Dates: March 1st – March 21st, 2020. 12:00 – 17:00.
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays (on appointment)
Venue: HB. Nezu (lkenohata 2-6-12, Taito-ku, Tokyo, Japan)
Curated by S_Z
- Cendrillon Belanger (France/Canada)
- Cathy Burghi (Uruguay)
- Laura Garcia-Karras (France)
- Luísa Jacinto (Portugal)
- Genevieve Morgan (France)
- Shelly Silver (the U.S.)
- Eiko Soga (Japan)
- Yuan Gun Gun (China)
In the famed children’s tale Hansel and Gretel, it is the boy Hansel who comes up with the idea of leaving breadcrumbs leading from their home to the forest so as to find their way back. The birds devour the crumbs, the children are lost and find the home of a hungry witch.
This exhibition looks to the witch, to unchartered paths, and to theoretical, and political similarities and points of friction between Donna Haraway and Starhawk. The works here by women artists from Asia, Europe, North and South America distance themselves from Haraway’s assertion that she would rather be a cyborg than a goddess, revealing how it foreclosed possibilities in feminism which have taken decades to reconstruct. These other paths are rendered using media and video, photography, watercolors on paper, drawings, mosaics.
Art in the time of corona v
The awkward pun around Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera serves if only to heighten the strained conditions under which we find ourselves, while we look for a balance between prudence and retreat. As is in the case in many cities around the world, Tokyo has announced the closing of a number of cultural institutions, from concert halls to museums. Private galleries have maintained business hours, and several independent spaces remain open to visitors. In Tokyo, the latter are often located in less immediately central areas, and require using in most instances some mode of public transportation. The weekend of March 1st 2020 was one of openings, and while local communities are currently visible along the streets, this is less the case for those others who usually make the rounds of cultural venues.
HB Nezu, where ‘she ate the crumbs (the other nature of women) is taking place, finds itself at one end of Ueno, on the Chiyoda line. On the other side are several of the city’s celebrated western art museums, as well as the National Museum (which is temporarily closing). Traffic is at a trickle between the two and we find ourselves addressing this context of fluctuating areas of risk. As curators we remain committed to the exhibition and to the international artists who are taking part in the show. We do this somewhere between precaution and peace of mind. We will endeavor to make it exist as well on social media as we also focus efforts on having it travel. We are here until March 21st, by which time we will have seen Sakura helping us frame the space.
In our curatorial statement for the show, we mentioned how we were attracted to a particular moment in contemporary feminist representations in art, stemming from a critique of Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto and the impact it had, overshadowing a number of other more organic models, notably that of the witch figure that powerfully inhabits the writings of Starhawk. Haraway’s publications since her Manifesto have led to other far more reaching possibilities, but we opted to examine work by international women artists whose practice looked more to fantasy and magic, to rituals, to an overt questioning of the Anthropocene, to the abstraction of images and meanings.
Bringing together eight women artists from around the world also provided us with the opportunity to achieve something which is not celebrated here as immediately as it might be outside of Japan: to not only conceive an exhibition consisting solely of female artists, but to display the synergy at play between artists producing works within distinct cultural and political contexts. In their work, feminism does not always exist as a set of theories per se, but often is the daily practice and the essential nature of being.
After we had finished installing the show, we were stunned by the conversation already taking place between them, how they both stood their ground where they hung while resonating off each other. We now hope to welcome more visitors to ‘she ate the crumbs’, as we look to colleagues for other venues where the show can travel.
As museum closings come into effect in Tokyo, smaller alternative venues are witnessing increased passage. This has been the case for She Ate the Crumbs at HB Nezu, providing an opportunity to confirm the role of other curatorial enterprises, those that differ from the traditional model in Japan, where there are too few contemporary art galleries and far too many rental spaces, resulting in strategies that would provide (for those who aspire to) a title within an established institution, those without permanent collections, that function by conceiving thematic shows and one-person exhibitions and retrospectives.
We work simultaneously on larger international projects that are inscribed in a more traditional approach and professional expectations. But we are also committed to supporting both emerging international artists, or those whose career is well underway in their home country or continent but have yet to find a wider audience in Tokyo. This is achieved through a network of collaborations that point to the collapsological effect of the collision between the consequences of the current environmental woes and larger exhibitions going on hiatus.
HB Nezu, through its founders, has provided us the space, artists have sent their works to Japan, and there is no contracted curatorial remuneration. We expect some works will be sold, and part of such funds will allow for similar projects in the future. Navigating between venues and circumstances, rather than expectations, allows us to explore what constitutes a curatorial methodology.
At the turn of the century, the city of Yokohama had renovated a number of old factory buildings along the bayside, from Minato Mirai to Bashamichi and stopping in Nihon Odori. Each area could provide large scale venues, including Aka Renga/Red Brick House, YCC (Yokohama Creative City), Bank Art, and the former exhibition and residency space Zaim. Some were used over the years as sites of the Yokohama Triennale. After 2011, the area became increasingly commodified; either embracing more audience friendly events or becoming closed-off to projects outside of specific circles. Koganecho, Yokohama’s answer to Tokyo’s Kabukicho, went with a different idea of scale, transforming storefronts, formers bars and decrepit houses that welcomed prostitution after the war into constellations of concept and exhibition opportunities.
Likewise, similar developments occurred in Tokyo, from Kabukicho to Koenji. But access to large scale spaces persists in remaining unattainable outside of established institutions. This system becomes both a luxury and a taboo that either limits the other galleries and independent spaces to either show one large piece or assemble a collection of small works. ‘She ate the crumbs’ is a textbook example of the latter, a small venue showing several small formats, and serves as a prologue to a larger project S_Z is currently planning entitled ‘100 years of fortitude’, which will consist of 100 works by women artists.
There is a current irony at play in contemporary Japanese art/architecture/design that involves nature, both as space and site, and the elements used to make the works. The encounter between the two has become a call to celebration and an emblem for a post-superflat generation.
We are looking at ‘the other nature’ of women, relying on a number of small works by artists who also work with larger scales, as it fabricates a fecund realm of imagination for myths, magic, fantasy, and anthropology. They do not have the heroic dimensions of Louise Bourgeois or Joan Mitchell pieces, yet draw delicately from such mentors’ use of narrative intimacy. Like dew on the hair of upper thighs.
本展中考察的是所谓女性的“另一个自然”。那些平日里也会创作大尺寸作品的艺术家们为我们提供了小尺寸的作品，探讨神话的想象、魔法与幻想，以及人类学的观察和记录手法。她们没有表现出Louise Bourgeois或Joan Mitchell的作品中所具有的英雄主义气质，但从这些女性主义艺术家先驱那里继承了一种具有亲密感的叙事，亲密如大腿处纤细体毛上的露水。
When I started writing this text in Chinese, I couldn’t help but think of China’s recent discussion about women. China never forgets the women who can hold up half the sky. In response to the epidemic, it didn’t forget to shave the female doctors and nurses; when discussing the Foreign Permanent Residency in China, it did not forget the sisters who were about to be ravaged by the foreigners; When it came to celebrate the Women ’s Day, it didn’t forget the wives, daughters, and mothers. The positioning of women as such, from the perspective of the home and the country, from the outside (@Judith Butler), mixed with nationalism and patriarchy, refuses to face these core questions: what is female? Each female individual, who is she? what does she want? What kind of person/human does each of them want to be and should be?
We have made this clear: the subject will not define itself, and the object is the one being defined. Then, we realized that the subjects who have been widely regarded as objects for a long time, in order to establish their status as subjects, need to find a way to understand and express themselves, to be understood and expressed. There can be many, many different ways .
In the postmodern era, Haraway suggested the model of posthuman as cyborg. There is no longer a simple distinction between women and men. There are other genders, other species, and other technologically complex life forms. For some, her notion is efficiently helpful, for others, less. Those (she, he, it) who are still fundamentally suppressed by the male / female dual structure are not able to be liberated once and for all in the age of science and technology.
Instead of moving towards the complex, some people have moved towards the natural bodies and the mysterious bodies, such as Starhawk, and the artists in this exhibition. What is female in this context? Female is a natural existence, female is nature. Each female individual has her own dispositions and imagination, her own aspirations and desires, and her own nature. So do male. So do other sexes, other genders, other species, other beings.
With the world coming into chaos, many universal values become void, which made me realize the necessity of the humanity. The humanity here is not narrow-minded humanism, but the rationality and emotion as opposed to the technical science, a vision that transcends many boundaries, listens to many voices, and constantly takes in more information. It helps us to not simplify the problems, but to open the mind and the arms.
For me, this exhibition intervenes in that way.
The exhibition reached a warm end on March 21st, only to be followed by disquieting news from all over the world reminding us how precarious human beings are, as with the freedom and equality that we struggle for. While staying home and producing as best we could, we wanted the life of the exhibition to continue and reiterate the sense of being together by asking our artists a few questions about their practices and everyday lives. About inevitable trajectory changes.