On March 18, the Zarya Center for Contemporary Art will present a solo exhibition of the Japanese artist Michiko Tsuda. Titled “Observing Forest,” the exhibition will feature video works from the series Yeu & Mo, 2007-2009, as well as the installation You would come back there to see me again the following day, 2016.
“Observing Forest” will not only mark the first time Michiko Tsuda’s works have been shown in Russia, it will also serve as a continuation of the discussion around the representation of the concept of movement in art, put forward by “Perpetuum Mobile,” a survey exhibition of Russian kinetic art, which opened in Zarya in February.
At the beginning of the 20th century – an era under the general spell of movement and acceleration – the form in motion came into its own as an aesthetic device, whose formal possibilities would be mined and explored for the better part of the next century. A hundred years later, we have reached the point where we must now deconstruct the movement that brought about these new forms and experiences, breaking it down in basic elements that can be analyzed. The works by Michiko Tsuda offer a kind of a laboratory for the study of the form in motion and its perception by the viewer. In Tsuda’s case, this experiment is conducted on the image, on the subject matter and on the system in which these types of communications exist, all at the same time.
Tsuda’s experiments operate within two distinct disciplines: performance, for which the key moment hinges on the direct experience of the presence of the body in time and space, under a given set of circumstances; and new media art, directed towards the fixation and transmission of information (in this case, the experience of the body.)
The video series, Yeu & Mo, 2007-2009, takes its title from the exchange of elements in two images optically merged through the structural composition of Tsuda’s video work. The visitor is invited to view a video projection, showing the events occurring inside a complex installation, in which people and objects are captured by video cameras swinging like pendulums. Along their trajectory, these cameras simultaneously record and show both sides of the nearly symmetrical pavilion. The visitor is invited to interact not with the complex architectural space constructed by Tsuda, but rather with the image of that space as it appears on film. This footage is optically merged in such a way that we must negotiate a composite image that does not bring reality closer to us, but rather creates a distance between the viewer and his or her surrounding environment – a medial divide.
This divide is artificially generated with the help of the media employed and technical equipment capable of facilitating the transition of our perception of a world in motion – a world with rules governing the physical trajectory and position of an object – to a media world of distortion and interference, in which reality is not negated, but rather transformed into something virtual and inaccessible. In this sense, any movement or alteration of an image (or position, or form) of an object can appear only as a means of distancing oneself from that object. In short, any movement is a form of distance.
In this media world, the subject is primarily ethereal, something that one can absorb, but not control. In its title, Yeu & Mo revels in a slippage of individual autonomy, as the viewer begins to take on attributes of the other information directed at them. That is, they are gradually confronted with the same ether into which their body has been transformed. In doing so, the viewer must resign to a kind of optical immateriality; their body no longer solely belongs to themselves, thus rendering them incapable of warding off the optical intrusions of external influences. All semblance of privacy or autonomy is lost.
The installation, You would come back there to see me again the following day, 2016, launches an ambitious inquiry into the nature of privacy in media, but the true experience of the work is only possible through movement. Moving through the space amid Tsuda’s suspended frames, the viewer simultaneously appears within them through the use of various media, each of which adds a new effect to the situation. Within the frames, the viewer confronts their own reflection, either as a mirror as a projection from the surveillance camera. While initially this could serve as a surprise or an amusement to the viewer, they eventually grow accustomed to the idea that they are in a zone of total surveillance. It is in that moment that their gaze might “slip” into the emptiness of the frames that do not reflect the viewer, but rather offer a view of what is behind them.
What emotions do we experience when we feel a camera lens directed upon us? Even if it is filming us against our will, do we not still find ourselves performing as an object, rather than taking on the role as a subject of someone else’s attention? Michiko Tsuda’s experiments suggest that our perception of ourselves is blurred by our representation within media; but at the same time, the media field, which can appear as aggressive – the lurking threat of a forest – is nothing more than our own reflection. There is no single interpretation for Tsuda’s works, however. Just as with the dark thickets of the forest, the subject has two options: to watch or to be watched.