ATSUKO TANAKA

Electric Dress

source: brooklynrail

A piercing bell breaks the silence in the gallery. It sounds like a fire alarm or a high-pitched human scream, startling, warning, terrifying, a harbinger of destruction. Then abruptly, the sound stops. I round the corner and see a sign—“press here.” Obeying instructions, I jump as the siren returns. I realize I have caused the sound, and the excitement of my transgression mixes with embarrassment.

Atsuko Tanaka’s retrospective opens with “Work (Bell)” (1955), a lost piece that was recreated in 2000 and is presented beside a series of elegant preparatory drawings that plot the cogs, wooden wheels, and numbered sequences of its mechanical core. The clangs of “Work (Bell)” set the tone for the exhibition’s charged environment and aurally define the physical parameters of the space. In addition, they lay the framework for a body of work that consistently addresses issues of time, space, sight, and sound. The interactive work also foreshadows Tanaka’s confrontational stance with her audience, the directness of her presentation, and the honesty of her compositions. And it neatly demonstrates the way people accustom themselves to pain and suffering; the bell—so shrill and disruptive—doesn’t change, but as it continues, perception of it does. In repetition, it is dulled to the point of background noise.

“Work (Bell)” suggests an essential and active relationship between art and the viewer, and no demarcation between art and life. Tanaka nimbly invites awareness into the everyday world without pretense or posturing, and questions the definitions of artistic practice. For instance, on view are three versions of “Work (Yellow Cloth)” (1955), commercial fabric panels cut directly from the roll and affixed to the wall. They prefigure Blinky Palermo’s Stoffbilder paintings, begun in Germany in 1966, and raise questions about the assumptions of painting that would come to the fore in the following decade in the West: the relationship between support, frame, and picture plan; the notion of surface flatness; the implication of readymade, found, or commercial form; and the belief of artist as creator. Like three untitled paintings from 1956 where large Xs renounce a circle, a square, and a rectangle, “Work (Yellow Cloth)” feels simultaneously like an impassioned renunciation of the past and the triumphant declaration of a free future. Re-hung fifty years later, its daring audacity remains.

These early works were some of the first pieces Tanaka made after joining the Gutai group in 1955 (she would remain a member until 1965; the group itself began in 1954 and lasted until 1972). Gutai’s English translation is concreteness, from Gu—tool or means—and Tai—body or substance; the definition seems to embody the spirit informing the works on view at Grey Gallery which span 1954–1968. Brought together by Jir Yoshihara, Gutai was concerned, among other things, with chance, materiality, and active art making in pursuit of experimental embodied painting. Deeply engaged with issues of time and space, the Gutai artists demonstrated irreverence towards traditional art venues and exhibited in group annuals which were staged, sometimes over weeks, in theaters, outdoor parks, schools, and other non-traditional spaces. As often as not, an art object was made through performance, usually to be destroyed after, and there was an evident preoccupation with developing formal renderings through bodily or mechanical means.

Tanaka’s performances often involved experimental clothing. Conceiving of her body as a malleable painting, she would strip and peel layers of different colored fabric off to create shifting formal compositions of color. Most famously, in 1956 she built “Electric Dress,” a sheath of incandescent light bulbs painted in primary hues. Recreated in 1986, it is both grotesque and beautiful. It emits an intense heat, and the cords weave dangerously in and out of the frame like a thousand electric eels. Though Tanaka created a protective armature for her body so that the bulbs stood away from her skin, it is impossible to look at the outfit and not fear the terror of electrocution.

In the twelve years after Japan’s devastating surrender in the wake of two atomic bombs, Tanaka witnessed a consumer revolution in her country, fueled in large part by American consumption during the Korean War. Though “Electric Dress” was inspired by the many neon advertising signs appearing across the county, it demonstrates a clear ambivalence about technology, a perception that it is equally alluring and repulsive. The colors are absurd and clown-like, and, like the crude crayon drawings made after the performance, “Electric Dress” pairs childlike fascination with the assured artistic decisions of an adult.

There are many of these incredible drawings on display, which regrettably reinstate the significance of “Electric Dress” as Tanaka’s singular and most famous form. Rendered in black or primary colors, they obsessively rework the electric wirings and brilliant lights of the costume, and suggest a desire to defuse the power of technology, either through understanding its intricate mechanics or through transforming the horrible into something beautiful. However, they also reposition the dress and Tanaka’s performance in it as an artistic turning point. The constant repetition and exploration in the drawings reveal the process through which she found her mature style and show the genesis behind the geometric shapes and skinny lines which comprise the vocabulary of her paintings.

The canvases are crowded with circles and winding lines. Made with the commercial enamel paint of advertisers, they are slick, smooth, and almost impenetrable. Tanaka’s range of colors grows to include more muddied hues as the years pass, and she also experiments with shaped canvas. Though it’s tempting to make comparisons with another postwar Japanese art doyenne, Yayoi Kusama, there is none of the frenzied anxiety of Kusama’s spherical worlds; Tanaka’s compositions are rarely chaotic. An extraordinary film from 1968, Round on Sand, shows Tanaka making circles and lines on the beach with a long stick. Remarkably similar to Joan Jonas’s beach work in the early seventies, the film is an invitation to observe Tanaka’s sure and steady marks, and the intuitively graceful and methodically precise manner behind her compositions.

In an illuminating catalogue essay, guest curator Ming Tiampo suggests that through the Gutai’s support of her performance, Tanaka came to free herself of the belief that painting was “a transparent expression of the soul” and return to the medium unencumbered. The main exhibition supports this assertion, and the study room at Grey offers a nice addendum by displaying a collection of Gutai ephemera, film, and photo documentation. What is suggested by the astonishing acts on display is a group that was mutually encouraging, full of bravura, ripe with ingenuity, and far more prophetic than history has credited them for being.
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source: medienkunstnetz

Atsuko Tanaka

«Electric Dress»

«‹Electric Dress› is a powerful conflation of the tradition of the Japanese komono with modern industrial technology. Prior to her conception of this work, Tanaka had appeared in a larger than-life paper dress that was peeled away layer by layer, not unlike the peeling away of Murakami’s paintings; she was ultimately disrobed to a leotard fitted with blinking lights. Tanaka began to envision ‹Electric Dress› in 1954, when she outlined in a small notebook a remarkably prophetic connection between electrical wiring and the physiological systems that make up the human body. (…) After fabricating the actual sculpture, she costumed herself in it in the tradition of the Japanese marriage ceremony. Hundreds of light bulbs painted in primary colors lit up along the circulatory and nerve pathways of her body.»
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source: tumblr

En 1965, la artista japonesa Atsuko Tanaka llevó a cabo el diseño de la pieza Electric Dress, una esecie de kimono hecho a base de cableado y lámparas fluorescentes pintadas de colores primarios. Ella empezó a prefigurar el vestido un año antes, al realizar un pequeño dibujo donde conectaba -o cableaba- simbólicamente el flujo de los sistemas biológicos del cuerpo. La pieza fué presentada portándole ella misma, en un performance donde se reproducía una tradicional ceremonia nupcial japonesa.
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source: nievescorcoleswordpress

The Electric Dress, (1957), es un traje hecho de cables de electricidad con bombillas de colores. Tanaka llevaba el vestido a las exposiciones. Su fuente de inspiración fue un anuncio farmacéutico iluminado por luces de neón. La prenda voluminosa expresa circuitos del cuerpo y actúa como un traje. De acuerdo con los artistas Gutai, el trabajo de Tanaka simboliza la rápida transformación de la posguerra de Japón y de la expansión urbanística. Cuando Tanaka llevó su vestido por primera vez, la cara y las manos fue la única parte visible de su cuerpo.
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source: ednmfr

Atsuko Tanaka, est une artiste japonaise, née en 1932 à Osaka, principale protagoniste du groupe Gutai (Concret), mouvement d’avant-garde important de l’art contemporain japonais des années 1950 et 1960. Elle a arrêté ses études d’arts plastiques à l’École des beaux arts de la ville de Kyoto, et a commencé à faire de la peinture abstraite. En 1955, elle rejoint Jiro Yoshihara qui avait la direction artistique de Gutai. En suivant le manifeste de Jiro Yoshihara disant que « le groupe Gutai ferait des activités artistiques complètement nouvelles, jamais faites par les autres ni jamais entendues jusque-là», Tanaka a réalisé diverses performances et œuvres remarquables. Contrairement à Yoko Ono (artiste japonaise née en 1933, qui était membre du Fluxus) et à Yayoi Kusama (peintre, vivant à New York), de la même génération qu’elle et qui ont travaillé à l’étranger, Atsuko Tanaka est restée au Japon et a poursuivi son propre travail même après la dissolution officielle de Gutai. Elle est morte d’une pneumonie en 2005. L’exposition rétrospective de son œuvre, au Musée municipal d’Ashiya et au Musée départemental de Shizuoka est révélatrice du sens profond de son expression artistique grâce à une vue d’ensemble de quarante années d’activité créatrice.

Atsuko Tanaka, cinéaste, peintre et performeuse, a envoyé un nombre de messages très intenses en direction du monde extérieur: non seulement dans la société japonaise mais aussi dans le champ de l’art mondial. Ses tableaux étaient caractéristiques de l’avant-garde picturale, par leur composition en cercles et lignes de couleurs vives et psychédéliques reliés entre eux, jusqu’à ce que la composition de couleurs vives éblouisse fortement nos yeux et le champ de notre regard. Ceci est lié directement à la conception essentielle de La Robe électrique.

La Robe électrique (Denkifuku en Japonais), une des œuvres les plus reconnues parmi toutes ses créations, est appréciée internationalement par le fait qu’elle a approfondi la possibilité de la performance artistique et dépassé ses limites, à la recherche d’une nouvelle expression artistique. Cette robe est présentée lors de la deuxième exposition de Gutai en 1956 (l’artiste a 24 ans), intitulée Exposition de Gutai, sur la scène à Ohara kaikan, à Tokyo. Cette œuvre est constituée de plus de 200 ampoules de 9 couleurs différentes, de tubes peints et de très nombreux fils électriques. Ce costume «lumineux», qui pèse plus de 50kg, est plus lourd que l’artiste portant cette robe sur la scène, voire Atsuko Tanaka elle-même. L’objet inhumain couvert de fils électriques expose le corps fragile de l’artiste au danger d’une commotion grave, ainsi que d’une électrocution, avec la chaleur très élevée due à la densité de ces ampoules. Lorsque Atsuko Tanaka, dans cette parure brillante, apparaît sur la scène, son apparence semble, d’un côté celle d’un dieu absolu, d’un autre côté celle d’une victime offerte en sacrifice au dieu et qui a été choisie parmi toute l’humanité. Pour le moins, son corps complètement immobile dans ce costume violent et son regard fixé ont choqué profondément les spectateurs de cette époque. Son corps était parfois visible, parfois invisible comme si sa propre existence clignotait à la frontière entre la vie et la mort.

La performance audacieuse —porter une Robe électrique dans la lumière psychédélique en tant que femme et être exposée au regard d’autrui— que signifiait-elle dans la société japonaise des années 1960? Selon sa propre parole, l’artiste s’est inspirée du concept de Denkifuku, d’un paysage de nuit très lumineuse avec les néons multicolores, en marchant dans un quartier d’Osaka. Jusqu’ici, cette robe a été souvent interprétée comme une œuvre, par laquelle Atsuko Tanaka a réalisé l’assimilation de son propre corps à la technologie, ainsi qu’à sa création et à son expression artistique, en prenant le risque de l’électrocution.
De mon point de vue, l’essence de l’expression artistique chez Atsuko Tanaka semble toujours être l’offrande de sa propre vie aux technologies contemporaines en tant que sacrifice. Le corps enseveli dans la luminosité violemment puissante symbolise la menace de l’énergie dominante de nos jours depuis l’ère de la croissance économique des années 1960: l’électricité qui nous permet une vie sophistiquée, à la fois, nous menace gravement par le risque de l’accident nucléaire issue de la nécessité de la fourniture de cette énergie. Nous, le peuple contemporain, sommes enfermés dans une prison labyrinthique. De ce fait, sa performance et son concept de Denkifuku peuvent être considérées comme relevant d’un art audacieusement précurseur.

Pourrions-nous dire comme ci-dessous:
Atsuko Tanaka en tant que représentante de l’humanité consacrait son corps à calmer Dieu en donnant bravement sa vie. Après sa mort, ce costume qui était un habit a été abandonné, et est devenu «une sculpture électrique» en s’éloignant de sa signification originelle, sous les regards des spectateurs d’aujourd’hui. Denkifuku, une Robe électrique isolée de son contexte d’origine raconte peut-être encore des messages importants, dans la société où le monstre de l’électricité joue une musique inquiétante, en brillant, en clignotant, en se reliant et finalement en se mêlant dans l’ensemble de la lumière de toutes les couleurs psychédéliques.
M. K. septembre 2012
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source: matelasseblogspot

A era do pós guerra promoveu mudanças radicais no Japão, principalmente com a invasão da tecnologia e das grandes indústrias de eletrônicos. Com tantas novidades a bordo, a cultura do país não ficaria de fora, experimentando uma nova estética que até hoje é extremamente original e única.
Na observação dessa sociedade em mutação, em plenos anos 50, a artista Atsuko Tanaka teve um insight literalmente luminoso e resolveu criar uma versão do Kimono feita de neons, esses esfuziantes brilhos incessantes que se espalhavam pelas metrópoles.

Um dos intuitos da peça é unir a tradição milenar japonesa, seu costume mais emblematico de vestimenta, com as tecnologias modernas que vinham a galope.
Se até então já existiam tantos tipos de kimonos, incluindo aí o Furisode, o Homongue, o Tomesode e o rico Uchikake, usado pelas noivas, Tanaka em 1956 insinua um novo tipo de kimono, dessa vez híbrido, que traz consigo o cotidiano industrializado e elétrico, muito distante do que era visto há poucos anos atrás.

É óbvio que ao vermos Tanaka vestindo o kimono temos uma sensação de estranhamento, vendo na peça muito mais um amontoado de luzes empilhadas do que uma roupa que lembra a tradicional veste nipônica, de rígidos códigos… mas como se trata de uma obra artística, temos que abstrair um pouco e enxergar as coisas por trás da aparência.
No texto oficial da documenta (http://www.documenta12.de/) os redatores sugerem que ao vestir o kimono, Tanaka é praticamente engolida pelo próprio, mudando as expectativas sobre a aparência feminina e ao mesmo tempo munindo-se das novas tecnologias, talvez retirando delas algum proveito.

O corpo vira um espaço de choque e ao mesmo tempo de união entre a tradição e a modernidade.
A cada acender e apagar dos neons do vestido está a denúncia de que a tecnologia interfere de maneira decisiva na cultura de um país.