What brought you to Vienna and what’s the story behind your collaboration with Guimarães?
Last year Christoph Meier stayed in Japan, where he met Cobra – one of the directors of XYZ collective – and they planned to collaborate. Their encounter and the friendship that grew out of it forms the base of this project. Next year, Guimarães plans to do something in Tokyo!
Biographically, the two artists you are showing are very different: Kenji Ide was born in 1981 in Yokosuka, Japan whereas Jiří Kovanda lives and works in Prague, Czech Republic, where he was born in 1953. Where do you see the connections?
Romantic! Both of them are really romantic personalities. Kenji has been a big fan of Jiří Kovanda for many years so we went to Prague last year to meet Jiři but we didn’t make an appointment and so after all, we couldn’t manage to meet him. But we were convinced that one day Kenji would meet Jiří. And now, with a lot of great help, it has been realized in Vienna!
The exhibition creates a quite gentle and moody atmosphere. In the candlelight of Kenji Ide’s work one reads the exhibition text that consists among other things of a Wikipedia article on a vague Japanese term for beauty. Would you mind putting this haziness into more concrete terms?
When you visit the show, you will find a postcard in the window of the exhibition space. It’s an art piece of Kenji Ide, a post card with a raccoon that looks at the moon. It’s an old postcard Kenji found in Japan and on the backside is a Czech stamp from 1957.
The Raccoon (Tanuki) is a kind of trickster in Japanese folklore. Occasionally it cheats on humans. For example, a person who has a lot of money gets up one morning and all the money turned into fallen leaves. It was a raccoon prank!
In the opinion of Kenji, a Tsukimi Party is an invitation for shy Japanese people, to share time with others without any specific purpose. Kenji put this show together as an opportunity to invite Jiři Kovanda; to share purposeless time.
Jiří mounted a torch on the ceiling of the exhibition space. The title of this work is »untitled (looking at the moon)« and it’s his answer to Kenji’s invitation. The light of the torch used to look for something in the dark; here it looks like the moon.
Kenji did a performance at the opening, which consisted of conversational parts, rap, and singing parts. He expressed memories from his trips to Vienna and Prague, interconnecting the geographical remoteness of the center of Japan and Eastern Europe. He talked about his friends, how his life changed and combined it with Ella Fitzgerald’s »Moonlight Serenade«. He went on about the moon tattoo of a woman that works in a cafe in Prague. Parts of the performance were just improvised and in the last part he was singing a song by Tōru Takemitsu accompanied by a triangle.
You are a collective of artists that runs an exhibition space and a studio space in Tokyo. You do curatorial projects around the world and you will participate at the art fair Paris Internationale this autumn. What’s your mission?
Our mission differentiates, depending on the occasion and the environment. At Paris Internationale we will show a few Japanese artists. There are many great artists in Japan but they rarely have opportunities to show their works abroad. We think that introducing Japanese artists is one of our missions. However, we love to share something we believe is beautiful with others.