Midori Harima reinterprets the world through the materiality and metaphorical nature of the printed medium. Her solo exhibition Crossing the Boundary from Behind at Fujisawa City Art Space in 2022 continued in 2023 with This is a Mirror at The Shirley Fiterman Art Center in New York. These shows were to some extent planned as retrospectives presenting the work from Harima’s sojourn in America, her home for sixteen years from 2001 before she completed an artist residency in Hong Kong and returned to Japan, establishing a studio in the Shonan area of Kanagawa Prefecture. They were also dynamic exhibitions that seemed to be heading toward a prelude of the artist’s future practice.
Prints/Places, Harima’s new show at Maho Kubota Gallery, was planned not long after these two solo exhibitions and will feature works that represent further steps in the artist’s recent process of exploration. The focus of the show will be projections of video and film works. She silkscreen prints images of scenes that cannot be specifically identified, and then reproduces this process in reverse, resulting in the images repeatedly appearing and disappearing. Complementing this is a film work shot with an 8 mm camera, displayed on a monitor, and a number of lightbox works. The plan is for the gallery space to be loosely connected, with the exhibition overall designed to take the form of an installation focusing on the printed medium.
According to Harima, each printed medium “has its own spacetime.” The two-dimensional spacetime that is physically provided through the materiality of such a printed medium allows us to experience the world vicariously on a day-to-day basis. You could say that past experience and literacy are required to comprehend a world unfolding in only two dimensions. The world clearly cannot be reproduced in its entirety with limited information, so it is as if we compensate by unconsciously using our own memories and afterimages in order to interpret the world. Today, as we consume enormous quantities of images each day in a world that is driven by information to an unprecedented extent, we appear to be seeing the world, but we may actually be just projecting ourselves onto a fiction that we interpret as being the world. That raises the question of how to handle our interpretations of the world and our output when using the mechanism of printing as a pointer to our own reality or identity? This exhibition provides an opportunity to see firsthand the direction in which Midori Harima’s proposition is heading.
Prints: A place for reality and fiction
Text: Midori Harima
Ever since humans acquired the technology of materializing and realizing fiction in the real world, the realm of human interpretation has come to directly impact the real world. The history of media development is also making a shift from the challenge of how accurately reality can be depicted onto a flat surface to the inverted place of how real an image can appear. Everything now seems to be detached from their original context and environment, and reorganized into a world of symbols, language, and data that have lost their specificity and wholeness. My work aims to reconstitute a new wholeness by reducing these things to matter, connecting them to different contexts and bringing them back into reality.
Underlying my artistic activity is the experience of seeing printed matter as a child when I was still unable to make the distinction between reality and fiction. To my eyes, monochrome photographs printed as coarse, dotted halftones looked blurred, and I experienced the materiality of such images first through the smell and texture of ink and paper before I could grasp their content. As I could not read the text, I could not understand the meaning of what was being photographed; I was never sure what was true or fiction. There was a mysterious feeling about images existing as images, which made me feel the presence of something outside of the world I knew. This for me was a formative experience. There once existed an equal relationship between images and myself——images as primal textures, and myself as a child, still neither self-aware nor yet recognized by the world as a stable identity. Through printed matter, which functions through reproducibility, specific experiences arise. These specific experiences in turn shake up our sense of self to the extent that we are created anew. What I am trying to do with my art is to recreate this very experience.
Like two sides of the same coin, when things become visible, things also become invisible. I try to make visible this vast blind spot and the state and structure of invisibility by creating an inverted, nested state, while reintroducing analogue media, which involves an invisible process and time-lag until something becomes visible, into the creative process. I was at the mercy of these processes when constructing my work. The state of invisibility or the time-lag until something becomes visible prompts us to become active to try and see the invisible, while unpredictability and the accidents and failures that it entails awakens the kind of subjectivity that is triggered when we act before we understand, or when we have no choice but to self-reconstruct.
When we sense reality in something and that becomes a specific experience for us, our identity and the subject in question are shaken up. I think we become subjective and active for the first time when this sort of awakening occurs. Now that old media and technology are being lost, and as our circumstances and the understanding of our circumstances are changing at a dizzying pace, reality should not be recreated so that it sits well within the realm of human interpretation but rather, human interpretation and output should be recreated in response to reality. That, I believe, is one way in which fiction——which is based on our interpretation of reality——functions. And for me, the place created by print (matter) is where this fiction can be realized.
November 7, 2023
Translated by Haruko Kohno