TUFS students of language studies presenting each artist and giving explanation in the artist's native language
This text is a reflection on the preparation process for an exhibition, written six months after the event concluded. As a curator, I find it important to document the decision-making process. In times of war, it is essential to document our thoughts and experiences, even if it may seem insignificant at the time.
In the first weeks of Russia's war against Ukraine, I had a feeling that the sense of "being at home” within each of us had been shaken by some tremendous force. When the concept of House found itself in the center of the war, the ground fell from under the feet of everyone, wherever they were. Living in Japan and addressing the Japanese audience, I invited to participate in the exhibition artists from Ukraine, a photographer from Japan, protest artists from Russia and Belarus, artists with a multicultural background, Israeli citizens born in Ukraine and Russia living in Japan. I myself am such an artist with a multicultural background.
However, Dom. Dym. Dom was not an exhibition of tolerance. In the midst of the archaic and aggressive war unleashed by Russia against Ukraine, there was no question of a conciliatory view of the catastrophe. At the same time, being in Japan at a great distance from the war, I felt that I could not afford not to show an equidistantly diverse experience of living the loss of a sense of home, its fragility ... My task was to create a multifaceted experience, to enable the viewer to hear the polyphony of voices, to feel connected. Japan was once an aggressor country and a victim country at the same time, so I turned to the practice of a multi-vector view, understandable in Japan.
The war began on February 24, and the Dom. Dym. Dom exhibition opened on June 16. This multimedia exhibition was assembled quickly, as events unfolded, but the theme of "home" had been on my mind for some time. I began working on it at the beginning of the pandemic in January 2020, when the world was facing uncertainty and change. I felt a need for introspection and a desire to answer the question: what is home?
The result was a collection of my diary entries, interviews, and a series of photographs of fragments of an old house that held personal significance for me and evoked memories of my childhood in Ukraine.
On the eve of the war, February 23 was the last day of a calligraphy exhibition in Moscow focused on the theme of "smoke". The exhibition was attended by calligrapher Natalya Toropitsyna, with whom I have a long history of collaboration. She was also a participant in a project I supervised in 2021, "...don't be afraid", which explored the importance of political expression. I remember a series of graphics depicting white smoke streaming across a black background, and this image became closely connected to the first bombs falling on Ukraine.
It was at this moment that the name "Dom. Dym. Dom" was born.
At the end of March I learned about the work of Alena Tolkacheva, an artist and friend of Natalya Toropitsyna who was hiding from bombings in Kiev and creating a series of amulets: storks, embroidery patterns, and flowers from the national flag. The works of Alena and Natalya were exhibited opposite each other.
I also discovered the pre-war work of Belarusian artist Ilya Erashevich, who was exploring how memories of family feasts and tastes create a sense of home. Ilya has been involved in the Belarusian protest movement since 2020 and has created protest performances and participated in the "...don't be afraid" project. He cannot return to Belarus under the current regime, so for him, home is a place of exile.
The war in Ukraine led to a flow of refugees into European countries, and documentary photographer Kazuma Obara documented this in his project "Platform on the border", which showed the experiences of refugees who had lost their homes and stability. As soon as Kazuma returned to Japan, I invited him to participate in the exhibition.
Alongside established artists, the exhibition also featured a series of works by a young artist from Poltava, Ukraine. The war democratizes everything, destroying and killing indiscriminately. In this context, the hierarchy of artistic achievement is irrelevant, and what matters is the strength and clarity of the artist's voice in the moment. This influenced the selection process for the exhibition.
After the release of terrible testimonies from Mariupol, an artist's work went viral on the internet. The artist depicted the silhouettes of people going about their daily activities against the backdrop of destroyed buildings and bombed-out apartments, showing the daily lives of the dead. The audience chose this series for the exhibition, and all that remained was to find the artist. She turned out to be Victoria Krokhina, a first-year student at the Yuri Kondratyuk Poltava University, who was taking care of her two younger sisters while her parents were in the army.
Ilya Babikov, an ikebana master from the Sogetsu school, created a composition of objects related to the concept of home: a teapot, burnt bamboo, melted iron plates, and fragments from a construction set in the colors of the Ukrainian flag. The ikebana was placed in a takanoma recess, a design element of a traditional Japanese home where ikebana is displayed and a calligraphy scroll is hung. A scroll with calligraphy by Natalia Toropitsina was hung above the ikebana, asking visitors the question: "Home. What is this?"
Visitors were invited to answer this question by writing their responses on a card and placing it in a green box. This participation was an important element of the exhibition, and the attempt to answer this fundamental question was perhaps the most valuable takeaway for visitors to the Dom. Dym. Dom exhibition.
The exhibition was held at the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. The students under Prof. Numano's supervision were very much involved in the preparation of the exhibition.
It seems to me that the intersection of the contexts of educational institutions and art projects is very important right now. The war took us all out of the comfort zone of our disciplines. I would like to introduce more feelings and personal experiences of the topic by students into the methodicalness of the academic space. And the white cube of exhibition spaces is too white and sterile to contain the complexity and layering of the moment. I want the involvement of the viewer, participatory practices, and this is possible in educational institutions. The place determines a lot and I am very grateful to the TUFS for not just providing a place, but for their full cooperation.
December 14, 2022
General Producer Numano Kyoko / 企画統括 沼野恭子
Coordinator Yamada Satoko / コーディネーター 山田智子
Exhibition Architect Viktorija Makauskaite / アーキテクト ヴィクトリア・マカウスカイテ
Curator Lena Aframova / キュレーター レーナ・アフラーモワ
Katagai Rio / 片貝里桜
Aoki Yuta / 青木優太青木優太
Ikeda Shima / 池田志麻
Osoegawa Shogo / 小副川将剛
Saito Natsumi / 齊藤夏美
Soeda Otoha / 添田乙羽
Manabe Yukiko / 真部友希子
Yamaguchi Haruka / 山口晴夏
Kimura Mamiko / 木村真巳子