from 06.10.2002 to 06.11.2002

Noritoshi Motoda, Kim Keever


Artist Statement:

When I moved to New York in 1979, 1 made paintings for years until I was bored with painting itself and decided to switch to photography, or at least my version of photography. That was in 1991. 1 had been admiring Cindy Sherman's wonderful colored cibachrome versions of setups of herself. I spent several months thinking about my own kind of landscape setups in which I would keep everything in focus, as one would see the real landscape and not add any extra elements, like toy cars, dolls, or other figures. I would shoot with a large format (4x5) camera and I wouldn't worry about some areas being too abstract. I still apply these rules to all my work.
Working in my studio and shooting the 4x5 transparancies of the aquarium setup in my apartment is half the creative process. Getting the film back is when I really see if I have made something interesting or just average. Most are just average but sometimes I get that wonderful surprise and feeling of elation of seeing one that really works. The fact is, I have no idea whether the work will be interesting or not until I see the film. I'm usually shooting so fast, if one can shoot fast with a camera that large, that after 7 or 8 shots I don't know what I have. It's necessary to shoot quickly since the paint I pour into the water for clouds dissipates and moves around the plaster mountains in an unpredictable way as real clouds would through mountain passes.
It's so much fun to see the paint clouds move through the water and it all starts to look so real, I feel like I'm watching a movie or I've been transported to this lilliputian world of my own creation. I guess I'm an escapist at heart.
Over a period of time the plaster mountains start to erode and debris starts to pile up around them. With a little help, I cut river valleys through them and am reminded of the real erosion that mountains go through over millions of years. If I work with the same model for some months, the mountains erode down to hills. The more erosion that takes place, the more the model takes on a life of its own and begins to lose any quality of having been hand-built that it may have had. It all starts to look like "fractals", where small systems start to mimic large systems. For example, if one looks closely at an ocean shoreline of 50 miles of beach, the same linear patterns appear when observing thousands of miles of beach.
After running through 100 pieces of film, maybe there is one that really works. I like working like this. It would take forever to make 100 comparable paintings and I would still have to choose the best. I am often asked if I miss painting and I have to say not really. Having been an artist for some time, I can say this is the most important work I've ever done and that makes me very happy.
I have to be very careful making the work. The tank I work with holds over 100 gallons of water and I live on the 6th floor. By mistake, I have flooded my two downstairs neighbors twice. The first time they were somewhat forgiving but the second time they were understandably angry and I had to pay a lot of money for ceiling repairs. So now I try to be extra careful to avoid that third possible event. I now have various valves and precautions for the intake and draining of the water but am always a little fearful of another accident. I even have dreams of flooding them again. I wouldn't recommend this technique to anyone with downstairs neighbors.
Kim Keever, NYC 2002


The skin of ghosts
By Johannes Lothar Schröder
(Translation: Lydia Wazir)

Japanese pop singers are Noritoshi Motoda’s idols. He not only collects their CDs and videos, but posters and Fanzines as well, which he uses as raw materials for his installations and performances. The Shizuka Kudo video and pertinent photos show him in his room in rural Fukuoka, spending his time surrounded by images of his favourite singer. Their great number allows the fan to put them together in film-like sequences, which, in an increasingly hypnotic atmosphere with music by Shizuka Kudo, condense into one virtual figure. This way, hundreds of views appear, gaining additional bodily characteristics by reflections on the bright lustre printings, distortions on the curved pages and perspective shortenings. By allowing the penetration of erotic stimuli of the model with the sensuality of the print-graphic products to become visible, Motoda opens the eyes to the effects of glamour beyond the surfaces of markets, brands and media.
Intimacy and communication
As the climax of the Shizuka Kudo project, Motoda established the Shizuka Kudo house as an installation for the Shizuka Kudo Performance in 1999. Depending on the version, densely placed pillars of plastic mugs or Plexiglas cuboids placed on top of another form the walls. They are filled according to a plan with crumpled up magazine pages as well as photos glued to the panes, so that friezes and patterns stretch through the facades. Leashes and bamboo poles equipped with magazine pages form the blanket. The transparency of the whole construction culminates here, allowing the artist to work within and to meditate with his pictures, simultaneously allowing the public some insight.
The installation leaves the border between intimacy and communication open, by which it becomes a kind of temple in which the engulfment of a fan expresses itself as a ritual. In the field of tension between the power which he tries to attain over his idol, and the influence which pop culture has on him, he appears as the protagonist of a mass phenomenon in consumer societies. Perhaps Japan, as a country with its numerous shrines, is predestined to produce such excessive forms of cult around pop stars. Fans share their lives in a way similar to how their ancestors regarded natural phenomena, spirits and divinities, which they revere to this day in the pervasive Shinto-shrines.
Tea house and puppet theatre
With an area large enough only for himself or a few persons, Motoda's installations come close to the concept of a tea house. Particularly their fragile and half-transparent construction, with only slight interventions in the environment, speaks for it just as well as the branches and twigs used in the early stage of the Kudo project (1996). The later change to materials from the plastic industry replaced the traditional relationship with nature and concretized the transition of traditional aesthetic attitudes into an environment characterized by commodities and media.
The attention which the surfaces receive can be dissolved with aesthetic premises as they were developed in Japan in the 17th century by Monzaemon Chikamatsu. His theory of the J?ruri theatre required lending the theatre dolls strong charisma, so that their effect should surpass that of the Kabuki actors. His attention was concentrated on the dolls’ frames, under which up to three hands of puppet players were to produce movements which suggest human conditions. Therefore, clothes and appearance of the dolls were defined as a skin/membrane, leaving the audience with a compelling impression of human emotions. The illusion of humanity was to be provided solely by the effect of surfaces and thereby lend expression to the nature of being. Motoda corresponds triply to this aesthetic premise because the house, the surface of the pictures and, finally, their photographic reproduction, form a membrane between light and reality and intensify the immediate impression of lifeless materials - leaving strong emotions behind.
The fan as public Pygmalion
Motoda’s handling of the image material reverses Walter Benjamin’s thesis of the loss of aura due to the ability for reproduction to their opposite. With Motoda, these are the reproduced images and the ability to medially reproduce them which bring the model to life and finally not only replace the impression of the living person, but even exceed it for the fan. Motoda transfers the aesthetics of theatre dolls from the Japanese Edo time, which was to outdo the attraction of actors, to the surfaces of bright lustre printing and their photographic reproduction. In his performances, he imbues his pictures with life, going as far as transformation. Certainly, this kind of picture creation with the pygmy myth looks back on a long tradition, but the itinerant and ephemeral form which Motoda gives the object of his longing puts the spectators directly into the heart of events. The resonance which he receives when he shows his installations and performances on streets, in squares and shopping centres, gives an artistic value to an everyday phenomenon. This elevates his presence as well as the charisma of the objects.
Aside from the installations, the presentation of videos as well as sequences and clusters of photo-prints give the spectators the possibility to observe Motoda submerging into a condition inside his media world, coated by his ‘art world’, in which the boundaries between being and seeming blur and self-boundaries dissolve. The fan experiences the mutual transmission of characteristics between the object and the living world and honours a dysfunctional relationship in the traditional sense: He communicates with spirits and makes them his companions.