Konoike Tomoko: Inter-Traveller

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“First off. Get outside. Then go so far away that you start regretting coming to such a spot. Do something really difficult, and somehow or other, make your way back home.”
-Tomoko Konoike

Of all the art exhibits that I visited this summer, Tomoko Konoike’s Konoike Tomoko: Inter-Traveller (sic) was the most compelling, visionary, and delightful. Today was the last day of this exhibit. As usual, my timing is impeccably bad, but you’ll be able to see her latest exhibit, Twelve Wolf Poets, at my favorite sculpture park, the Hakone Open Air Museum, from October 9.

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Konoike flexes her artistic versatility in a multi-room exhibition that reads like a fairy tale adventure. There are delicate paintings on paper doors, animation videos, sculpture made of all kinds of materials, mosaics, murals, paintings, light designs, and even furniture.

Two animated videos were projected on books as if the books came to life. One was a creation mythology and the other was an Odyssey of Mimeo, a haunting faceless childlike character. Mimeo is an innocent wanderer, often traveling with a six-legged wolf. The wolf acts as a totem, along with streams of flying daggers, and also a bee girl. These motifs recur throughout the exhibit.

The path through the rooms/worlds mirrors the creation myth journey of Mimeo. Often, the transition between these rooms required the viewer to pass through low curtained entrances, change levels, or enter darkness.

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In the first room, which was veiled in white, there was a massive winged figure with dragonfly wings, that’s perhaps giving birth. A pair of legs stuck out of what can only be described as a vaginal opening. The bare child’s legs had on a pair of sneakers, and this image can be seen throughout the works. There was even a pair of the same disembodied legs sitting on a bench in the museum lobby.

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The second room was red. It had four large panels on each wall. To enter this room you had to pass through a low red curtained entrance. The paintings were vivid and spectacular.

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Another room was an installation with a surreal dioramic landscape. There was an enormous revolving baby head surfaced with broken mosaic mirror shards.  Around it was a shipwrecked boat, a miniature mountain and flittering winged creatures overhead. Sooo cool.

I thoroughly enjoyed the imaginative presentation of the art, and appreciated the integration of all the pieces into one interactive cohesive journey. It was as if I walked through a fantastical theatre performance.

“Don’t sit there gazing at a painting…get outside and feel the wind. Don’t mutter the lines of some old poem, get moving and create some friction. If you don’t keep playing, traveling all around and causing all kinds of friction, until you’re so tired you can’t speak, you’ll never stoke the fires of a robust imagination.”

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