COMMISSION PROJECT

Commission Project Free

Yu ARAKI

2/3/2023 - 3/26/2023 10:00-20:00 (After Feb 19, until 20:00 on Thu. and Fri., and until 18:00 on other days) *Closed on Mondays.

Tokyo Photographic Art Museum 3F Exhibition Gallery

Commissioned work for the Yebisu International Festival for Art & Alternative Visions 2023
Unmasked (Bootleg)

Yu ARAKI

Unmasked (Bootleg), 2023, Two-channel video installation (LED Vision, LCD monitors, stereo, color) ©2022 Yu Araki

STATEMENT

I’m dreaming of making a feature-length fiction film one day (and this is why I call myself a filmmaker rather than an artist). Since I do not have any formal training as a film director, I have been making films in my own way, without really knowing how to do it properly. Being the amateur that I am, what I rely on is the experiences that I have gained over the years, working as an interpreter and translator, studying sculpture and media art, and also the know-how that I have acquired in the performing arts field. My “films” are works in which all these skill sets come together, and which I have been privileged to show outside the cinema context. I must confess, though, that my works are nowhere near being truly original, because I still feel as if I am imitating my influences. In other words, they are merely copies.

Imitating others, and being far from my ideal self, I am attracted to things that are somehow imperfect. Take the Statue of Liberty souvenirs that you find in New York City, for example. They come in all sizes and colors, and if you look at their faces closely, you will notice that they all look slightly different (while the "MADE IN CHINA" label adds another layer, and makes you wonder how many of the craftsmen who made these have actually seen the real thing). I may be stretching a bit, but appreciating these formal differences is like enjoying the versions of 007 or Batman, played by different actors in the past. It is also very interesting to realize that the term “casting” is used in both a sculptural and a theatrical/cinematic sense, because in a way, the image of the character is created by “molding” an individual.

I have somehow always been interested in such superfluous details, the excess rather than the essence, the parts that overflow from the casting mold. Through the production of this new work, I have become convinced that it is precisely in these superfluous differences, that one-of-a-kind, unique individuality resides. As an imperfect person, I resist being molded or being labeled. As an imperfect artist, I have decided to stop aiming to make perfect imitations. As an imperfect filmmaker, I would like to cast light, project, and celebrate differences that do not necessarily fit into the mold. I hope my work will encourage audiences to free themselves from their social roles, even just a little bit. I dedicate my work in this Commission Project to my five heroes, who are at once the best and the hottest band in the world.

ABOUT THE WORK

“Cover bands” or “tribute bands” – commonly referred to as “copy bands” in Japan – play famous songs by other people. The movement is said to have started and spread around the world back in the 1950s, at a time when musical scores for bands were not yet commercially available. The difference between both, very roughly, is that “cover bands” arrange the original songs in their own style, whereas “tribute bands” first and foremost adhere to the original versions, and sometimes even “transform” into the original musicians by dressing and acting like them.

Unmasked (Bootleg) is a portrait of WISS, a band based in Yagi-cho, Nantan-City, Kyoto Prefecture. As a tribute band, they have been playing songs by the American hard rock band KISS for 15 years, and I have been following them ever since certain circumstances brought me together with the members two years ago. The way they express their love and respect for KISS through their interpretations of the band’s songs and world view, is in itself a tribute, but they also have their own story. Different from the real thing, WISS are a quintet, and it happened in the past that the members switched makeups and instruments at a live show.

The work at this exhibition is presented as a video installation of two back-to-back monitors. The large LED Vision display on the front side shows a live performance in brilliant but silent images. Playing on the reverse side is footage of interviews with the band, the members doing their day jobs, or putting on makeup before the show. They portray the band “masked and unmasked” so to speak – onstage and offstage, in performance and in daily life, with and without makeup. However, the sides aren’t completely disconnected, but they are rather two faces of the same coin, and I hope that viewers will enjoy witnessing the gradual transformations that take place here.

The work does not include any audio of the live performance, for which there are various reasons, including the idea to highlight the issues of copyrights and reproduction rights that every tribute band is destined to cope with. I have been interested in problems related to originals and copies, and now I realized again that it is difficult to discuss this concept as a binary opposition. Copying original songs in a faithful manner, with as little difference as possible, doesn’t change anything in the “master-servant” kind of relationship between original and copy. In the question how it may be overturned, I focused my attention on the “essence of the reproduction act itself” that comes to the surface when ignoring the “quality of the performance” that is supposedly what it is all about. While pretending to do a music documentary, the idea was to capture the originality and uniqueness of WISS under the limiting condition that none of their music would be used. I don’t know whether the result will work as intended, but I believe that this explanatory note will be a helpful aid for your enjoyment of the exhibition.

[Acknowledgments]
Individuals (honorifics abbreviated)
SEKI Akira | FUKUSHIMA Takayuki | TAKUMA Hiroaki | HIROSE Shinji | HABE Yoshihiro
SEKI Akiko | KAJIMOTO Noriko | HIROSE Yuko | HABE Eriko
YAGI Yukina | YAGI Atsushi | KOKUFU Miki | AKITA Yuko | YAMAGUCHI Tomoko | HIROSE Takahito | HARA Tsutomu | MIYASHITA Tadaya | YAMAKI Shinya | MATSUI Shohei | KUWAHARA Yoshiro
NISHIGUCHI Isao | NISHIGUCHI Shigeko | UNO Hiroki | NISHIMURA Harumi | MIKI Toshio
NISHINO Masanobu | CHU Sota | Stuart MUNRO

Groups/Companies
Hair Salon Seki | Shinwa Jidosha Kogyo | Habe Tatami Shop | Tamuraya Co., Ltd. | Unixia Inc. | Minna No Terakoya Oigawa | Kyoto Nantan Yagi-JAM Executive Committee | Nantan City Yagi Civic Center | Kyoto: Re-Search Executive Committee | MUJIN-TO Production

Artist

PAST WORKS

Bivalvia: Act II, 2022, 2-Channel HD video (unsynchronized loop)
2-Channel sound, 21 min. 7 sec., 17 min. 2 sec.
Installation view at MUJIN-TO Production
Photo: Kenji Morita
Courtesy of the artist and MUJIN-TO Production

AWAY/HOME, 2021-2022
3-Channel HD video (synched), carpet, bench, plants
13 min. 31 sec.
Installation view at Nakanoshima Museum of Art, Osaka
Photo: Yoshisato Komaki
Courtesy of the artist and MUJIN-TO Production

HONEYMOON, 2020, HD video, punctured screen
Sound, 29 min. 40 sec.
Installation view at Pola Museum of Art
Courtesy of the artist and MUJIN-TO Production

HONEYMOON, 2020, HD video, punctured screen
Sound, 29 min. 40 sec.
Installation view at Pola Museum of Art
Photo: Ken Kato
Courtesy of the artist and MUJIN-TO Production

The Last Ball, 2019, 3-Channel HD video, translucent screen
Sound, 10 min. 34 sec., 31 min. 44 sec.
Installation view at Shiseido Gallery
Photo: Ken Kato
Courtesy of the artist and MUJIN-TO Production

Transcreation: “Kioto, la ville sainte” “Le sainte montagne de Nikko” “Yeddo”, 2019, 3-Channel HD video
Silent, 5 min. 12 sec., 18 min. 10 sec., 18 min. 37sec.
Installation view at Shiseido Gallery
Photo: Ken Kato
Courtesy of the artist and MUJIN-TO Production

LOST HIGHWAY (SWEDED), 2018, HD video
Silent, 22 min. 9 sec.
Installation view at Volvo Studio Aoyama
Courtesy of the artist and MUJIN-TO Production

Temple of the Templet, 2016, 3-Channel HD video (synched)
Silent, 1 min. 9 sec., loop
Installation view at Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens
Courtesy: The Japan Foundation

Fig., 2016, 35mm slides, slide projector
Installation view at Art Gallery 1, Yokohama Museum of Art
Courtesy of the artist and MUJIN-TO Production

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