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Wrapped Pulses - Kanako Kitabayashi’s Ceramic Sculptures and its Potential for Sympathetic Interactions

Keisuke Mori
​Curator at the Chiba City Museum of Art

 
The ceramic sculptures of Kanako Kitabayashi, internalize what can be tools as containers into the form of her sculptures, while shifting between the meeting point of craft and sculpture.
This unending journey is seemingly drawing Kitabayashi unconsciously to a somewhere distant, a place which is very much not here.
As is clearly shown from her collage methods which she experimented with during her university days, which incorporated heterogeneous materials into one single artwork, her art contains an extreme affinity with a type of life that repeatedly captures and metabolizes others into itself.
Therefore, biotic “metamorphosis” and “degeneration” are absolutely fundamental as Kitabayashi’s art expression. Her ceramics has a soft roundness like an egg, yet has an organic form, and it makes a claim for a truly diverse range of others as its base substance in its metamorphosis.
Her varying materials, such as thread, wood and glass, and the easily changeable external environment, which is fleeting and not limited to vision, such as the air, light and even humidity, become elements which seem to be preordained to be in her artwork, and the life-like and minute relationship with her sculptures emerges like an important subject which was always there.
 
This exhibition, which has been named ‘Sympathizing and Interacting,’ must first of all be understood as a continuation with her awareness of the problem of the artist.

As has been seen before in many cases, different materials, such as wood or metal which are connected to sculpture, question the possibilities of interaction and sympathy of connected things, regardless of whether there is a physical distance or not.

The significance of field formation, relative to an ecological network, should be understood in the context that the relationship of what we can call the connection phase is being sought after the work has been molded and fired.

The field, as an artwork, is filled with tactile harmony.

The controlled exhibition space certainly reflects something very serious for us, the people who are currently experiencing an excessive cutting off from each other due to the coronavirus crisis.

On the other hand, Kitabayashi’s shifting between craft and sculpture introduces a number of different transformations into the ecosystem-like field of her present exhibition through her own individual (and therefore severe) experiences, which is to say her own nervous disorders.

For example, in the place of natural materials like wool, there is a cord which plays the role of hinting at a relationship.

Cord is a metaphor for communication with other people.

Cords, which are artificial things that enable the smooth and stable supply of electrical signals, is a medium that connects different materials, and links the flexible, and close, relationship which accompanies the form of pottery, or space.

In addition, the thin pointed end is cut, and the inner conductor is widened out radially, and exposed. They are trying to be receptors that can receive signals from all directions, just like parabolic antennas.

Another feature which stands out is Kitabayashi’s ‘urn’ series, which has been placed on a tatami at the back of a gloomy room, and is accompanied with physical blocking.

They have hollow interiors, and hold the potential to have nothing or something within them at the same time, which juxtaposes with the multi-layered meaning of “urn” which can be a cremation urn, and also a vase or jar.
 
For example, in this exhibition’s ‘Sympathizing and Interacting - 1’, a ultra-fine cord massively spreads out inwards, rather than outwards.

The harmony of “urn” and ‘Sympathizing and Interacting - 1’ of "urn” is likely a story by others ridden with the insolvability of the existence of the dead, and thusly it holds an important position in this exhibition.

German-Jewish art historian Erwin Panofsky once developed an elaborate analysis regarding graves as sculptures, but Kitabayashi's sculptures also crave connections while the excessive overlap of the pottery’s surface both blocks access to the inner part, and keeps its distance. Thusly presenting the appearance of a hidden tomb/sculpture.

It is a sudden disconnection with the external world for physical and social activities. After experiencing this double disconnection, the meaning of “pulse,” which can be an electric current, or electro-magnetic wave, or even a heartbeat, may give one possibility to accepting this art when deciphering this exhibition.
U.S. art critic Rosalind E. Krauss touched on the subject of pulses at a symposium held in 1988.
For Krauss, pulses demonstrate a “force” that through its biological rhythmic movement is collapsing formal assumptions which support the visualization of modernism.
Kitabayashi’s ceramic sculptures, which are going through various metamorphoses, have a pulse-like property from the point that they characterize a form of life as a dual communication between disconnection and connection.
What's really interesting here is that the reference that Krauss made to pulses, and a group of images by Max Ernst, are in the artwork’s collage.
Collage, in its methodology, continues to contain essentially different time and space in which fragments, separated from unique semantic functions, are integrated into a single place.
In this exhibition, there is an intention for a refined harmony in space, which on the other hand is moving away from the articulation of time, and her collage methodology can be attributed to the summoning of relics, which have lost their functions, or symbolic forms seen in religious rituals.
Kitabayashi's ceramic sculptures makes use of a collage technique, which softly covers different time and space gaps, while craving after interactions with heterogeneous others.
They call to us who stare at her art with whispering pulses, constantly repeating a biological metamorphosis, or towards the distant dead, who are not here.

Translation provided by MARUEIDO JAPAN