Exhibition dates 18 May – 5 June 2011
Opening times: Friday – Sunday 12-6 p.m
First Thursdays Late Opening: 2nd June, 2011, 6-9 p.m
Artist-in-conversation: 2 p.m, Saturday 4th June
For her first solo exhibition Hanae Utamura presents INVERTED HORIZONS at Schwartz Gallery Project Space curated by Patrick Michalopoulos and Ismail Erbil. The recent earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that struck the artist’s home country of Japan form the heart of the project and inform the photographic and video works made for this exhibition.
Utamura made the decision to fly out to Japan to piece together the fragments of this event which remained inaccesible in the initial experience she had of the natural disaster on the internet. Transporting food from the U.K to Japan and becoming a volunteer, the work made for the show was sparked by the artist’s search for the ‘real’ event and its aftermath. Utamura positioned her mother at the centre of the resulting interventions she performed in order to contemplate family loss in the context and tension between disaster, tourism and spectacle. INVERTED HORIZONS is at once an intensely personal pilgrimage for the artist as well as a reaction to the production of disaster imagery by the world’s media in light of the March 11 catastrophe. Our understanding of how events are constructed and experienced on a global scale through technology is tested against an intimate landscape of human loss and a coming-together of community.
The work for the exhibition centres around a series of interventions Utamura made whilst in the disaster-hit area. Tied at the waist to her mother with a length of rope, the artist walked in a circle around her stationary mother performing a series of actions or cycles of life, leaving a trail of evidence along the way. Slaked lime*, burning remnants of tsunami-hit homes and the mud-caked possessions of the local population make up the language of this evidence. The artist dug up the farmland where the tsunami hit echoing the local farmers’ relationship with the land, a relationship that has now been lost. The performed actions of burning, digging and salvaging and spreading can be understood as an active ‘connecting’. The recurring shape of a circle in which these actions were enacted brings to mind the Japanese national flag as well as the atomic bomb explosion that shapes Japanese identity worldwide in the history of disaster. Personal histories are constructed and deconstructed in the midst of death and disaster, memory and re-birth, echoing history and reverberating in Utamura’s actions.
In “Vortex” we are confronted with an image of debris wrapped around an electricity pole revealing the terrifying scale and force of the tsunami that passed through Kesennuma on Japan’s north-eastern coast. The artist has used wood collected from a destroyed home placing several pieces around the base of the pole in an ordered gesture at odds with the pulverised mess of debris that can be seen just above it. Utamura’s initial experience of the disaster was via the internet and television while she was on a residency in Finland**. The constant stream of imagery she encountered at that time generated the actions Utamura took in ‘Vortex’ mirroring the morally questionable aesthetic present in news and on-line coverage of the event.
In INVERTED HORIZONS Hanae Utamura investigates the human condition and the production of social and cultural value systems within it. The absence of the body and the presence of trace materials that accompany the artist’s gestures question representations of the body, site, history and identity.
* Slaked lime is often used to alkalize oxidized soil for farming as well as to dissolve corpses.
* * The initial project at Schwartz Gallery Project Space was centered around building associations between Japan’s atomic bomb explosion and the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights in Lapland which the artist was hoping to see while on a residency in Finland, exploring the concepts of history overlapping with geography. The project’s trajectory was dramatically and eerily altered by the March 2011 natural disaster in Japan. Hanae Utamura did eventually see the Northern Lights but due to the ensuing catastrophe in her home country did not make the work she had originally intended.
Hanae Utamura completed her MA at Chelsea College of Art and Design in 2010. She was selected as part of MA Stars by Monika Bobinska awarded by Axis and for SV10: Members’ Show at Studio Voltaire by Jennifer Higgie and Rebecca Warren. She lives in London and is currently participating in T.H.I.S (Tottenham Hale International Studio) residency and has recently been awarded a place on the Florence Trust Residency in London from August 2011 to July 2012 supported by Axis/Florence Trust Bursary.
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