Koizumi at MoMA
Text: Jennifer Piejko
Meiro Koizumi is a video artist, making short films that coolly, yet somewhat lovingly, examine (and occasionally exploit) brittle emotional vulnerability, feelings of obligation, and control. The quiet films of this young artist (Koizumi is only 36) wade through generations of Japanese culture and character; they rely on the suspense and dread that fuel the best Japanese horror films through a lens of voyeuristic video.
Projects 99: Meiro Koizumi, a smaller exhibition, has recently opened at The Museum of Modern Art, the artist’s American-museum solo-exhibition debut. Comprised of only three videos, the quiet show demonstrates Koizumi's already-expansive range and mastery of manipulation. In Human Opera (2007), a middle-aged man answers an anonymous ad to confess his past in a performance artist’s studio. He begins telling the story of how his alcoholism destroyed his relationship with his young daughter. Throughout the disclosure, Koizumi repeatedly interrupts him, stepping into the frame from behind the camera, escalating his absurd requests of the man after every few words, asking him to hold streamers and various props while he fights back tears as he recounts the story looking straight into the camera. By the end of the work, the subject is all but drowned out from the roaring special effects and theatrical lighting. The touching story is drowned out by cruel circumstances; Koizumi is pushing his guest to his psychological limit, ultimately failing as the interrogation concludes, however muddled.
My Voice Would Reach You (2009) shows a young man walking windingly through the streets, attempting to communicate with his dead mother, his voice floating over the scene. Quotidian updates are shared, asking for her empathy, yet finding only the din of the bustling streets of midday Kyoto around him in return.
The show is truly centered in Defect in Vision (2011), a twelve-minute black-and-white film shown at slightly different times on two sides of the same projection screen of a darkened room. The film shows a Japanese couple sharing a meal in a traditional dining room. The wife dutifully arranges the meal for the both of them, the husband putting down his newspaper to join her. While they sit across from each other and begin to eat, it quickly becomes apparent that they are both blind. While the husband prepares for another tour of duty in the Japanese army, the wife, Chieko, attempts to keep dinner conversation pleasant, brightening at his promise of escaping to a relaxing vacation in the hot springs upon his return. As Chieko lightly asks if he thinks the “kamikaze will blow again” (“kamikaze translates to “divine wind”; the Kamikaze were the Japanese army’s suicide attacks during World War II), their physical and psychological blindness cripple their ability to see the impossibility of his return. In the final scene, he apologizes to his wife while he is alone in his airplane, moments from death. The very short scene is repeated several times within the film’s duration, each take growing quietly sadder. Defect in Vision was made during Japan’s nuclear meltdown in Fukushima in 2011; no doubt his film brings to the surface the many layers of history in some of Japan’s darkest moments in recent history. Koizumi deftly shows all of these storylines simultaneously, leaving the ends tied up the same way over and over.
Projects 99: Meiro Koizumi is on view at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, until May 6th.