2000 Kai OZAWA Kojimachi Gallery
Approaching The Unknowable

 "There is one death which circulates in the language of possibility, of liberty...; and there is its double, which is ungraspable. It is what I cannot grasp, what is not linked to me by any relation of any sort. It is that which never comes and toward which I do not direct myself."
(M.Blanchot, The Space of Literature)

 With the art works entitled "a corridor of remembrance" or "land of meditation", what Motoi Yamamoto represents could be described as an unknowable realm in which the notion of death unfolds. These site-specific works, consisting of a massive quantity of bricks made of salt, piled up in layers together with rusty iron slabs, overwhelm the viewers in size and volume. Concealed by the slabs, one is not able to see the interior and depth of the edifice but a narrow path emerges from between the slabs. The path, which is too narrow for adults to go in to, gives a sense of a potency that demands a distinct physical response, as it leads to total darkness. It gives an interstice in the flux of time and space of everydayness in the present day, and embodies a sense of unconceivable and yet our physical instinct can respond to it. One might feel like going in to know what exists or happens in there; however one is destined to remain on the outside leaving it as an unknown space despite recognizing its existence. "There, there is, yet quite attainable."

 It could be said that this has much to do with the understanding of holistic death. In that, one can approach to death in awareness; however, from a certain point, one is deprived of an ability of discursive thinking. Therefore the annihilated being cannot grasp its own end. It cannot be conceived within a definitive point of coherent discourse. The darkness of the work simultaneously evokes interest and anxiety to know more. However, the onlooker has to bear the fact that the further he goes in the heavier the darkness becomes. In that he is exposed to inability of knowledge but an inner communication without discourse reduced to an unintelligible emotion. It is not too much to say that the void of image in the work represents the realm in which usual sense of knowing is dismantled.

 To realize his theme, Yamamoto employs salt as a material focusing on one of its properties, as purifying the body and soul. Furthermore, he presents it not as the object of the natural in the productive end as in the notions like "table salt" or "lightly salted crisps" but rather an indispensable material for every single being beyond time and space. Thus, the work appears to render a distinctive, effective, powerful image to encompass life and death in its whole entity.

 Such a perception of death could be seen as a counter towards its common understanding in the present day. With the works, Yamamoto calls it into question and attempts to unveil as well as reconsider the social tendency that idealizes the notion of death. In the society that has evolved throughout the 20th century, it is deemed that death has become the object sanctioned by public discourse, through the high level of intervention by social welfare systems, medical science etc., and estranged from its actual process. For instance, the concept of brain death creates a great controversy because it reveals the arbitrariness of the criteria for the decision of death. It is a creation of a living dead for the demand of organ transplants, and human death is acclaimed with the deprivation of personality caused by the cessation of the entire function of the brain, before the holistic destruction of the human body. In such a social context, Yamamoto is concerned with the dominant social inclination, which might blur the reality of death and put people off from considering "what death is all about".

 Yamamoto's works give a sense of a device that enables the viewers to be aware of what is thought to be unconceivable or what has been concealed and neglected by the society despite the fact that death has always been there. The void of an image in the darkness is a crack which induces the feeling of the unknowable beyond our everyday life. In that, one might be led to a sacred sphere through the path of salt.

Kai Ozawa