts forward, whether in conflicts of egos, personal incompatibilities, or in frictions caused by coexistence. In some cases, such as in Abstracted/Family (2019), these idiosyncrasies transcend the characters Tanaka has called upon, becoming wide ranging and profound analyses of contemporary society. The artist reflects on the difficulty of Japanese society to accept any kind of racial and cultural miscegenation, but the installation is clearly metonymic: conflicts and tensions analogous to those he describes are largely diffuse in the contemporary world, marked by growing polarization and increasingly dramatic identity-related conflicts.
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Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).