Hiroshi Sunairi, sketch for elephant dinner. Courtesy of Venetia Kapernekas.
From the well-known voyeuristic photographs of Noritoshi Hirakawa and the often narcissistic and self-effacing performances of Hiroshi Sunairi, the work of these two Japanese artists may appear to be driven by sexual curiosity and deviance. In this exhibition, however, it is clear how the artmaking of Hirakawa and Sunairi is enmeshed in a discourse relating political and earthly phenomenon.
Still characteristically personal and highly composed explorations, the photographs of Hirakawa and sculpture of Sunairi created for Silence in the Light depict the deceptive sublimity of universal and peculiarly temporal landscapes and life forms. In the silence elicited by written lyrics of Arto Lindsay, which accompany the work of Hirakawa and Sunairi, concepts of human ineptitude and reversed reality are immediately tangible as another side of these artists is brought to the surface.
For the past two years, photographer Noritoshi Hirakawa, born in Fukuoka, has been frequenting the town of Hamoaka near the Sea of Enshu to create his landscape photography series In reminiscence of sea. Noritoshi Hirakawa’s subject within Hamaoka has been its nuclear power plant, built on the Fossa Magna fault line and highly susceptible to earthquakes, which due to the amount of energy within the plant, could potentially cause the spread of radioactive material throughout the entire world.
Born in Hiroshima, Hiroshi Sunairi, first a painter, then photographer and performance artist, has recently been working in sculpture and installation. For this exhibition, Sunairi has prepared the installation, “Elephant Dinner,” composed of white ceramic pieces shaped like elephant body parts and arranged as everyday objects on a table. The pieces are based specifically on the following excerpt of Buddhist fable, Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant:
“When the blind men had felt the elephant, the raja went to each of them and said to each, ‘Well, blind man, have you seen the elephant? Tell me, what sort of thing is an elephant?’ “Thereupon the men who were presented with the head answered, ‘Sire, an elephant is like a pot.’ And the men who had observed the ear replied, ‘An elephant is like a winnowing basket.’ Those who had been presented with a tusk said it was a ploughshare. Those who knew only the trunk said it was a plough; others said the body was a grainery; the foot, a pillar; the back, a mortar; the tail, a pestle, the tuft of the tail, a brush.” (Udana 68-69)
This project is a sequel to Sunairi’s “White Elephant,” also an installation composed of ceramic sculpture representing an elephant, which was recently presented at the Japan Society in New York in the exhibition Making a Home: Japanese Contemporary Artists in New York (2007). For “Elephant Dinner,” Sunairi further abstracted the forms of the elephant to project the idea of relativity expressed within the Blind Men’s fable.
Arto Lindsay, born in the United States and raised in Brazil, was approached by Hirakawa to contribute lyrics for this exhibition. Never set to music, the lyrics printed and installed with the photographs and sculpture of Hirakawa and Sunairi are an inaudible reminder of the missing element of sound. An avant garde vocalist/songwriter/producer and sound artist, Lindsay has collaborated with German theater director Heiner Muller, Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, American multidisciplinary artist Vito Acconci and British producer/conceptualist Brian Eno, in addition to Hirakawa and Sunairi on past projects.
Noritoshi Hirakawa has shown internationally in museum solo exhibitions including: Kunsthalle, Vienna, Austria (2003); Hermès Forum, Tokyo (2002); Magazin4, Vorarlberger Kunstverein, Bregenz, Austria (2001); Hiroshima Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, Japan (1996); Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt am Main, Germany (1993); Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan (1989); and group exhibitions: Japan Society, New York (2007); Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea (2007); Kunsthalle Vienna, Austria (2006); PS1 Contemporary Art Center, New York; Kunst Werke, Berlin, (2006); and Museum Carouge, Geneva (2005).
Hiroshi Sunairi has presented visual and curatorial work internationally in museum exhibitions including a solo exhibition at Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, Japan in 2005, and group exhibitions at Japan Society, New York (2007); Avanthay Contemporary, Zurich, Switzerland (2007): Kunst Rijksuniversiteit in Groningen, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2002); Barbican Art center, London, England (2001); Staller Center at Stony Brook University (2001); Voralberger Kunstverein, Bregenz, Austria (2000); Ursula Blicke Stiftung, in Kraichtal, Germany (2000); Aktionsforum, Parterinsel, Munich, Germany (2000). Sunairi has also exhibited his work and performed in leading galleries and nonprofit spaces in New York City, such as: Andrew Kreps Gallery (2001), PS1 (1999), Exit Art (1999), Jack Tilton Gallery (1999), American Fine Arts (1997), Thread Waxing Space (1996), Holly Solomon Gallery (1996), and Knitting Factory (1996).