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Friday, Aug. 21, 2009


'MAM Project 009: Koizumi Meiro'

Mori Art Museum

Closes Nov. 8

As a form of humor, the prank telephone call is well enough established to have its own entry in Wikipedia (see "Prank Call"). On one level, artist Meiro Koizumi's video "My Voice Would Reach You," part of his current small solo show at the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, is a series of prank calls. It's art lies in the fact that he doesn't let the viewer in on the joke until the end.

News photo

For the first few minutes of the video we are shown a man on a street corner talking on a cell phone. "Hello, mom. It's me," he says.

Privy only to his half of the conversation, we listen as he invites his mother to a hot spring for the weekend. "You don't have to worry about the money," he says. "I'll pay."

But something isn't right. His mother resists and his entreaties gradually become more desperate until the screen abruptly turns black.

Then we see the whole thing again, only this time, we can hear what's going on at the other end of the line. "I'm afraid you're calling the information center of a credit card company," the voice says at one point. "Sir, haven't you got the wrong number?"

Our man has been calling customer-service centers and then ignoring their confused responses as he invites his mother to the hot spring for the weekend. And both he and the switchboard operators just keep on talking, entirely at cross purposes.

If ever you needed a poignant vignette on alienation in Tokyo, this is it. Tokyo really has seen old people fooled by callers masquerading as their own children, and some victims of corporate restructuring have fooled their families into believing they are still employed.

But inspiring contemplation on current social issues is merely one objective of art. Humor — even via the somewhat hackneyed prank call format — is another. And another still is deep emotional connection. If you've lost your own mother, as this artist apparently has, this crazed attempt at reaching out too late is oddly affecting.

For more information call (03) 5777 8600. www.mori.art.museum

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