EGOFUGAL From the 7th international Istanbul Biennial  


S
ited at the crossroads of Asia and Europe, the International Istanbul Biennial, now in its seventh year, has emerged as a truly global art event. This year's Biennial has been directed and curated by Yuko Hasegawa from Japan. A 'highlights' exhibition from the Biennial is on show in Tokyo, at the Tokyo Opera City Gallery, and includes the work of 13 artists from 10 countries.

In a sign of these technological times, this exhibition runs concurrently with the Biennial and the works are on display simultaneously at the two venues. The Tokyo exhibition consists of reproducible works such as computer animation, video and photo image based.

The title of the Biennial, EGOFUGAL is the combination of Ego (self) and fugal (Latin, secession/withdrawal) and the result of spending too much time with a dictionary. The title aims to encapsulate the exhibition's theme of artists' struggle between their egotistical individual pursuits and their social responsibilities. According to the catalogue, the title and exhibition records 'a shift from the 3M's Man, Money and Materialism to the 3C's Co-existence, Collective intelligence and Collective consciousness'. Fortunately, you can simply enjoy the art without cryptic crossword abilities.

There is great warmth and humanity in the work, 'Sleepers', by Francis Alys. Belgian born but now living in Mexico, Alys presents about 60 color slides of people and animals sleeping in the streets of Mexico city. Drenched in golden rays of sunshine, his images capture people and animals snoozing, oblivious to the passing world.

Alys's has a compassionate photographic style. Each image is taken from ground level, placing the viewer on the streets with the subject. Each image is bathed in a golden light, which seems to radiate from the slide onto those observing. And his photographs, taken from some distance, do not seem to invade the privacy of the sleeping subject, as rarely is there even a glimpse of a sleeper's face exposed. The shots of sleeping dogs, endearing and innocent seem to only add to the gentleness of his somnolent records.

In the work, 'Star city', by British video artists and twin sisters, Jane and Louise Wilson no humans appear. Their multi-screened, video installation, records a disused Soviet space training facility. The camera and bits of machinery are constantly in motion in their roller coaster tour of yesterday's technology.

Also exploring a retro-space theme is the work of Australian artists, David Noonan and Simon Trevaks. Their video installation of floating and isolated astronauts is reminiscent of Sci-fi movies such as '2001 a Space Odyssey'.

Chris Cunningham's MTV styled rock videos made for Bjork and Aphex Twin, are fresh off the TV and onto gallery walls. In contrast is the work of Yutaka Stone, Japan's hot conceptual artist. He specializes in long, badly shot and edited home videos of his journeys. 'A Beautiful Day', a trip from the sea to the mountains in California, is on display in the exhibition.

The value of this exhibition is the variety of contemporary art presented from many different countries. It demonstrates the power of art to communicate emotions and complex issues.

Also of note were the works of Evgen Bavcar, a blind Slovenian photographer, and Maja Bajevic from Bosnia-Herzegovina. Bajevic's project 'Women at Work', documented the making of a tapestry by refugee women on a safety net at a building repair site. While being alphabet soup 'Egofugal', is a very tasty sampler of international contemporary art.

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Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery
Tel: 03.5353.0756 3-20-2
Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
12:00 20:00 (21:00 Friday and Saturday) Closed Monday Adult Y900 Children Y500 Hatsudai Keio New Line