Past Exhibition

Koki Tanaka, Vulnerable Histories (A Road Movie)

October 30 – December 20, 2020

Art Sonje Center 2F

Koki Tanaka, Vulnerable Histories (A Road Movie)

Art Sonje Center is pleased to present Vulnerable Histories (A Road Movie), the first solo exhibition in Korea by Japanese artist Koki Tanaka. The centerpiece of the exhibition is the titular Vulnerable Histories (A Road Movie), a documentary film produced in 2018. Echoing the film’s organization, the exhibition is divided into five chapters, an epilogue, and an appendix, where visitors can view different part of the work as they move to different scenes in the chapters of the exhibition space. The film mainly focuses on a journey and conversation between two protagonists, a third-generation Zainichi Korean named Woohi and a Japanese-Swiss, Christian. Meeting for the first time in Tokyo, the two of them proceed toward different locations, particularly ones bearing painful memories of discrimination. They visit the sites of anti-Korean demonstrations and acts of hate speech against Zainichi Koreans and the place where Koreans were massacred at the time of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, due to the false rumor spread that Koreans might cause riots against the Japanese authorities. The motif for the work, in which the two characters begin to gain an understanding of one another through their conversation, is drawn from the film Before Sunrise (1995), but in addition to their conversation, the journey also incorporates lecture by sociologist and eyewitness accounts on Zainichi Korean history, while artist Koki Tanaka himself joins the dialogue. Intertwining stories about the small-scale lives of individuals with actual recollections of social and political situations, the work illustrates various issues of identity and complexities of conflict, raising questions about how we might be able to achieve understanding of one another.

In his diverse art practice spanning video, photography, site-specific installations and interventional projects, Tanaka visualizes and reveals the multiple contexts latent in the simplest of everyday acts. In his early object-oriented works, Tanaka experiments with ordinary objects to explore ways offering a possible escape from our everyday routine. Later in his works, Tanaka asking the participants to collectively navigate tasks that in and of themselves are out of the ordinary, he then documented behaviors that were unconsciously exhibited by people confronting unusual situations, such as one piece of pottery made by five potters and a piano played by five pianists simultaneously, seeking to reveal group dynamics in a micro-society and temporal community. Following the disaster on March 11. 2011 in Japan, Koki Tanaka has employed a variety of methods to produce works on the relationality that arises between human beings, there are what Tanaka calls “collective acts”: experiments of various sorts which still lack a fixed destination.

At a time when travel between countries has come to a stop and racial discrimination and conflict are intensifying due to the pandemic, the question of “How to live together?” is becoming at once more difficult and more urgent than ever. As an artist, Koki Tanaka pursues a form of artistic practice that is less about simply assessing reality and reaching conclusions about it than about using highly concrete situations as a basis for laying bare the complexity of reality – and thereby exploring what other means we could find when we face different issues of societies.
In late November, Koki Tanaka’s artist book with a collection of his own texts will be co-published by Art Sonje Center and a Japanese publisher, Bijutsu Shuppansha.

About the Artist
Koki Tanaka (b. Tochigi, Japan, 1975) lives and works in Kyoto. His art has been on view in numerous countries, including, most recently, at Palais de Tokyo (2020), Berlinale (2020), Aichi Triennale (2019) International Film Festival Rotterdam (2019), Busan International Film Festival (2019), Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst (2018), Kunsthaus Graz (2017), Skulptur Projekte Münster (2017), 57th Venice Biennale(2017), Deutsche Bank KunstHalle, Berlin (2015), Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2014). Tanaka was Japan’s official representative at the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013 and received Deutsche Bank’s Artist of the Year Award in 2015.

October 30 – December 20, 2020
Art Sonje Center 2F
Koki Tanaka
Organized by
Art Sonje Center
Curated by
Haeju Kim (Deputy director of Art Sonje Center)
Supported by
Arts Council Korea
Production Management by
Hyo Gyoung Jeon (Curator, Art Sonje Center)