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Wednesday, July 4, 2001

All roads lead to 'home'

A Tokyo show explores an evolving place

There really is no place like home, and this is fully evident in the Tokyo Opera City Gallery's hot summer show, "My Home Is Yours/Your Home Is Mine."

The exhibition, curated by the ad hoc French-Chinese pairing of Jerome Sans and Hou Hanru, debuted in Seoul late last year, aiming to explore the evolving identity of "the home" in an age of global migration and nomadism -- to examine what Sans and Hanru term "a merge of home and working spaces and the relationship between the private and the public." The 11 participating artists and artists' groups created new works for the Tokyo incarnation, and Opera City's Mami Kataoka came on board with a few site-specific ideas of her own.

The first thing visitors encounter is a row of fluorescent lights and thick semitransparent plastic sheets hanging over the gallery's doorways, fundamental materials that establish boundaries and set a steady low-note counterpoint to the vibrant improvisations inside. Not as immediately evident are the curtains seeming to hover high overhead, these borrowed from people's homes by Junya Yamaide. There are scores of curtains hung throughout the exhibition space, which, like the hundreds of grainy office-building surveillance photographs plastered over the top section of all the gallery walls, help make the Opera City a more accommodating gallery. Smart touches like this are everywhere in the show.

One of the largest works is in the first room. "Oasism II, a proposal for Huis ten Bosch" is an interactive architectural model by the Dutch group Foundation B.a.d. & Their Neighbors, part of a proposal to build a Dutch-style housing development in both Rotterdam and Nagasaki. The model looks wonderfully Utopian, with a large common in the center and all the buildings "owned by no one."

Three video cameras mounted on long booms can be manipulated by visitors who want see a pseudo-aerial view of the project on video monitors around the room. There are also videos and other documentation of previous Foundation B.a.d. work, all of it anarcho-communalistic and fairly delirious. They have these special places called "coffee shops" in Holland, you see.

The "E-gloo" is Sora Kim and Gimhongsok's contribution -- an igloo-shaped room made entirely of old computer components, with a few air conditioners and toasters thrown in. You can roll around the perimeter on dollies or crawl inside and lie down on a futon if you like.

But why stay in an E-gloo when there are three private sleeping compartments of the sort found in capsule hotels installed in the adjacent hallway by Tsuyoshi Ozawa? There is a suggestion in the exhibition catalog of visitors being able to spend the night in one of these, but I would check with gallery staff first.

The Opera City's main room plays host to Surasi Kusolwong's "Lucky Tokyo 2001," an ongoing raffle extravaganza in which visitors can register for a series of game show-style draws. Prizes include household goods, appliances and a trip for two to Bangkok to visit the artist and his family. Across from Kusolwong's glitzy stage is a quiet piece by local art and architecture group Atelier Bow-wow, featuring 100:1 scale models of a selection of architecturally interesting small houses in Japan. The "Mini House" models rotate slowly on turntables several meters away from the vantage point in a sort of shooting-gallery arrangement. Visitors can use miniature telescopes to peer in and study the cute little domiciles.

For those who prefer their homes actual-size, there is Do-Ho Suh's New York City apartment -- or rather a walk-in reproduction of the artist's West 22nd Street place, done in pink and blue nylon gauze. The bathroom, with its drooping bathtub and airy sink and toilet bowl, is not to be missed.

A home-style television viewing room complete with pirated videos (pick one out, push the play button and sit back and watch); an inventory of hotel toiletries; and the frighteningly practical "Homeware" line of body-morphing attire (a couple of straps pulled across the knees, and you become your own dinner table) round out a fresh and lively show that is the best exploitation yet of the Opera City Gallery's potential.

International yet Asian-flavored, this exhibition takes viewers down many different roads, all of which lead home. It is one of the most engaging of this summer's Tokyo shows.

"My Home Is Yours/Your Home Is Mine" runs until Sept. 16 at the Tokyo Opera City Gallery (03) 5353-0756.

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