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Gloss at Nadif

by Monty DiPietro

A computer nerdish friend of mine recently posed me an interesting problem: "If you wanted to save a document so that it was easily accessible 100 years from now, what format would you use?" I thought for awhile - will MS Word go the way of Word Perfect? Some of my earliest documents in that format are already difficult to open. And what of the medium? Floppy discs, once the industry standard, have become the 8-track cassette tapes of the information age. I suggested to my friend that an ASCII text only document burned onto a CD ROM seemed the best bet. "Wrong," he answered with a wry smile. "If you really want to make sure people will be able to read the document in 100 years, write or print it on a piece of paper."

There is something both enduring and intimate about print media, and it is these qualities that the people behind "gloss" hope to exploit with their new magazine art project.

An Australian/Japanese collaboration, "gloss" is both an exhibition (now showing at art bookstore and exhibition space Nadiff in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward and scheduled for the Center for Contemporary Photography in Melbourne later this year), and an A5-sized, 64 page magazine featuring interviews with and work by the eight participating artists and artists' groups (from Japan: Candy Factory, Saki Satom, Akira Mori, Yasuko Toyoshima; from Australia: Martine Corompt, Larissa Hjorth, Natasha Johns-Messenger, Masato Takasaka)

Most every museum in the world produces catalogues for their exhibitions, but costs prevent all but a few contemporary art galleries from printing up anything more than a post card invitation and a press release for their shows, so when the work comes down, there remains no comprehensive record of what was up. The internet, of course, was supposed to change all this. But it has not. The failure of a number of online sales sites is just one indication that many people do not feel comfortable viewing art on computer screens. Far more familiar is the book, which you can take with you to a bistro, to the beach, to bed.

All of the funding for this project came from down under, with both Arts Victoria and the Australian Council for the Arts pitching in grant money. The Australians (who also premiered an ambitious online gallery project last year) have come up to par with the Canadians, Germans and Swedes in their government arts support here in Japan. Let's raise a glass of delicious Crown Lager to that happy fact!

My favorite piece at the "gloss" show appears on one of the tiny video monitors sandwiched in between the art books on Nadiff's shelves. The untitled work sees Saki Satom enter an elevator in what seems to be a high-rise office building. We watch from a high, security camera perspective as the doors close and Satom begins a sweeping, tai chi-like dance that continues as the elevator moves to its destination. Just as the doors reopen, Satom finishes her expressive movements, assumes the neutral stance she started with, and casually exits the elevator. Set as it is in the artless office-worker environment, this piece provides a wonderful little glimpse into the possibility of spontaneous creativity, into the revolution of everyday life. And let's raise another glass of delicious Crown Lager to that!

There are five other small video monitors tucked away throughout Nadiff, each playing short works, and a larger monitor from Japanese art collective Candy Factory, which features a diary of e-mail messages, a sort of information flood that plays over a background image of distorted color.

Less effective is Nadiff's main exhibition space, which Masato Takasaka has plastered with hundreds of primary color plastic dot stickers. I really don't get the point of this work, although it does look better when viewed through the mirror boxes that Natasha Johns-Messenger has up on the walls at the other end of the room.

Finally, the "gloss" magazine (which looks more like a handbook due its smallish format), is quite well done, although the emphasis on texts is a bit too heavy, given that all the interviews and essays are printed in both English and Japanese. Now that we know who the participating artists are, hopefully the next edition of "gloss" (three more are planned) will be more image rich.

Pictured is a still from Saki Satom's video installation. The "gloss" exhibition runs to April 21 at Nadiff, 4-9-8 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo; 03-3403-8814. Nadiff is open everyday from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m.
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