unknowns _ Exhibition of Misako Taoka & Jesse Hogan. From May 31, Fri - June 09, Sun

At Midori.So Gallery Nakameguro. Closing performance June 09, Sun by Albert Wolski & Robyn Daly (EXEK) from Australia. Organized and Curated by Jesse Hogan & Tomoji Oya. 


Mitsuo Abe: Can you tell us about this exhibition project and your research? 

Jesse Hogan: Rolling? Ok: so... We started to make this documentary and this series of interviews and films for my research project, that is for my Ph.D. Final Dissertation. We wanted to look at the different context that artists are producing their work and how they navigate the social spheres between university practices, commercial galleries, artist-run art-spaces, and the institutional-spaces such as university-art-spaces and museums. 

This exhibition called Unknowns_ Between myself and Geidai Masters Graduate of Intermedia Arts Misako Taoka, first came about through contact with Tomoji Oya who is the site manager of this building and Gallery Midori.So. He first contacted me and my work at my Masters Graduation exhibition at Tokyo University of the Arts in the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. In that work I had arranged an interview series with Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku graduates. I also made a series of neons, word sculptures and object pieces. At the time he contacted me and said hopefully in the near future we would be able to do something, or a project together. And, although a year or 2 had passed, he finally got in contact with me again through Instagram and Facebook and suggested that this year (2019) it would be possible to do a show in the Midori.So space. 

We were thinking, that this exhibition, (it) didn’t have to be an exhibition that directly reflected my research for my Ph.D. work but it could be an exhibition of objects and conceptual pieces, about things that I wanted to explore, maybe outside my research work. So, um, I had been thinking about this kind of boundary between practicing in the institution and between the work you make in Galleries that are either independent or exist in other contexts ... and this gallery Midori.So is actually the space which accompanies a collection of other spaces in this building, a collection of different design and freelance design groups. So, it’s not strictly a fine arts gallery in a traditional sense, but accommodates many different kinds of practices. Fine Art exhibitions, Design practices, small fashion exhibits, photography and some kinds of new media works and artworks. But, at the same time getting a space like this in Tokyo is not so easy. Just to get a very clean white space, with concrete floors, which is the kind of aesthetic that works well with the kind of work that I’ve been trying to make (even since coming to Tokyo) and is a very essential backdrop to a lot of contemporary artwork. 


Since I came to Japan in 2013, I’d found it very hard to find appropriate exhibition spaces, and even the spaces in the University were very difficult to use, depending on the kind of floors, walls and features (fixtures) that were included in those spaces. Some of the first exhibitions I managed to organize in Tokyo was at Turner Paint Works Gallery. I curated 2 shows there - (The second was co-curated with Australian artist Simone Goran (troll) - 2 years in a row, the exhibition Titled / called SPVI ~ which stands for Sculpture, Painting, Video, Installation. Both those shows included a mix of Australian and Japanese artists whose practice was more connected through the kind of Aesthetics, (a concern with post-internet theory) Visuality & visual style, more than there was an over connecting theme for the exhibitions. After using those 2 spaces, I realized it was not sustainable to make exhibitions at those galleries, without some kind of funding or support from another art group, or another art space or any kind of arts funding. The rent for these spaces was very high. 

After that (initial 2 years in Tokyo) I’d been attending exhibitions throughout the city (Tokyo) and I found (I found there were varying degrees and gaps between the artists considered as Fine Art artists and those who represented a very commercial pop side of the Tokyo art landscape – Those who could be almost considered products makers or graphic artists, and fashion designers aka creatives / creators) However, despite that logic, I encountered a space last year called Weiden + Kennedy. W+K+ is also another project design show room space in Nakameguro. I was able to make contact with the W+K gallery team and do another show there with (and I curated / invited works by) some of the Ph.D. course members from Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku, who, and of course some guest artists invited from Australia who sent work. 


Again, working in that context, was maybe not what we (academic based artists) feel is the ideal context for fine art, because it is so associated with design, Commercial advertising and new medias – but I’ve begun to question the function of working in those kinds of spaces, because 1. it is subvert-able – you can intercept an audience who is expecting branded commercial art and products with purely conceptual based ideas. & 2. Because the networking that comes out of it with designers and media artists (many of whom have been trained in or completed fine arts degrees, but are working in commercial media because of the financial opportunities) is / becomes very fruitful. In a (huge) city like Tokyo meeting people who work in media art and design means that there are a lot of other opportunities that can arise outside of the connections only within the institutions of the university, and for example - and also the curatorial practices of the museums. Also, considering the commercial gallery scene in Tokyo – it seems to be very hard to enter representation as a foreigner, especially if you live in Japan and practice in Japan. Most of the foreign artists who seem to be selected for commercial representation and gallery shows are people who are selected by Japanese curators or / or gallery directors because their practice is already very successful ( & established) in their own countries. It works well for them (these artists) to come to Japan as guests rather than being current residents. 

Overall, I discovered that working in a place like Midori.So although it may not be as institution- ally recognized or commercially recognized as an official art gallery is still very effective to build a practice and build connections within this society and within the city. So, that led to really the way, in the practice that I’ve been doing in Tokyo; considering the SITE / CONTEXT / and the kind of MATERIALITY, that I wanted to use and approach exhibitions and these spaces. 

Mitsuo Abe: Can you talk about your projects and the idea Survival Aesthetics? 

Jesse Hogan: The term Survival Aesthetics, which I am using for the Ph.D. Project and Thesis came out of reading a text, a Jacques Derrida text about how a writer, philosopher or an artist has to work continuously to create their own historical legacy and how the body of their work throughout their life-time contributes to something that will be left over in time beyond their own (physical) existence. I had thought about what many artists have done throughout history is create some kind of conceptual gesture (a strategic move) which is new, profound and so new to the way people are thinking that it becomes like a kind of magnify glass (or mirror) of their ideas. It also magnifies the collective (social) ideas of a generation of artists. I thought about how many artists strive to create this kind of mirror lens or magnify glass, which will / can live on beyond their own existence. But, it is very hard to do, soo... you can’t always intentionally make art to create a historical legacy. Sometimes the timing of the piece you create or the social condition your living in, or the political condition is just right for the idea to come into fruition (or meet its ideal audience) and to catch the attention of the society or the collective conscious that you are working in. But, it could also depend on the channels of dissemination e.g. It being presented in a high-profile gallery, museum or under a high-profile brand name. 


If the artist can’t always make a work that becomes a magnify glass, then in a way they probably build (or work with strategies for their practice, so there is strategic / short term fulfillment of goals & success) strategies for their practices so that their work becomes something that lives beyond them or connects to many people beyond themselves...& ... One of those things was about in contemporary art, the Relational Aesthetics of the work, how it is connected to other people and how other people engage with it. Also, importantly is how an artist includes other people and other practitioners in their project - collaboration. Because, by expanding the work to connect with other people – it is more likely that this thing would gather momentum. It’s social momentum and social meaning. So, in Survival Aesthetics what I have been writing about is how artists connect their work: 

  1. To other artworks, which builds formal, conceptual and historical connections. 
  2. Connecting to other artists, through collaboration (and co-authoring works / exhibitions, etc.)
  3. Working together – which creates a network of people and relationality, ‘Multiple Authorship’.
  4. How through the context of where they position themselves, their artworks and their projects, art workers connect to institutional bodies e.g. the universities, commercial galleries and museums. 

(With these aspects in mind, I question; how do you acquire the agency in the first place? & how do artists acquire these appropriate exhibition contexts?) 


While or unless curators and galleries are selecting artists to suit their own themes / agendas which they want to produce for the institution or for museum projects, the artist is left on their own with no platform to be presented to their society on. Survival Aesthetics comes down to artists having to build their own platforms, to curate their own exhibitions, to manage their own funding. To reach out and find channels which they can ride, float on, etc. So it is very much looking at; on the one hand, an artist’s own responsibility and their own execution of their work. And, on the other hand it’s about the artist catching connections with other people, other producers, other curators, and other audiences ‘The Census Communis’ – so that their work can be given a platform to exist and therefore survive on. Building, finding and preparing a context in which to survive, or in which it can survive, and in effect acquire its own artistic, historic and cultural legacy is what is being critically considered. 

Sooo...A lot of this, to show examples of how artists have survived is examined through selections of my own and other artists projects. One of my primary examples is with On Kawara, the Japanese conceptual artist. &, How he for years through his ‘I am Still Alive’ project, sent postcards to very prominent gallerists, artist and other intellectuals all around the world, almost every day for maybe 20 years or 30 years. & although he worked in isolation, it was his way of concreting his existence, confirming his existence in the world and therefore sharing his identity and letting people know he existed – particularly in the artworld. Through the years of that process he built up an archival catalogue of his post-cards which have now existing collections all around the world. This established a kind of survivalist / survival situation for him which along with his other projects now lives on almost autonomously beyond the artists own practice and physical life. 


Soo... I was thinking, what are some of the things artist can do now to do that? Like what On Kawara had done. Now with social media networks, internet, making websites, etc. We have now this interesting situation / sort of condition (to) – which we don’t even know the future of... because we don’t have any idea how long these digital online networks, systems and platforms are going to last or exist in the digital space or on the WWW. World Wide Web? But, currently these platforms have completely changed the way people’s chance of surviving (through information & Image) or creating an ongoing legacy which exists beyond their own physical existence. It has completely changed compared to / with the past which was more reliant on printed media e.g. books, magazines and which although we are still watching in the span of time, many of these kinds of materials degrade and become illegible. For example, paper and books. How long these things can last? Unless archived and preserved, we have no idea. If they are properly archived they remain in our field of access and memory. But, now we are in a different condition where artists have an opportunity to archive and disseminate their images, ideas and practices, thoughts, etc... through many different channels. So, the way that artists use those medias is going to define the way that artists survive in certain contexts to a certain extent. The legacy of their message, their work and how that will live on beyond their physicality and remain relevant in the future is all in question. 


Mitsuo Abe: What is the meaning of ‘conceptual artist’? 

Jesse Hogan: The meaning of conceptual artist’ is, I think something that is very difficult to articulate, very difficult to describe... Because a conceptual artist is often an artist who has been many other types of artists. And, originally and traditionally from the ideas of Marcel Duchamp to the generation of conceptual artists of the 1960’s. It was really to overcome the retinal, which is the visual (primacy of art) dominance of the visual arts and to create cognitive and cerebral interpretations of art. So, but, there are many terms now of what defines conceptual art. And... Terms like post-conceptual, meaning using conceptual art thinking (theory) but going back to a very visual display of the concept. And, I think that since the terminology ‘conceptual art’ became officially used, conceptual art itself has been visually archived in much the same way that other traditional forms of art have been archived and collected; through its materiality and through its visual language. But, what a conceptual arts function or meaning is, is to really focus on how we perceive and object or an idea, or a word, beyond its (economic) monetary value, its financial value and beyond its use value i.e. Function. Because, what a conceptual artist does is help the viewer look at things from a different angle. And, to think about how those things are interesting in a mental way ~ other than it being interesting as products or as things that have an economic value. 


I think conceptual artists have also been really important to challenge what people’s actual idea of art is. To alter arts qualitative reading and values. To take peoples idea of art away from thinking that it’s a ‘good’ painting, or a well-made sculpture (it could however be centered on the notion of art as ‘A clever idea’) and to think and focus more on the fact, that artworks are often the results of thinking about things. (and to challenge the very meaning of art itself and question, not what is it? But, ‘What is art?) 

Mitsuo Abe: To be received by the social, how do you think about the social education, the medium for art, a little bit from another aspect... The connection with the social as a whole of human beings... compared with modern system to show the art... Do you have any ideas to show works in other public situations? 

Jesse Hogan: The works themselves are very specific to art contexts, to their relationships and conversation with other artworks... and also their placements within an art context – such as a user’s space or studio / an ARI – artist-run-gallery, a commercial gallery, a museum, etc. And, 

because those contexts receive often specific viewers and audiences the artist has to think of how that artwork will be received and who is going to read it and communicate with it. So, in this con- text because most of those who would come here are creatives, designers, media artists, people who work in fashion design and other fine artists, the work already – it does rely to a degree on people’s prior knowledge. They already have some knowledge of the aesthetics, language or the concepts or histories that the artworks are connected to. But, if however, you’re working with an institutional facility like a museum, because your audience is going to be so much wider, outside of just other art practitioners or other curators, the work would need to be able to be read by the viewers in multiple ways. Not everybody can read the work in terms of the works connection to art history. They need to be able to read other meta languages / vernacular. If it doesn’t do some- thing directly connected to / with their social situation – they need to be able to read it through its aesthetics and formal properties. Like for example; If a work is exciting in terms of color or material – the person does not need to immediately know anything about ‘why’? Or the reason behind the work. In this case the artist is delivering a visual or physical experience to the viewers. 


Although social studies, which has very direct concerns with humanity, human wellbeing, the progress of society, etc. – and art can be focused or intertextual with those other fields of study and with those other disciplines. But, it can also create social connections through its experiential form. So... I think it’s very important that artists read and listen to social issues, and are very up- to-date and are understanding the political situations of the society. But, the type of work that is directly engaged with the social environment, etc... as in the artist goes out (with a concept and plan in hand) into society and actually engages and works with people in society / the community i.e. ‘not artists’ – is a very special field. And, it has a very special (social) purpose - akin with or like social work or community work. Also, in other mediums for example, social documentary (film) making – it has a very clear and very specific, umm, intention to disseminate and spread a message and to share a message that is important to share people’s experiences. Within art that is more specific to the artworks themselves, it’s perhaps... The social aspect is more about the gathering of people in the various social contexts of art-spaces, galleries and museums. The gathering of people coming together, the sharing of ideas, and in some ways like the philosopher Michel Serres speaks of, where the artwork is a ‘Quasi-Object’.

The ‘Quasi-Object’ is something like a soccer ball, using the example of Michel Serres. A object that doesn’t have its own function (unless we impart our use value or function onto it) or unless it’s used by a social collective in a social situation / a coming together of many or a few people to activate it... and a soccer ball becomes the center of a huge social activity e.g. a big soccer game, where players all are moving around the object, the object gets moved in the field – and the audience engages with this movement and activity on a huge scale. Here, the ball becomes the nucleus of social and human movement. 


Art objects are also often too like Michel Serres Quasi-Objects. Art Objects and (exhibitions) often also perform this social function. They are Quasi-Objects (Non-Objects), they don’t do anything. They sit on walls or on floors in the middle of an art-space or exhibitions space and they await for audiences to come and interact with them – and those social interactions build character, community, they build experience. Through the networks of people that surround and engage the art object. 


This piece is the second in a series of location GPS – chrome panels that I’ve made. And, the idea came from trying to imagine where your positioned in relation to the next art-space you are planning to work in. In this piece there is a drawing here of cut forms. These cut forms ~ represent my memory of where the location of this Midori.So space is. I live on the Den en Toshi Sen. I come to Midori.So by the Den en Toshi Sen, and got off at Ikeji-Ohashi. I tried to find the Gallery but I walked to Shibuya. I was lost and walked back to Nakameguro, but I was still lost. Then I came back this way and finally found the gallery location. This number is the GPS of the Midori.So Gallery. So, in this series you type the GPS - Latitude, Longitude into the phone, and when you put it into google maps and do a search, the location of the gallery comes up, and the drop pin is situated in the gallery / Midori.So building exactly in the position in the gallery where this piece and the viewer is located. Outside here you see the pool of the local elementary school which is viewable in the reflection as well when the doors are open. So, it’s part of a series of specific-objects, but which are completely site-specific to each art space.