Out & About > JapanCongo - By Marina Kosareva, The Voice of Russia
Carsten Höller at JapanCongo exhibition in the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture

Photo: ©RIA Novosti


The Garage Center for Contemporary Culture is at it again, showing us some really interesting works and this time they’re putting Japan and Congo in focus but as always they do it in a very unique way and today I’ll be telling you all about it.

The exhibition is called JapanCongo, which well says it all. I would have liked to have seen perhaps more creativity in the name but I guess that will do. The curator of the exhibition is Carsten Höller and he chose some works from the collection of Jean Pigozzi. In total we can see the work of 16 Congolese and 47 Japanese artists. But the interesting part comes in the way the artwork is displayed.

Carsten Höller chose to place the paintings next to one another in a corridor like space. So, as you walk in the middle you see the Congolese artwork on one side and the Japanese on the other. This was done to showcase the similarities and differences between the two cultures. The viewer is supposed to make the connection and act as an independent observer. The juxtaposition of the two makes you examine the sophistication and complexity of Japanese artwork in comparison with the "rough" art of Congo.

It’s amazing to see how different these paintings are. In the Congo section we see a sort of naivety, an innocence but at the same time a passion and desire to convey the issues that trouble them the most. They are exploring the problems of a post-colonial society and racism. We see very bold colors and harsh strokes. The paintings stick out and at times even feel like they’re jumping out on you. They are very bold and super colorful and full of life actually. In one of the paintings we see figure with seven eyes looking around. That’s the work of Pathy Tschindele. He said that it was his way to show a period in his life when he lived in a bad area in Johannesburg. He said he feared for his life all the time. He made this painting as a way to deal with his fear. He said he wanted to have seven eyes to feel safe. These are the sort of powerful messages coming from the paintings from Congo.

The artwork from Japan explores different issues. We see them depicting their struggle with pop culture and Hollywood.  The work is very detailed, complex with many tin elements. There’s a lot of precision and fine work. You also have the wacky side. One artist decided to draw herself. She said that her face can be funny, disgusting and meaningful. Her portraits are really out there. They look very bizarre. Like in one she appears to be screaming. The painting is sort of split in the middle and the face replicates on the left and right but rotated. So, you see the mouth normally then on the left and right. There appears to be a lot of tension in the face area yet all around we see serene colors mixed with flowers and dream like elements.

This is one of those exhibitions where you can spend hours looking at the paintings and analyzing the details.

When Jean Pigozzi first suggested this exhibition to Carsten Höller, he wasn’t immediately thrilled but when he saw the works he realized that there was something there.

Jean Pigozzi has a great sense of humor. I don’t think he needs to go to Collectors Anonymous though. He is one very talented man. From a very young age he became fascinated with photography. He took pictures of everything around him - his friends, dogs, icebergs, himself and countless celebrities. His photographs were shown in museums around the world including cities like Paris, New York and Berlin. In 2007 he decided to venture into fashion design. He said that he wasn’t satisfied with what was on the market so he decided to create a line of men's clothing and accessories which he called LimoLand. He wanted bright and comfortable clothing and he made it happen. It became very successful and now he even owns a shop in New York. The clothing was also shown in featured in leading magazines like Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair and The International Herald Tribune.

And believe it or not that’s not all he has done. He also bought land in Panama and built a lab there called Liquid Jungle. The point of it is to study marine biology, with the help of advanced technology. Scientists and students from all over the world use the system and the resources of this lab and its experimental centers for research. I think that’s just incredible.

I think that this man is hungry for new things. Just from the way he talks you can tell that he’s always looking to do something else. I’m sure that we’ll hear about him coming up with new projects for many years to come.

Jean Pigozzi has the largest collection of African modern art in the world. But he is not the only one who made this exhibition look as fabulous as it does. I mentioned the curator earlier, Carsten Höller. Well, he is actually an artist and from what I gathered this was his first experience as a curator. He is from Germany by the way and he usually likes to engage the viewer in his own work. His works focus on the personal perception of the viewer and he wants to create a specific individual or social experience when one sees art. He has been extremely successful and his work has been exhibited in many cities including in Milan, Boston, and London. He even represented Sweden at the 51st Venice Biennale.

In this exhibition he continued his exploration of the cultural idiosyncrasy. Carsten Höller wanted to create a space which would house two cultural phenomena. The curator has always been in interested in exploring duality. He likes to divide and separate spaces and objects. What he wanted to achieve here is for the viewer to go through the corridor and have one eye looking in one direction and the other to the other side. Yes and then you’d go cross-eyed. I am only kidding. But you know what he meant. He wanted the viewer’s brain to compare the art of these two countries together.

That was what the exhibition JapanCongo was all about in a nut shell. I love how we got the opportunity to discover two cultures at the same time and hopefully we’ll get some more interesting fusions like this one in the future.

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モスクワ現代美術センターで開幕した展覧会「JAPANCONGO」: The Voice of Russia - 28.07.2011, 16:55

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