Tabaimo’s Architectural Video Installations Place Viewers in Surreal Worlds

by Roxanne GoldbergPosted on

In Tabaimo‘s worlds, nothing is as ordinary as it appears. Light bulbs morph into moons, walls dissolve, and trees turn into snakes. These eldritch environments capture the viewer who stands at the center, and transports him into an unknown underbelly of the everyday. The artist achieves a totaling effect by manipulating architectural elements and allowing hand-drawn animations that reference both Japanese manga and traditional Edo-period prints, to organically bleed out of the two-dimensional plane and into the exhibition space. The result is a pseudo-theater where the viewer is the main actor among anthropomorphic objects and a cast of characters, whose interplay raises social, political, and gendered topics of contemporary import.

Some gestures are grand, such as teleco-soup (2011), in which Tabaimo materialized a proverb by 4th Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi, “A frog in a well cannot conceive of the ocean,” in combination with the Japanese addition, “But it knows the height of the sky.” To transform the Japanese Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale, Tabaimo used a series of screens and mirrors to de-stabilized gravity and direction, opening space for one to experience the immensity of the sky in exponentially growing proportions.

Other works, such as, aitaisei-josei, currently installed at the Fondation Vincent van Gogh in Arles, France, are more simple in presentation, but equally cosmic in content. Just as teleco-soup combined two proverbs, aitaisei-josei  merges two Japanese love stories, that of the 18th century puppet theater The Love Suicides at Sonezaki and the 2007 novel Villain. Presented as an animated wall-projection with built sections of a sofa and table as anchors, the tragic narrative of two female lovers is told through the sensuous and strange animation of a home in the night. Using traditional calligraphic techniques, Tabaimo turns the ordinary into the extraordinary and leaves the viewer wondering what else lurks beyond.

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