Rachael, Rachael. You thought your presentation was schizophrenic? Welcome to the wonderful world of Tadasu.

While Tadasu’s last presentation was a solid series of gallery installations (supplemented with video), the full range of his work includes theatre, street performance art, science, and well, generally *living*. You’ll see what I mean in a moment.

Tadasu was part of the groundbreaking theatre group Dumbtype in the ‘90s. During this time, he was also doing his own eccentric work – as a 24 year-old in New York, he was walking along the streets of Alphabet City, exchanging the clothes he was wearing with the goods of the vendors, thus performing outrageously stochastic drag in the still-dangerous pre-Giuliani neighbourhood of the Far East Village.
By ’97, he’d broken away from Dumbtype. He began dating Kwiweol, a woman of Zainichi descent – i.e. a Korean-Japanese, left over on the islands from the time when Nippon was the colonial master of the Korean peninsula. Trying to understand his girlfriend (now wife), he realized he’d have to understand her cultural past.

Thus his work at the Manganese Memorial (2003) on the outskirts of Tokyo. This is where he created a light installation in a disused manganese mine where Korean labourers had once worked; where he built his own house to live in the wilderness, pumping in bathwater from the river, listening to the huge Mafioso of a museum director telling him stories every night about the dangers of the old mine: dynamite and death.
Tadasu: This is very comfortable actually. Because nobody lives around here, so we can play music as loud as we like, and we drink a lot and we play, music inside the tunnel, and we dance. It was wonderful, actually.
The next year, Kwiweol fell pregnant.  Tadasu couldn’t muster up the courage to ask her parents for her hand for six years.
Tadasu: I had a lot of negative things to appear. Because I am Japanese, and I am have an unstable, untrustable job as an artist, and she pregnant first. Yeah, blah blah blah. When I heard the news that she was pregnant, I thought I’m going to be killed.

But when he [her father] searched my name on the internet and found my project n the manganese place and said ok this guy is not so bad. So thanks for the Internet.
His Baby Insay-dong (2007) installation consists mostly of hella-cute photos of their wedding in the Seoul suburb of Insay-dong (they both wear hanboks!), together with a matching text about being confronted by his partner about why he didn’t like zainichi (which he’d thought he did).

And just to promote the message of universal love, he invited a drag queen to the wedding party as well.
Tadasu: But anyway his performance was super-good so everybody was happy
Then a couple of mystifying solo exhibitions, celebrating the technology of the Super Capacitor (2008, 2010): a substitute for batteries that contains no heavy metals and stores electricity for far, far longer, only crippled by the cost of production, still too high for commercial release. Almost an advertisement series for this eco-friendly technology: even got two young women to shave their heads to become human electrodes in a photo.
Tadasu: I tried to brand it by making cute characters, but people said it’s not cute at all.
And yet another work: an exhibition in which visitors were guided by the blind, housed in the Sendai Mediatheque:
Tadasu: In 80s and 90s, when our economy was good, thousands of museums were built all over Japan. And they had a budget for hardware, but no budget for software. So now thousands of museums, they don’t know how to keep going on. Because there’s no software, there’s no budget for people. So people feel the have to fill the space. It’s very stupid. This building’s not like that yet, but sooner or later… 

This architecture won a prize that year for Japanese best architecture, its very futuristic and looks very good. But sooner or later, the building will be garbage. I don’t know when, but 30, 40, 50 years, it will be garbage. 

I like garbage. Because, there is no value. It all has the same value. It’s valueless in a sense. The garbage is very big all over the world. I think this is in Sendai, a famous area nowadays as a damaged area. This area was fine, but a lot of images full of garbage. I’m sorry to say I think it looks beautiful. Because everything looks valueless.

(on the blind guides) It’s very hard for me to tell about this exhibition even in Japanese. It’s very weird. You become very unsure of how your eyes, why you’re watching, your perception.
Another work – I’ve missed the names for many of these – in which a space was filled with donated garbage, suspended from the ceiling. And then the I Believe  installation, a huge blue tentage installed at the Museum of Modern Art in Toyama, wherein Brazilian performers loaned from the Panorama Festival from Rio held court, stripping naked with their thunder-thighs and giga-hips, pulling the very material of the tentage so you believed your world was collapsing.
Tadasu: We were talking about the globe. Because Japan and Brazil are on opposite sides of the Earth, so there a lot of stories of digging a hole through the Earth.
As a finale, Tadasu had us recreate a moment from the performance: staring into a random stranger’s eyes for five straight minutes while he played Bolero in the background.
People at the original show, warmed up by the strangeness of the entire evening, actually wept. Here in Singapore, we were just mildly discombobulated.

After Q&As, they screened Wen Hui’s Listening to Third Grandmother’s Stories, but the majority of us went outside to mingle, to chat. Yuen Chee Wai was there: he attended FCP 2007 together with Tadasu and Kaffe. He revealed that he’d just come back from playing a gig in the I Believe tentage.

Eventually we all migrated to Sin Hoi Sai Eating House in Tiong Bahru. (I left as soon as I realized they’d forgotten my chrysanthemum tea. Just wanted to get back and sleep.)
Kaffe had a minor fit when she realized they were serving sharksfin soup. Wonder if she stayed.
 


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