and his 3 days-installation in an empty Minneapolis hardware store
FRONT AND BACK BACK AND FRONT 2018
Photographic documentation by Rik Sferra
“As with most truths, the simpler the words, the stronger and more straightforward they are and most forcefully they strike our hearts.” Rikyu, 15th century Japan
Tetsuya Yamada: “How can I create an artwork with a life independent of my intention?
I mean the work has to be given its own life.”
I ask Gertrude Stein to answer him: “The master-pieces do not exist by human nature…they exist because they come to be as something that is an end in itself and in that respect it is opposed to the business of living which is relation and necessity.” (Look at Me Now and Here I Am, Writings and Lectures 1909-1945, Penguin Books 1990)
the man in the closet
by Rosanna Albertini
Wearing the title words as clogs for walking, my mind goes. Almost one year after November 2018, photographs are the place in which the installation still lives. The storefront has absorbed the images of the city across the street, gently struck by winter light over trees that already forgot the green. The scene makes the front of the store the natural background of houses trees and cars as if the windows had captured the cycle of time only by acceptance: relation and necessity. That’s the place, not the art. A bicycle appears.
The art is different. An uninhabited building, waiting for new users, certainly didn’t expect an artist born in Tokyo was about to transform the inner space into an art temple. No parts of the building were changed. A verbally expressed idea, FRONT AND BACK BACK AND FRONT (title of the art installation) was printed white on black on the exhibition’s poster, floating on the front of the building as a pediment in a miracle of symmetry. It’s a steady statement perfect for capital letters from which doubts and hesitations are banned. The artist could wear it on his own forehead. If I mentally look at his body I have no doubts about his front side, but I must turn around him to see his back. I can do it, he can’t unless he uses a double mirror.
Truth is, the physical body supposed to be in between FRONT and BACK throws the linguistic perfection to hell. As soon as I say it, it goes dead. Must zip my lips to keep the brain restrained. The key is conjunction, the little AND. It has a limitless dimension. Supposing the question arises, I say yes, the imaginary space between FRONT and BACK is the core of the apple, the hydraulic electrical engine of each human underneath the skin, hard to please impossible to control. A human body is yet one of the most mysterious and unpredictable creatures in the universe. So is any emptied living place in which a door screeching, steps on the floor, a bird flying in by curiosity, hands exchanging money for screwdrivers, or fixing all those mechanical engines of our homes that we only notice when they break, become a cacophony, a concert immersed in a peculiar density of smells emanating from wood, metals, industrial oils and plastic tools. Oh, someone stole a pliers!
It’s possible that Yamada explored the inner emptiness of the store like a man in the closet. The black and white poster works as a guardian in uniform waiting outside. Inside, the store becomes the inside of a body with two hearts. Two beating engines meeting for the first time and learning how to beat together: the artist’s and the fifty year old store’s, two distinct lives. Their acquaintance is three days long. They are the same age, the artist and the midwestern space, now dreaming of voices and people and big tables and shelves all gone. Wood or metal scraped from the floor left their shape, wounds in the middle of room’s and corridor’s floors painted gray. Under the neons’ light, they might be small rivers, or a pond for the many ghosts filling the air, working. They never abandoned the store. Myriads of traces on the floor and on the wall panels tell their story.
Yamada brought in art that could relate to the hums of presences all around him: his own gestures, when writing with tar the skin of the land, or forcing his hands to blindly write and draw underneath the table, and photographs of unrest in the landscapes. Contrasting with the lack of windows in the basement, he hangs on the wall panels outdoor images and language alterations. His body language expands through images reaching the ghosts’ language in a silent conversation. Silence in this case is practical and functional. In this doubled conversation that we can only imagine the art in her entirety reaching the peak of beauty. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tetsuya’s younger body skating on the floors. The athlete in him is the forebear of future gestures.
Nevertheless the space is livable. It needed a fan: Tetsuya introduces a TV fan looping every four minutes twenty eight seconds. Did Nam Jun Paik leave an unconscious echo in him? The ground floor has a population of sculptures, light and rigid, perfectly symmetrical, no name on them.
Why there are no conjunctions, why colors are avoided, why clay for the cylinders, usage is possible but unlikely, like: the table is set for guests to come and stand, adding their own freedom of language.
What a scene! All the mess of life, so many efforts to make impersonal what the artist creates almost despite himself, looking at himself from far, putting himself and the work in a big closet, and so escaping the social game of the art world based on money and power. In three words: Honor to him.
Please walk through the photographs.
PS This piece is dedicated to another man in the closet. He spent most of his life in tiny rooms inventing, fixing and building. Exploring the life of melting metals and electronic circuits.
Often the place was literally a closet, with no windows. His tools, the holes in the wall panels, photographs and microphones were his new world, where his brain might work and maybe rest, separate from the outdoor reality. Charles Trenet’s songs were crackling coming out from one of the radio foreign channels he was able to capture.
A fading page of an old local newspaper has the photo of a working micro-engine in a thimble. He made it when he was twelve. They said it was the smallest engine in the whole world. As a young soldier, not more than a boy, he worked for the American army near Cassino, at the end of WWII. Transmissions were his specialty. He was borrowed from the Italian army. Although Italian, he was far from home. His family thought him dead for a long while, when there was no communication between North and South Italy. The war left indelible marks in his mind. They never found a way out. The closet, that was his brain and his universe. He was my father.