A widowed man running from a wild bear; a lonely man calling his mother and a postorgasmic man falling off a chair. The art of Meiro Koizumi is never dull, and provides an unexpected finale for the Mary Mary gallery in its original premises.
With only four short video works selected from the career of this Beck’s Futures winner, it’s a minimal closing show for the flat-cumexhibition space, which plans to relocate in late spring. But the Japanese artist’s grandiose performance art, his mash of comedy and physical theatre, makes an anarchic and fitting ending.
Each work appears as a deceptive self-portrait that relies on his off-beat slapstick mischief, but is also underwritten by the awareness that he is both story and character; his own unabashed exhibitionism camouflaged within that of his roles.
At the door of the gallery is ‘Fhe Wav a Very Veautiful Woman’ 2001—a continuous shot cropped to contain only Koizumi’s upturned chin and mouth. With two felt-tip dots on his stubble for eyes, the beady cartoon chin tells a sad story of his lost lady counterpart. The technique is homage to Bruce Nauman’s ‘Lip-Sync’ 1969, although the narrative is hardly an attempt to emulate the highbrow experimentalism pioneered by Nauman. It is, after all, simply a talking chin.
In a later work, ‘Mum’ 2003, Koizumi or his character sits and telephones his mother. Subtitled in Japanese, he quietly chats to her until suddenly grabbing a microphone and screaming mock war noises down the receiver. After being wounded in mimed combat, he mutters, ‘Mum, mum, mum,’ on his dying breath. In both films, reality has little control over the ensuing action, and with this liberation Koizumi’s bizarre and ridiculous narratives surface to abuse and disturb his submissive viewer.
It seems odd, initially, that an international artist specialising in the film and video genre should show such disregard for that very medium. He treats video recording brutally: the sound frequently distorts, the visuals look cheap and nasty, and he cares little for the editing process. Yet this indifference to the video aesthetic betrays his real passion—Koizumi devotes himself solely to the real-time action that occurs in the frame. The theatricality, the childlike role-playing games and the absence of post-production finessing emerges as an antiaesthetic rebellion. Koizumi’s films are unattractive, but the simplicity of his style takes on its own beauty. In each film, all the action takes place within a single take: no sneaky cutting or editing to improve the original performance; only a shrewd sense of timing and a muscular presentation that is surprising and appalling, and consequently hilarious.
Isla Leaver-Yap is assistant editor of Map