Curated for Kashima Residency Programme, Beppu, Japan, British artist Adam Chodzko, produced a body of newly commissioned site-specific work across the summer of that year as part of Beppu Contemporary Art Triennial “Mixed Bathing World” 2015.
Adam Chodzko is an artist – exhibiting work nationally and internationally since 1991 – whose multidisciplinary practice explores the interactions and possibilities of human behaviour. His artworks including video, installation, photography, socially engaged practices, drawing and performance. Bringing together fragments from diverse fields of knowledge to make work that sits between documentary and fiction his artworks are propositions driven by the question; if this is our current reality what really should happen to us next? Chodzko’s exhibitions range from a solo survey show at Tate St Ives to a major installation at Tate Britain. He has had work in the Venice and Istanbul Biennials and has received awards from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New York. He was awarded an AHRC Creative Research Fellowship in the Film Department at the University of Kent, where he is currently a Senior Lecturer in Fine Art.
Chodzko has exhibited at numerous venues around the world including Tate Britain; Tate St Ives; Venice Biennale; Royal Academy, London; Deste Foundation, Athens; PS1, NY; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham; Kunstmuseum Luzern; Henry Moore Institute, Leeds; Yorkshire Sculpture Park; Athens Biennale; Istanbul Biennial; Benaki Museum, Athens; and Folkestone Triennial. His commissioners include Creative Time, NY; The Contemporary Art Society; Frieze Art Fair; Hayward Gallery and Film And Video Umbrella. He has been included in many British Council curated international exhibitions of British Art from General Release (1995) at the Venice Biennale, to Micro/Macro: British Art 1996-2002,(2003), Mucsarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest, Breaking Step (2007), Museum of Contemporary Art in Belgrade, and Private Utopia (2014), Japan.
Exhibited at Fujiya Gallery, Beppu, Japan (July – September 2015), the works presented in the installation connect Chodzko’s ongoing investigations into how a community connects with its sense of its self, its place, its past, and the world ‘outside’. In Rupture 2015, Chodzko explores what might be revealed or hidden within these encounters, examining them through the parallel relationships between gallery, audience, neighbour, art object and ‘foreign’ artist. His work at Fujiya Gallery, Beppu, develops a series of mythologies in order to investigate these connections using a mixture of documentary ‘truth’ and a form of science fiction to communicate a psychological surrealism. Processes of empathy are extended into transformation: a gallery building turns into a human body, a group of people become strangers in a 1960’s postcard and the artist becomes parts of trees in the gallery garden. Chodzko visualizes all of these processes as a form of ‘folding’.
Expulsion from the Garden of Eden explores from a Western European artist’s ‘outsider’ perspective the idea of a ‘Mixed Bathing World’ (the title of the Beppu Triennial) is seen as a form of ideal, utopian innocence about the body within a communal space. Chodzko maps these ideas onto the differences between two found postcards (one bought in Henrico, Virginia, USA the other from Tampa Florida, USA). Both postcards are based on the same source photograph from 1963, showing a group of people passing through a Beppu Arcade. One is a Black & White image which includes girls looking at something out of the frame in the foreground. The other is a hand-coloured version of the same image, cropping out these girls and inventing parts of the image. For the artist, this revision casts doubt onto the ‘truth’ of the original photographic moment. In order to make sense of this situation, the whole picture becomes deconstructed by a group of participants in Kannawa who reflect on the interior psychology of the image and the community it portrays. Ideas of innocence, shame and banishment from an ideal space evolve through this ‘return’. The Beppu steam becomes a symbolic form of emotional release and ‘absolute knowledge’ that we witness human attempts to channel and control.
In ‘Somewhere Else, In Order to Complete Them’ a myth is recounted about the role of artists in shaping the identity and form of Beppu, Japan, even attributing the constant eruption of steam to a very recent intervention by an artist in the 1970s.
Chodzko also suggests that his own work, since 2002, often made in the communities and landscape immediately around his home in Kent, UK is linked directly, from deep within the earth, to particular places of eruption within Beppu and that he (the voice-over refers just to an unnamed artist from Kent) has come to Beppu to explore and identify these geographical links. The video presents a series of Chodzko’s moving image works, from silent slide projections to video works and ‘grounds’ these pieces in Beppu, around the Kannawa area. The individual works themselves, although partly situated within ideas of the ‘local,’ also reveal a ‘reaching out’ to other places in the world (including Governors Island, New York, Athens, Greece and Belgrade, Serbia).
The monitor playing this video and its surrounding environment within Fujiya Gallery was filmed, during the exhibition, being encountered by a Japanese audience. The resulting ‘video of a video’ will be presented in an exhibition Chodzko has coming up in the UK, at Sidney Cooper Gallery, Canterbury, again to call into question where and how we might be in the world.
Our Host Postponed the Drinks Until After the Storm suggests the ‘host’ might be the artist, or perhaps the architecture of the gallery, reaching out to its neighbours either side.
The work proposes a ludicrous plan for the gallery to facilitate a bamboo plumbing system where a drink can be passed from one neighbour, through the gallery, to a neighbour on the other side. It is important that this event is deferred, interrupted by an external event; a looming storm. As a result, the ‘arms’ of the structure become temporarily ‘pruned’ and lie either side in the garden, ‘bandaged’ up. The gallery space holds the remaining part of the structure, now ‘useless’ and therefore perhaps becoming ‘just an art object’. Photographs of the two neighbours are exhibited infinitely waiting for their moment of exchange.
Here., a momohiki, and the pruned branches of all the trees in the Fujiya Gallery garden that had stems pointing on a bearing of 280°43′00′′, towards the artist’s home in Kent, UK formed the work. Although the other works Chodzko has made for Fujiya Gallery are about identifying a place’s and community’s relationship with the outside. ‘Here.’ plays with the process of the emotional and subconscious responses to place, ideas of insularity and again, a kind of revising of personal history.
Taking a compass bearing from the centre of each tree trunk in the Fujiya Gallery garden Chodzko prunes each branch that happens to point to a bearing of 280°43′00′′, the exact direction (following a ‘Rhumb Line’) of his home in Whitstable, Kent, UK, 10790 km away. Chodzko, ‘hiding’ his intervention (his shame?) in a pair of momohiki (a design of Japanese workers trousers, particularly for agricultural work) means that the garden, with its missing limbs, is subtly changed forever. But like in a dream that reveals in exaggerated form what we have attempted to conceal, the amputated branches that pointed home seem to be walking their momohiki away.
Expulsion from the Garden of Eden was curated and directed by Keith Whittle, produced by Beppu Project and generously funded by Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan.
Special thanks to Jun’ya Yamaida, Rina Nakano, Moemi Nagi, Akio Tokunaga, Takashi Serizawa and all the Beppu Project Team