Sun, Jan 25, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Curating cross-cultural identity

Japanese-Taiwanese curator Nobuo Takamori discusses the story behind I Don’t Belong, an exhibition that explores identity, belonging and traversing multiple cultures

By Dana Ter  /  Staff Reporter

Kim In-sook, Between Two Koreas and Japan, (2008).

Photo: Dana Ter, Taipei Times

Taiwan’s art scene is in many ways the artistic vanguard of Chinese history and culture — established galleries like Tina Keng (耿畫廊) and Lin & Lin (大未來林舍畫廊) frequently exhibit works by prominent Taiwanese and Chinese artists. However, some of the younger galleries like Galleria H (恆畫廊) — a chic and intimate space devoted to contemporary art on Xinsheng South Road – has been seeking to expand its scope to include artists from outside the Chinese-speaking world, as well as showcasing artwork that addresses messier themes like cross-cultural identity, multiculturalism and belonging.

Their current exhibition, I Don’t Belong (我不屬於), reflects Japanese-Taiwanese curator Nobuo Takamori’s personal struggle with figuring out his own place as a mixed-race polyglot in Taiwanese society.

PERSONAL ANGLE

“Japanese was my first language, then I learned Taiwanese (Hoklo), Mandarin and English, but now, Japanese is my weakest language,” Takamori says to me in English, flustered and confused, as if he were still trying to make sense of it.

The exhibition features the works of six female artists from around Asia, all handpicked by Takamori. Each of their works explores the overarching concept of finding one’s place as an expatriate and/or a multicultural, multilingual person in a modern urban setting.

“It was a tricky selection process since I am a male curator choosing works by female artists,” Takamori says.

Takamori did not initially intend for the exhibition to be composed entirely of works by women. Rather, he set out looking for artwork that had a personal storytelling element. It so happened that all the artists he chose were female.

“A lot of art galleries are focused more on the grand scale and bigger conceptual issues like globalization,” Takamori says. “But I feel that the best way to touch the viewer is through personal storytelling.”

Exhibition Notes

What: I Don’t Belong (我不屬於)

Where: Galleria H (恆畫廊), 12-1, Ln 58, Xinsheng S Rd, Taipei City (台北市新生南路一段58巷12-1號), tel: (02) 3322-2553

When: Until Feb. 15. Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 1pm to 7pm

Admission: Free

On the net: www.facebook.com/galleriaheng


He adds that “there are many artists who are talented in telling the female narrative — they don’t necessarily need to be ... female.”

The inspiration for I Don’t Belong started three years ago, when Takamori says he was “compelled to find out more about people similar to me.”

He joined a research project at Taipei’s Academia Sinica (中央研究院) on the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) expulsion of Japanese citizens living in Taiwan in the late 1940s. Although many of these people were born and raised in Taiwan, they were repatriated to a “homeland” which they knew very little of.

This resonated with Takamori who had artist friends with Japanese citizenship but grew up in Taiwan and were having problems finding visa sponsorship to allow them to continue living and creating art here.

An increasing number of “global citizens” face similar issues today. Growing up in multiple countries or in countries that are ethnically heterogeneous, these people exist between worlds and may not have allegiance to any one nation. The country — or countries — which they consider to be “home” may not be the same as what their passport states.

When translated into art, the results are simultaneously beautiful and bizarre. Images and ideas are not what they seem and it’s the subtleties that encapsulate what it really means to be a citizen of the world — seemingly fitting in but nevertheless always standing out.

IN BETWEEN FANTASY AND REALITY

Closest to Takamori’s experience is that of Korean-Japanese artist Kim In-sook. Her photographs of students at Korean international schools in Japan reflects the identity crisis she faced growing up in Osaka with her paternal roots being from North Korea.

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