“A dream: to know a foreign language and still not understand it.”
For many western artists who are staying in Japan as part of a residency, Roland Barthes’ “ The Empire of Signs” most probably is an important reference. In the form of a collection of miniatures in which individual impressions are staged, Barthes does not examine Japan as an empirical reality, but rather as a phantasmatic scenario of division and framing in which everything appears to be embedded in ritual gestures and actions.
The short texts remain procedural, choreographically inspired fragments, not free from pretension: food as a score; as scenography; cutting, arranging, moving as an art of preparation; analogies with Japanese painting, calligraphy, haiku, etc. Barthes regards the latter in particular as emblematic of the emptiness of the Japanese sign, since the three lines are not intended to condense meaning but to undermine it, analogous to the countless graphic gestures from which he sees the Japanese culture interspersed.
With reference to terms evoked by the observations of everyday Japanese life described here, such as difference, distance, restraint, abstraction, stylization, functionality, the liberation of meaning, etc., the exhibition “The Empire of Signs in Various Forms and Dimensions” brings together works that were created in the context of a stay in Tokyo within the scope of the artist in residence program of the Austrian Federal Ministry for Arts, Culture, Civil Service and Sport.
Since the artists use different working methods, the exhibition – analogous to the “Empire of Signs” – is conceived as a disparate grouping of the resulting perspectives on Japan. “In various forms and dimensions”, in other words in different ways in regard to artistic practice and media, the works address different facets of the encounter with materialities, objects and bodies during the stay in Japan and their aftermath.
The exhibition is intended to give an impression of the diverse artistic production within the framework of the foreign studio program in Tokyo, but without depicting Japan as an aesthetic program. The show will be on view in the Austrian Cultural Forum in Tokyo in 2022. Special thanks go to the BMKÖS and the Austrian Cultural Forum Tokyo for sponsoring the exhibition.
To enter the premise you must be able to provide proof of a negative test result, a complete vaccination or confirmation of a past COVID-19 infection. Please have your proof ready at the entrance.