The Venice Questionnaire #14: Koki Tanaka

By ArtReview

Koki Tanaka , A Poem Written By 5 Poets At Once (First Attempt) (production still), 2013, HD video, 68 min 30 sec. Commissioned by The Japan Foundation.

ArtReview sent a questionnaire to a selection of the artists exhibiting in various national pavilions of the Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published over the coming days. Koki Tanaka will represent Japan. The pavilion is in the Giardini.

What can you tell us about your plans for Venice?

The plan for the show, devised with Mika Kuraya, the curator of Japan Pavilion, is to ask ‘how we could share our experience with others?' This is the question posed after March 2011 tsunami and earthquake, and the ensuing nuclear power plant explosion. We felt each one of our experiences of the event was so different. If we could map them, it would be a sort of gradation from thick color to light color according to a distance from the event. It might in fact be close to a mapping of the radiation exposure. Of course it is impossible to share our own experience with others, yet this remains the exhibition’s fundamental question. I have set up two ideas for Venice to deal with this idea of a ‘scattered experience'. The first is a documentary about people collaborating, e.g. the viewer will witness one piece of pottery made by five potters together or a poem written by five poets at once. The second work is the staging of various collective actions, e.g. a night walk in the city with fifty or so participants, a discussion will be led in which the topic is our own names. Since the Japanese pavilion at architecture biennale last year was also dealing with the disaster but in a more direct way, I have recycled their materials in my installation.

Are you approaching the show in a different way to how you would with a ‘normal’ exhibition?

I don’t think it is. I would rather approach the pavilion as I do all my shows.

What does it mean to ‘represent’ your country? Do you find it an honour or problematic?

It is honour to be representing my country and although I don’t think I’m a typical Japanese artist, I think it is the right moment for the Japan pavilion to depart from the norm.

What audience are you addressing with the work? The masses of artist peers, gallerists, curators and critics concentrated around the opening or the general public who come through over the following months?

Anyone who is very serious about art.

What are your earliest or best memories of the biennale?

I have never been to the art biennale befor,e though I went to the architecture biennale last year with the knowledge I had been selected to represent Japan this year. I went in the winter when it was cold and there were not so many tourists.

You’ll no doubt be very busy, but what else are you looking forward to seeing?

Many of my friends are coming so I'd prefer to meet them than try to see everything.