Koki Tanaka: Provisional Studies: Action #5 Conceiving the Past, Perceiving the Present

A major new commission by Japanese artist Koki Tanaka, which will be his first solo exhibition in the UK.

Working with collaborative processes, Tanaka’s project departs from his curiosity about the local histories of The Showroom’s neighbourhood, Church Street. Through a series of collective actions involving a range of contributors, including local historians, senior citizens and school children, Tanaka suggests a composite approach towards how to read the present through the past, and about how these can be starting points for new social possibilities.

The staging of collective actions has been a central component of Tanaka’s work to date. Through sometimes seemingly absurd tasks – ranging from collective haircuts to piano playing and tea making – he develops scenarios where group dynamics and behaviours expose how multiplicity is a central part of contemporary experience. Tanaka sets up situations and allows them to play themselves out; believing that how we behave in a micro-society has implications for society has a whole.

At The Showroom he approaches the local vicinity as an archive of historical knowledge and events that retain a presence, and will summon these through communal actions and proposals in the lead up to and during the exhibition. Historical instances include the subversion of licensing laws when theatre goers had to swap buns for theatre tickets; brewing on the site of Paddington Green police station; the heavy bombing of the area in World War 2; the history of The Showroom’s building when occupied by the Palmer Tyre Company, who produced wheels, tyres, brakes and gun turrets for wartime fighter and bomber aircraft; and more recent histories of migration.

The actions and proposals include:

Local History Research Tour Towards The Green Man Pub
A group tour of local historical sites, including the war memorial on Hatton Street, ending at The Green Man pub.

Reading Aloud People’s Names in the Community
Pupils from King Solomon Academy compile a list of names of people in the community – such as shopkeepers, stallholders and school canteen workers – for a Roll Calling performance at Church Street market, referencing acts of communal remembrance.

Eating the History, Reflecting the Present (Whose Victory?)
Leading out of Tanaka’s interest in ‘victory gardens’ which were set up during World War 2 to help feed the nation, local residents will work with the artist to make food for The Showroom’s neighbourhood networking lunch, using wartime recipes and ingredients that were typically grown in victory gardens. The group will eat surrounded by film footage of air raids, the sound of contemporary bombing raids, and tyre fragments referencing The Showroom building’s former use during the war.

Durational Proposal: Walking as Someone Else or Someone Who Lived a Long Time Ago

Precarious Tasks ## 15: Exchange of Our Clothes and Books as Exchanging Our Body and Thoughts (Reconfiguration)
By bringing a favourite possession to pass on to another person, visitors can share in and take care of someone else’s personal history.

The outcomes of these works, as well as those of earlier actions by Tanaka, will be presented in the gallery as film, audio, billboard images and text within a specially designed installation of temporary structures.

This commission is part of the third and final round of annual How to work together commissions.

How to work together is a shared programme of contemporary art commissioning and research organised by The Showroom, Chisenhale Gallery and Studio Voltaire, and is supported by a capacity building and match-funding grant from Arts Council England through Catalyst Arts, with additional funding from Bloomberg and Jerwood Charitable Foundation. With additional funding for the 2016 commissions from Cockayne – Grants for the Arts and The London Community Foundation. The commission is also supported by Vitamin Creative Space, The Japan Foundation, The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation and the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation. Liverpool Biennial and The Showroom are working in partnership on the commissioning of Koki Tanaka’s work in 2016. Thanks to Lisson Gallery for equipment support.


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