Vienna 1999-2000 (performance/installation)A PERFORMER, dressed in a suit, stands in front of a huge silk screen depicting a CONCRETE FACTORY. He stops for five seconds and stares at it – without distance. Then he walks along a white line – like a soldier – ending up in front of a narrow window in the wall, where he stops over again. Beautiful blue light comes through – behind the wall is a real SWIMMING POOL. inside a woman is swimming in endless circles. She is NUDE. The performer cannot see her head, which is above the surface of the water – only her body can be seen – she is nothing but a mere, untouchable object. After this “encounter” he walks on, always along the white line. Located in the middle of the room, which the performer cruises permanently is the BLACK MONOLITH. Here the performer never enters. Only the visitor of the gallery can. Inside the light is very diminished – you can hardly see what you are facing. If you look carefully and touch, you realize that it is HUMAN HAIR – the hair of thousands of Japanese pressed into cubes. The black monolith contains the bodily – the physical – which is frightening – in a world that is getting more and more dematerialized due to contemporary communication. The show was an attempt to build virtual reality by means of reality.
concept Edgar Honetschläger
architect Ernst J. Fuchs / tnE architects
curator Raimund Deininger
opening speech Jan Tabor
at Portfolio Kunst AG Vienna
ICH HABE ZEIT / I HAVE TIME
took place at Portfolio Kunst AG in Vienna in 1999. The architecture for the space was realized in collaboration with the architect Ernst Fuchs (the next enterprise)
No one has time, because we live our lives at very high speed. People are always stressed out, there is no time for reflecting anymore because there is constant competition. In Western culture, it’s almost a sign of status or seen as a measure of self-importance to say that we are “too busy” and don’t have time. There is no time to learn or experience the true meaning of life anymore: no time for spiritual or mental growth. We have sentenced ourselves to pure reaction, just like Pavlov’s dogs.
1) MINMIN SEMI (Cry of the Cicada): sound installation covering the entire show. Stands for impermanence, literally the time limitation, of all living creatures – especially humans. This is a sound that is virtually unknown to Europeans – an aberration that is so alien as to be interpreted by Europeans as a sound created by humans because they can’t imagine that an animal or insect could create such sound.
2) I HAVE TIME–(Drawing of the Sun). Every day at exactly 9:57 I drew the shape of the sun as streamed through the cut-out sentence “ICH HABE ZEIT” (I have time) in the window. The drawing makes you aware of how the position of the sun and the earth are changing every day. This is something we don’t realize because we have NO TIME to think about such simple things.
3) MILK II (Silkscreen) (Image of the Japanese Hinomaru flag). The red dot is made up of the image of a concrete factory (in OKUTAMA, which is three hours from Tokyo – this factory stands in the middle of a national park.) On top of this print is another print on transparent paper, where I wrote the story of my trip to OSAKA where I tried to get money to finance my first feature film, MILK.
4) KATORISENKO (burned drawing/mosquito coil) I did the piece in Kagoshima, which is on the largest southernmost Japanese island of Kyushu. It was rainy season and there were many – too many – mosquitoes. I recalled that before the Europeans came to Japan, the Japanese measured time by burning incense. Europeans divided time into seconds, minutes, and hours. But the Japanese did not divide time in this way. Rather, time was described by the word TOKI, which considers time in a broad sense, indicating a stream of time, a point in time rather than a precise numerical equivalent. Time was signified by the burning of an incense coil. It takes about three hours.
5) MOUSENGOKE (The Venus Fly Trap) I bought one in San Francisco in 1987 and brought it to Europe. On the pot were these instructions: “feed small bites of hamburger eventually.” Since I could not catch any flies, I did what it said and fed the plant with small bites of hamburger. After three days, the fly trap died. Just this year I learned why. Mousengoke live on sun and water–like all plants. It eats very little. Only one fly in half a year. The plant needs a lot of energy to build up all the enzymes required for digestion. The leaves always die after digestion. In short, the plant died because I overfed it. In this show, I placed the plant between the flag (Japan’s industrialization in competition with the carnivorous West) — and the insence drawing — stealing, another culture’s sense of time.
Mousengoke stands for blind capitalism that leads us to the end of the world as we know it. Overconsumption will bring us to our end.
6) HANDS FOLDED IN PRAYER, SIMULTANEITY, HANDS IN ENERGY FLOW (Monotypes) These pieces were done in Kagoshima, very close to the spot where St. Xavier–the first missionary to Japan–first landed, bringing Christianity to Japan. CHRISTIAN HANDS FOLDED IN PRAYER/SIMULTANEITY is not possible for human beings, because we can’t be in two different places at the same time. Even modern technology can’t make this possible. HANDS IN ENERGY FLOW is a counterpart to the folded hands. What is true for the individual is true for whole tribes and cultures. Two different systems that contradict each other cannot be established within one closed system.
7) JIKAN. Photos of the Keihin Tohoku train line. According to Shingo Shimada, the original word for time in the Japanese language was TOKI, taken from the Chinese ideogram. The importation of European languages brought a new expression into existence: JIKAN. While TOKI described time in a broad sense, indicating a stream of time, a point in time, JIKAN referred only to a span of time: JI denoted time in general; KAN denoted the space between points in time. With TOKI, time was not objectified or concretized. The concept of JIKAN began to influence Japanese life immediately after it was introduced. Time thus became institutionalized. In the Meiji period (1868-1912) the school day was subdivided according to the concept of JIKAN. Trains and factories began to run and work according to JIKAN time. Consequently, JIKAN signifies the objectification of time by which daily life is structured. JIKAN is disciplinary time, penetrating the body of the individual (Foucault).
On the left side, there is a photo that looks like a painting. You won’t be able to discern what it really depicts. If you look at the photo on the right side, you can see the reality vaguely in the background. Yet, it becomes clear that it is a train in motion – moving at very high speed. It takes only a fraction of a second to recognize the reality behind the speed that masks it.
POOL: ( diameter 553 cm, height: 308, 65.000 liters of water ) Cannot be seen from the outside. A big wall with a window cut out (120×20 cm) of it. Beautiful blue light comes through. The wall is deep; therefore the light creates a frame for the inner blue. If you look up, you can see the surface. Inside, a woman is swimming in endless circles. She is nude. We do not get to see her head. This is important, as she has been denigrated to a mere object. Along the walls of the entire lower floor runs a line. On this line a salaryman walks endlessly. In German, walking on a line means that you are selling yourself. [e.g., prostitutes seem to walk along a line because they always walk up and down on the same spot.] The salaryman walks almost robotically along the line. His movements are very stylized and he stops at the window for 5 seconds. Here he gets his momentary pleasure – he stares at a beautiful object he can\’t touch, something which is kept in a cage. It is like virtual reality built by real means. [By the
way, this was effective in reality. Many people at the opening party asked me how I was able to make such a realistic film !!! They thought the pool was not real. We are already so influenced by virtual reality that it has become hard for us to distinguish the virtual from the real.] Anyway – the salaryman gets what he needs – whatever it is–his fuel, his kinkiness–is satisfied, then he continues walking on along the line and comes to WHY IS IT SO HARD TO ACCEPT THE VOID ? Silkscreen 250×120 cm (edition 100 pieces)
The silkscreen is the same image as the red dot of the Japanese Hinomaru flag upstairs. I shot it in Okutama, Tokyo, with a throwaway panoramic camera. I took 8 photos (length) and mounted them together. They don’t fit perfectly, which is important because I deconstructed the factory, which is the central image. (they produce concrete). This building itself is a perfect example of deconstruction. It represents purely functional architecture – each part of it grew out of necessity. Nothing seems to have been planned. Every portion was built one by one as it was needed. It is also a symbol for the end of the mechanical age – because in the electronic age, mechanics are driven more and more into the background. (By the way, as a footnote: Okutama Cement will be closing its doors forever this year.)
As the salaryman approaches the factory, he stops right in the middle of it for 5 seconds and stares at it – without distance – he only gets to see an aspect of it. Of course the metaphor is that he visits his workplace and then he goes back to the pool. He never stops on his way between those two poles and most importantly, he never touches the core.
BLACK MONOLITH: Has the same height as the pool: 308 cm (200×700 cm deep) As you walk inside, the door gets smaller and the ceiling lowers. The light is very diminished – you can hardly see what you are facing. If you look carefully and touch it, you realize that it is human hair. It is the hair of thousands of Japanese people. I collected th is hair in Tokyo throughout the years – stuffed it in cardboard boxes and sent it by ship to Vienna. It took almost three months to get there. Since the cardboard boxes were transported so many times, the strands of hair started to stick together. When the boxes with the hair finally arrived in Vienna, I took the hair out and – surprise – it had conformed to the shape of the boxes – cubes. There was no glue or other material holding the hair together. That’s why the title is: JAPANESE HAIR AND TRAVEL. There are seven cubes because I collected the hair over the span of 7 years. If you look at each cube carefully, you will realize that the hair color is changing from jet black to brown/blond. When I came to Japan no one dyed their hair except old ladies, who wore a garish shade of punk-rock purple that was once worn by nobility. These days, most young people color their hair. For me, this has to do with what the Americans call Whitewash. Wanting to look like Whites (Caucasians). The Caucasian is still- due to Colonialism – idealized as superior in beauty. That’s why many Asian girls get their eyes done (into a round shape) and Blacks in America try to look like Whites (color of skin).
Anyway – the core – \”the black monolith\” contains the bodily – the physical – which is frightening – in a world that is getting more and more dematerialized due to modern communication such as The Internet and video. Hair is like blood, a huge genetic pool. My friend Yukika said that bringing the Japanese hair to Vienna was a \”blood transfer\”. Most people think it is disgusting, and want to avoid it, just like our salaryman does not want to touch the core – the body – and walks around it without paying attention to it. [There has never been greater sexual dysfunction in the industrialized world as there is now, in our age. Many guys masturbate to porn videos but can’t make love to a real woman. They are scared of women. AIDS has played a role in this fear of intimacy, too.]
One should feel comfortable seeing the blue water and the beautiful woman inside [very much a Freudian picture: woman – water =sexuality/birth/feminine]. And one is supposed to feel uncomfortable in the black monolith with the hair cubes, which evoke discomfort and fear. This is perhaps like hell. What is important for me is that I realized that contemporary art does not evoke emotion anymore (in contrast to film, which evokes strong emotional responses). Contemporary art is made for a small intellectual circle that follows the current trends and debates. I do not expect the observer to understand my theories or agree with my mental constructions. In fact, there is really no need for my explanations at all. What is important is that one feels something, some strong emotion, when seeing the show.