An Online Video Exhibition curated by Kyongfa Che and Elodie Royer. With works by Hikaru Fujii, Kapwani Kiwanga, and The Propeller Group and Superflex.
Things Entangling is an online video exhibition based on the eponymous group show originally scheduled to open at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo on March 13, the culmination of a long-term collaboration between the MOT and KADIST. Delayed due to Covid-19, the installed works stood within the closed museum for over two months, waiting for the audience. Since June 9th, the exhibition has now opened its doors.
These two versions of the show (physical and online) feature artworks that dig into the narrative potentialities of things and artifacts, by tracing their trajectories and mutations, as mediators of meaning and memory. Haunted by different times, territories and positions, the artworks unfold layers of histories and subjectivities embedded in things around us, in order to unravel or critique the apparatuses of our societies.
The online program begins with Covid-19 (2020), a haunting video tour that slowly navigates through the darkness of the closed exhibition space, captured by Hikaru Fujii during the time of the pandemic. According to Fujii, “what the works within the show delineate—the warning of catastrophe, violence against others (both human and non-human) and the prediction of extinction—seems to be perfected in the unmanned museum without any audiences. This video documentation captures current confinements of closed national borders, city lockdowns, quarantines, and social distancing, as well as the present moment of paradox— solidarity in solitary.”
Starting our program with this video documentation, which acts as a portrait of the Covid-19 situation, was important to invoke what it means to make images, and by extension artworks and exhibitions, as we process these recent events through cultural means. Whatever the tools at one’s disposal, whatever the means of production, it might signify a fragment of symbolic power: the power to create something that wasn’t there, the power to preserve something that was or would have been there, the power to transmit, suggest or intervene.
Some of the videos that follow were part of the original exhibition, and now online, they reanimate the dormant white screens highlighted in Hikaru Fujii’s film Covid-19.
The video piece by The Propeller Group and Superflex explores colonialism through artifacts, cultural exchange, and value assignment. FADE IN: EXT. STORAGE – CU CHI – DAY (2010) shows a conversation between a FedEx agent and a member of the Propeller Group regarding the seizure of a shipment of fake weapons intended as props for Porcelain, a television series produced by the group. Broadcast in Vietnam in 2010, the show depicted the journey of the first consigned shipment of Southeast Asian porcelain destined for Europe in the seventeenth century. What begins as a mundane conversation about a shipment turns into a more philosophical discussion around issues of cultural identity and authenticity, appropriation, colonialism, and the rereading of history.
The Anatomy Classroom (2020), by Hikaru Fujii, is also looking at artifacts haunted by layers of histories. The film is part of a research project developed by the artist around objects and artifacts evacuated from the Futaba Town Museum of History and Folklore, located in the “difficult-to-return zone” since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. In order to avoid radioactive and biological damage, the objects have been removed from the museum, where they were once part of a collection the curator had developed to represent the local community and its long history on the land. Fujii has been closely following the movements of these historical objects, while organizing visits to the site and hosting discursive events on the crisis of memory and culture. The film captures one such dialogue, held in the anatomy classroom of the National School of Fine Arts in Paris. The speakers ruminate on the experience of visiting the empty museum, sharing reflections on what they saw and questioning one another regarding how a catastrophe can be represented, and by whom. More importantly, they discuss the significance of cultural and philosophical practices—including the preservation of objects—when engaging with catastrophes from the past and in the future.
The last video takes us to a rural landscape in Tanzania, plunging the viewer into a kind of reverie. In Vumbi (2012), by Kapwani Kiwanga, we can see the artist gently cleaning off the leaves of trees entirely covered by red dust, while the sounds of surrounding life—passers-by chatting, cars kicking up dust—swirl in the background. Little by little, the green of the leaves is revealed, contrasting with the red dust everywhere. Caught by this repetitive gesture, this care taken, we enter the landscape and everything that traverses it. A gesture that questions what land means to people, and where we belong.
In a world where political, economic, environmental, and social factors are inseparable on a global scale, how can we live with care for self and others—those who are more vulnerable, other species, future generations? This program does not claim to offer specific answers, but the works certainly reassure us by revealing complex entanglements across time and space—the key to recovering a sense of responsibility and an awareness of the mutual dependence of the living and the nonliving.
–Kyongfa Che and Elodie Royer
About the curators
Kyongfa Che has been a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) since 2013, where she co-curated, among other institutional and independent projects, the exhibition Time of others with Azusa Hashimoto, Michelle Ho and Reuben Keehan that toured in Japan, Singapore and Australia in 2015-16.
Elodie Royer is an independent curator based in Paris, regularly collaborating with KADIST. Previously, she has collaborated with different public and private art organizations in France (Palais de Tokyo, Le Plateau/FRAC Ile-de-France) and abroad (Mercer Union in Toronto, Tate Modern in London, GAMeC in Bergamo). In 2011, she was a resident at Villa Kujoyama in Kyoto. She is currently preparing an exhibition with the Japanese collective PLAY, that will take place at Salle Principale, in Paris, in September 2020.
Together, Kyongfa Che and Elodie Royer have been developing a long-term curatorial collaboration between KADIST and the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) since 2016. In 2017, they co-organized the exhibition Almost nothing, yet not nothing at Tokyo University for the Arts as part of the MOT Satellite 2017, followed by Hikaru Fujii’s solo exhibition Les nucléaires et les choses at KADIST, Paris, in 2019. The collective exhibition Things Entangling currently presented at MOT, Tokyo, is the culmination of this long-term dialogue.