Objects Reincarnated from the Quaking Earth

Kim Jeong-bok aArt Critic


The majority of Japanese contemporary art introduced to Korea from the 1990s on consisted of works by artists born in the 1960s, who align themselves with Japan Pop or Neo-Japan Pop. The works of AONO Fumiaki (–앶, 1968~), who was born in 1968, stand at a considerable distance from mainstream contemporary Japanese art from his generation, in terms of his methodology of collecting everyday objects and appending human gactivity.h He was mentored by TAKAYAMA Noboru (Ro, 1944~), a representative Monoha artist who is widely known for his work with sleepers, but Aono Fumiaki deals with the relationality with others, and the location and memories of objects from a perspective that differs from that of Monoha or post-Monoha artists who sought a return to the essence of materiality through objects. The key point in Aono Fumiakifs works, which will be introduced at his first solo exhibition in Korea to be held at Arario Gallery in April 2014, is how he places equal level on the creative act of gmakingh (producing) and the act of fixing in the form of grepairing.h In traditional craft, repairing was subsumed under the process of supplementation, but in Aono Fumiakifs work, it is itself a fundamental component of his creation.

The act of Repairing, gCoupling and Substitution,h and Rendering Objects Anonymous

The act of grepairingh, which Aono Fumiaki has constantly developed into his own methodology since his first solo exhibition in 1991, emerged from an accidental discovery. Upon seeing traces of filled in cracks on a concrete wall nearby his residence, he is attracted to formative figures whereby field for the coexistence of coincidence and necessity are generated, as gcrossingsh were arising from an inorganic wall, catalyzed by human acts of craft. A condition in which properties such as gtransformation, proliferation, consolidation, and incursionh born from the process of physically supplementing or mending damaged, worn down, no longer useful and therefore discarded objects shake up and reorganize the perfect image of objects. Aonofs repairing goes beyond simply supplementing and correcting forms, and serves as the fountain of new creation, reorganizing and transforming objects into unfamiliar matter.

To repair an object, one must first collect. Aono Fumiakifs personal interest in collecting general and cultural objects from around the world, and exploring simultaneous, multi-layered expressions seen in such objects, can be found in his gmediatory formation.h Especially, gCoupling and Substitutionh, which is a concept that refers to a consolidation of damaged objects with supplementary materials, is a unique idea that underlies his art world. Aonofs gcoupling and substitutionh differs from gthe serialh or glinkage,h each of which refers to multiple layers of supplementary patterns or an expansion of flow. Aono replaces damaged parts of discarded objects with supplementary materials, and transforms them into a status that harbors various potentials. in which different traces coexist. He exposes the state of gletting beh itself, such as gjust being placed together,h gjust being aligned,h or gjust being collectively,h and tries to highlight the contrast between noise and neutral, abstraction and concreteness, mass-produced objects and the hand-made, the I and the other, and past and present. Therefore, Aonofs repairing work does not aim to revive the object to its original state. Instead, his work aspire to a ggenerative restorationh that recreates the shifting ambiguities in the process of a damaged object, its traces and the vestiges of its restoration gradually becoming something else, an anonymous object, noting that a complete return to the original state is an impossibility.

Aono Fumiakofs tendency to use objects he came across in daily life moved on towards public awareness steeped in social significance; a representative case is his open road repair work, which took place on the streets of Sendai in 2009~2010. This particular work resists the custom of presenting the traces of repairing and restoring daily objects as works of art to be owned individually. He literally sits out on the street and conducts his repair work while people walk by. The repair process is captured on screen and uploaded to Youtube. From the perspective of the gaesthetics of relationalityh, the artist questions the concept of the public that stands apart from art, and reflects on his own life as one that relies on the public through traces of restoration, fixed in a specific locale, and constantly exposed to an unspecified multitude.


Drifting Surface, Reincarnation as Transplanted Matter

The Earthquake in East Japan, which happened on March 11 2011, was a turning point in Aonofs repair work. This is when his focus on material form, the process of which centered on neutral and geometric gtransformationh derived from the act of grepairing,h began to wear hues of social consciousness such as gregenerationh or ghealing.h For instance, <Low Tables Covered with Floor Materials from Houses Destroyed in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami >, installed at the underground floor in the exhibition hall, is a repair work that had been submitted before the solo exhibition he held at his hometown Sendai in 2012, entitled sReincarnation ? Surface, Outflow, Transplantationt. The table, placed in spaces of daily life, means the first shared foundation on which we build relationships with others ? the act of gsitting at the same table.h The table, which had been part of an artificial surface/floor attached to different locations (lands), was torn away from its original spot and moved to another place. The surface-table with unique time, space, history, and context was transplanted to an unfamiliar and neutral locale by disastrous forces, and has become a drifting surface in on out-of-context space. Objects owned by family members or relatives of the artist or unfamiliar others who suffered from the earthquake are cut off from the space where its original users interacted; the objects are swept up in the throes of external incursion (the Tsunami), and acquire an autonomous status in its new resting place. The artist collects and repairs the debris from the catastrophe, and reincarnates them into unique objects that are transformed into unfamiliar matter devoid of functionality yet full of some potential, thereby allowing the coexistence of memories from the disaster.

The hall on the second floor features daily household objects that were collected from the Earthquake and later repaired, such as the rice bowl, playing card, plastic bottle, CD case, and the piece of red toy. They bear meanings that differ from that of mere, discarded objects. These objects attests to the loss of its original users who were swept away by the Tsunami, and they also serve as records of how these usersf lives were destroyed. Aonofs repair-restoration work heals the traumas from the Tsunami, but also implies the fate of human existence ? how we are destined to be destroyed and sacrificed throughout our lives, and must coexist surrounded by absolute alterities and inevitabilities. Aonofs repair-restoration work creates subtle difference in the form of surface of an object, encompassing gtemporalityh arising from the crossovers of past and present, and exposing the gactivityh of handcraft work on inorganic wholes. He transforms objects that bear traces of human usage into a state of neutral abstraction. His act does not secure an abstract and neutral foundation (a kind of basal plane). Rather, it connotes a gquakingh attached to an actual glocation or situation.h In other words, the way in which the repaired and restored object is placed is quaking and shaking, regardless of the artistfs own thoughts.

Still Alive in the Quaking Empire.

Since East Japanfs Great Earthquake on March 11, certain voices tinged with dark humor suggested that Japan should change its national name into gQuaking Empireh (Yura Yurak Teikoku) on Twitterfs Japanese timeline. The implied reference here is Japanfs rock band Yura Yura Teikoku (1989~2010), whose portfolio includes a love song entitled <Still Alive (Mada Ikite Iru)>. Living on in a quaking empire where the surface often shakes and trembles, and onefs daily life is constantly exposed to imminent destruction, comes closer to a repaired life begun anew rather than making something entirely new. The unpredictable, shaky prospects of life are not limited to Japan. Even here, unexpected disasters or collapses occur when we open our eyes in the morning, unsuspecting.

The act of grepairingh in Aono Fumiakifs work goes beyond simply fixing and restoring man-made objects, and encompasses human relations and social systems ? perhaps even the human body, life form, and its cells. Whether it be the dissolution of a psychological value system, or exogenous destruction from incursions or attacks, one must adopt the attitude of fixing, repairing, restoring, reorganizing, and restructuring something in order to survive in a quaking empire. It is critical for us to contextualize Aonofs regeneration project within the rubrics of our lives here and now. Living inevitably entails quaking and shaking under external influences. Therefore, the gact of repairingh or its gtracesh harbors a sustainable power source embedded within human perception or cognition.