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Thu: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
200 Larkin Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
Contemporary Art

Koki Tanaka: Potters and Poets

Nov 4, 2016 – Feb 14, 2017
Tateuchi Gallery

This exhibition by artist Koki Tanaka explores the idea of temporary creative collaborations.

Its two featured projects—A Poem Written by 5 Poets at Once (First Attempt) and A Pottery Produced by 5 Potters at Once (Silent Attempt) are part of a larger series in which Tanaka assembles strangers with a common profession or avocation and asks them to work together simultaneously to create new work. The projects are represented through documentation, primarily video.

For the first work, Tanaka brought together Japanese poets who write in different styles. The poets, seated at a small round table, write verses, exchange ideas, think and write quietly, pen to paper, no computers in sight. They edit and add to each other’s work, read lines aloud, and talk about the processes of writing, in some cases talking around tensions and unspoken disagreements.

For the second, Chinese potters sit around a pottery wheel and form clay into vessels using an assortment of techniques and tools. At times they work together, at other times they ask one potter to take the lead, and sometimes they disagree with the next steps they should take. The resulting vessels are on display as part of the exhibition.

Tanaka’s interest in human relationships, activism, history, and community comes through in these subtle, humorous, unscripted works. He says, “To do something collaboratively is an ethical proposition….What is documented here is a kind of social sculpture, and as such it is also a document of the failure of that process.”

About the Artist

Koki Tanaka is an artist with a diverse practice centered on reexamining everyday experiences and creating conditions for people to interact.
He uses deceptively simple scenarios that give rise to collective action, then documents and represents the resulting shared social experiences through video, photography, and installation. In conversation with the ideas of social sculpture and relational aesthetics, Tanaka’s work gives rise to questions about the very nature of participation, in art, politics, and society.

Although his artworks take many different forms, they are unified by his wry humor and subtle irony Tanaka was born in Tochigi, Japan in 1975 and currently lives and works in Kyoto, where he recently relocated from Los Angeles. He was educated in Japan and Austria and has participated in artist residencies in New York, Bern, and Rome. His work has been exhibited widely, including at the Mori Art Museum (Tokyo), the Palais de Tokyo (Paris), the Yokohama Triennial, the Gwangju Biennial, the Asia Society Museum (New York), and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco). He represented Japan at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 with a solo exhibition entitled abstract speaking—sharing uncertainty and collective act.

In the words of the artist, “We expect collaboration to succeed since working together is a positive methodology, but it fails a lot of the time. However, we learn more from failure, don’t we?”

Main image: A Pottery Produced by 5 Potters at Once (Silent Attempt), 2013, by Koki Tanaka (Japanese, b. 1975). Collaboration, Video Documentation. Courtesy of the artist. © Koki Tanaka.

Organizers & Sponsors

Koki Tanaka: Potters and Poets is organized by the Asian Art Museum. Presentation is made possible by The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation and an anonymous donor.