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Tabaimo's ambitious video installations on view at the MCA Australia
Tabaimo, dolefullhouse 2007. Video installation, 6:21 minute loop. Installation view, Philagrafika, Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2010. Image courtesy the artist and Philadelphia Museum of Art© the artist. Photograph: Jason Wierzbicki.

SYDNEY.- Japanese artist Tabaimo’s ambitious video installations will immerse visitors this winter within constantly moving, changing environments that combine visual imagery and sound. Using single or multiple screens within purpose-built architecture, the works depict everyday people, cityscapes, objects and events that unfold with often surprising outcomes.

For her MCA Australia solo exhibition, curated by Chief Curator Rachel Kent, Tabaimo presents six video installations from the early 2000s to the present, as well as a suite of delicate drawings that illustrate her creative process. Drawn by hand then animated on the computer, Tabaimo’s images sit between tradition and modernity, recalling Edo-period Japanese woodblock prints in their line work and style. She employs rich colour combinations and shading reminiscent of the prints of master artist Hokusai (1760–1849).

Museum of Contemporary Art Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE said that ‘for many viewers, Tabaimo’s appeal is her unusual aesthetic: a combination of surreal happenings, delicate line drawings and the softly modulated coloration of woodblock prints transformed by their animation.’

Rachel Kent remarked that ‘Tabaimo is one of the most exciting artists to come out of Japan today, and the MCA Australia is honoured to present her largest solo exhibition to date. She has created two extraordinary new installations, which respond to the Museum‘s architecture, peeling back the walls to reveal the ocean outside.’

Set in motion as animated sequences of imagery in theatrical, set-like spaces, the works introduce audiences into hidden corners of the human psyche to reveal a world of beauty, anxiety and horror.

The title MEKURUMEKU indicates a ‘tearing apart’ of layers to reveal hidden truths within. The artist’s video installations do not follow one narrative trajectory and have no single message to convey. Rather, they seek to reveal what she describes as ‘aspects of what is hidden’ in ordinary public life. Individual works are linked in their dream-like, surreal quality: moments of irrationality and violence erupt then disappear again behind a veneer of public civility. The works evoke the world about us, but also one within, sitting between the public sphere and an equally immense, private world of the individual unconscious.

Tabaimo encourages gallery visitors to use their bodies and engage physically as they move through her video installations. Her custom designed architecture channels visitors through the MCA, surrounding them with projected imagery from in front and behind, as well as overhead and even beneath their feet.

In today’s entertainment culture, Tabaimo observes, ‘we have become used to sitting passively and watching events before us.’ Her works offer an alternative, immersing us within their shifting imagery and dynamic spaces.

About the Artworks Introducing the MCA’s Level 1 south galleries is Japanese Commuter Train (2001), a six-screen hexagonal installation that mimics the interior of a conventional passenger train. People come and go, apartment blocks flash by the windows and strange, unexpected events take place as though in a dream.

Haunted House (2003) is a circular projection that glides back and forth across a curved screen, like a periscope, to reveal a dense urban landscape within which moments of violence quietly unfold. The single projection dolefullhouse (2007) depicts a doll’s house and giant human hands manipulating its contents.

The ocean forms a recurring motif within Tabaimo’s art, as a meditative and destructive natural force beyond human control. In the Level 1 north gallery, BLOW (2009) comprises a large cylindrical structure that viewers walk through, like a tunnel, as watery bubbles swirl beneath their feet. Also included are two major new installations mekuru meku ru and TOZEN, commissioned especially for the MCA, that imagine parallel worlds in micro and macrocosm, travelling through the human body to the vastness of the ocean beyond.

Tabaimo was born in Hyogo, Japan in 1975; she lives and works in Nagano.

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