Tomoko Sawada – School Days



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MART curators Matthew Nevin & Ciara Scanlan, in conjunction with Japan World Exposition 1970 Commemorative Fund, are delighted to present the exhibition School Days by famed Japanese Artist Tomoko Sawada.

Preview: Thursday January 12th 2017 @ 6pm

Location: The MART Gallery, 190A Rathmines Rd, Lwr, Dublin 6.

Runs to: Feb 24th 2017

Open: Tues-Sat: 1-6pm 

In Conversation: Tomoko Sawada – An interview with the Artist & Curators.

Photo Gallery: MART on Facebook.

TOMOKO SAWADA (b. 1977 Kobe, Japan) uses photography to explore the relationship between one’s inner life and outer image. Sawada’s works borrow compositional devices from familiar photographic formats such as the school portrait, weddings, and fashion photography, restaging them in a satirical mode to lay bare their various stereotypes and assumptions. Contemporary portraiture can communicate various attitudes towards identity, status, individualism, time, place, culture and other connected ideas of the self. Since the late ‘90s the artist has used her performative self-portrait as a means of opening up discussion or as an enlightening tool for personal discovery, evoking the essence of ‘real’ people within a controlled environment. Sawada’s work has a sense of familiarity, comforting but also unsettling in its realism and closeness. The digital manipulation of her work feels real and her characters, believable. All of these elements culminate in a photographic document of Japanese society and the individuals that encapsulate it.

Sawada’s filmwork ‘MASK’ {2006}, a performance to camera, is projected in large format demonstrating the artist’s ability to create striking transformations of her own identity. Her own facial integrity reconstructs through 60 altering faces, as she peels off each new personality one after another. Sawada explores the relationship between one’s inner life and outer perception from society, experimenting and highlighting the artist’s skill as a costume, make up, technical and theatrical artistry of identity manufacturing. The work acts as an exploration of social, cultural and personal assessment in a contemporary society that pushes female characteristic falsehood and stereotypes on a global interconnected society.

Courtesy of MEM, Tokyo, Sawada presents her 2004 work ‘School Days’, through a series of classically framed photographs depicting several large group class portraits. Sawada impersonates hundreds of students in the series along with the typical teacher either side of each group. Wearing identical school uniforms Sawada successfully creates a large volume of individual characters by altering each person’s attire, accessories, makeup, stance and facial expression slightly, creating a series of prevailing students. The series references a tradition of bi yearly photographs taken seasonally in school from Kindergarten right up to High School graduation in Japan. Sawada set out to homogenize both her education and teenage personalities, showcasing elements of times in her own and fellow students lives of taking a risk of breaking strict school regulations and attempting to become someone different from her own self.

Also on view is selection of Sawada’s 2001 work ‘OMIAI♡’. In this photography series Sawada transformed her own personality, character and body through the aid of costumes, makeup and wigs to explore the traditional Japanese custom of ‘OMIAI’: a tradition in which individuals are introduced to each other through staged, professional photographs for the possibility of marriage, pending approval of their respective families. Either partner attempting to analyse who she/he is. Sawada intentionally both mimics and represents several stereotypical female identities, pushing the viewer to see not just a figure, but framing these new identities that sit between fantasy and reality.

Sawada has been a recipient of the Grand Prize at the Canon New Cosmos of Photography, the ICP Infinity Hyogo Arts Award and the prestigious Kimura Ihei Memorial Photography Award.

Exhibitions {Selection}: MEM / Tokyo, Pace/MacGill / New York, Rose Gallery / LA, Kulturhuset / Stockholm, Colette / Paris, Fundacio Joan Miro / Barcelona, MAK / Vienna, Gallerie P / Brussels, Culturgest / Lisbon, Musee de ‘LElyssee / Lausanne, Museum of Contemporary Photography / Chicago, Kawaskaki City Museum, Museum of Modern Art New York, IMMA / Dublin, The Getty Museum / LA.

Permanent Collections {Selection}:  The National Museum of Modern Art / Kyoto, The Getty Museum / LA, Maison Europeenne de la Photographie / Paris, The Museum of Modern Art / New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art / USA, MAK / Wien Austria, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art / USA. Hyogo prefectural Museum of Art / Japan, National Gallery of Art / USA, SAMMLUNG VERBUND / Austria.

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Nina Fischer & Maroan el Sani





Internationally respected, Berlin based artists Nina Fischer and Maroan el Sani exhibited at MART Gallery, with support from the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Goethe Institut, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen  and German Embassy. 

Including an introductory talk and participatory workshop with the artists, and seminars in association with the National College of Art and Design and the Institute of Art Design and Technology Dun Laoghaire. 

Curated by Barry Kehoe (IMMA)

October 2014 

NINA FISCHER and MAROAN EL SANI

This exhibition curated by Barry Kehoe in the MART Gallery brings the work of Nina Fischer and Maroan el Sani to Dublin for the first time. The two Berlin based artists have been working together since the early 1990s documenting modern ruins, forgotten sites that remain as traces refusing to disappear and communities that resist the pressures of being overpowered by problematic urban development and catastrophe. They also explore the influence of cinematic memory on collective memory in locations where, as film locations in cinematic narratives, the cinematic memory has superseded local histories and narratives. Their art works are part of a wider tradition in socially engaged art practice that is both an effective and proactive form of resistance to tendencies of forgetting and amnesia embedded in urban cultural practices, architectural development and the economic structures of the contemporary world.

Though they are not psycho-geographers per say, they share much in common with modes of subversive resistance to the changing urban environment found in Baudelaire’s flâneur, Guy Debord’s psycho-geographer, and Freud’s ideas of the uncanny. Their explorations of various sites around the world highlight discrepancies between official perspectives, national histories, urban policy and city planning that don’t recognise or may even be trying to consign to oblivion local knowledge, hidden histories and the lived experiences of counter cultures. Acting as detectives and sometimes almost in the role of political or social activist they uncover “blind spots” in the narratives of site specific histories, always conscientious of their position as artist in any given location or community where they find inspiration for their work.

From 2007 to 2010 the artists were Associate Professors at the School of Art and Design in Sapporo City University in Japan. During this time they continued making works based on their understanding of “blind spots.” These included the two works selected for the current exhibition: Spelling Dystopia (HD,16:9, 2 channel video installation, colour, stereo, 17:25 min. 2008/9) and Narita Field Trip, (HD, colour, stereo, 30 min. 2010).

Narita Field Trip looks at how two Tokyo teenagers deal with the experience of encountering a farming community that is fighting against the expansion of Narita airport, a development that threatens to swallow and destroy their farms, homes, livelihood and community.

Spelling Dystopia, is a film that explores a community’s memory of the abandoned coal mining centre, Hashima Island, once the most densely populated place on earth, now known only as the backdrop for the teen horror movie Battle Royale (2000) and as a home for the Bond villain in Skyfall (2012).

More recently the artists returned to Japan to make Spirits Closing Their Eyes, (2012) and I Live in Fear – After March 11 (2013) the latter of which was shown in the IFI by the Experimental Film Club as part of the current exhibition programme. These most recent works “focus on the current physical and psychological state of emergency which oscillates between actual threat and subtle changes in everyday habits,” since the catastrophe of the Fukushima Nuclear disaster.

These art works that the artists have made in Japan also touch on the tensions that arise between the forces of globalisation and specific local narratives.  These tensions have implications for all citizens of the world. The works that have grown from specific sites, events and communities can also have universal consequences that resonate and can affect the daily lives of people in distant and far off places on the other side of the planet.

At the former West Congress in 2013 where both Nina Fischer and Maroan el Sani were participating artists one of the main public lectures was given by Homi Bhabha, Director of the Humanities Centre at Harvard University. He delivered a keynote lecture that began with the idea of the cosmopolitan (the citizen of the world) and he spoke of Kant’s idea of hospitality and the ethics surrounding how we should behave to strangers.  He described the way in which, as human beings, we share the planet and because we live on a globe if we take a position where we are moving away from a person we are in fact also moving towards them in the opposite direction.

This anecdote highlights something of the reality of being part of this world and the problematic position of avoidance or disregard toward any of our neighbours local or global.  It is a way of illustrating that no matter how far we feel removed from many of the others with whom we share the planet we are ultimately and profoundly connected to one another.

Artists:                   Nina Fischer and Maroan el Sani

Curator                  Barry Kehoe

Assist. Curator:    Katharine Maurer

Producers:           Ciara Scanlan and Matthew Nevin

Technician:         Barry Lynch

Graphic Design:     Andrew Behan

AV:                             Eidotech

Sponsors:             MART, The Arts Council, Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, The Goethe Institut Dublin, IADT Dunlaoghaire, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin City Council, IFI, Experimental Film Club, NCAD.