Takamatsu Contemporary Art Annual vol.02 Gifts and Exchange P-68, 82

Kaoru Hirano — Returning the favour of the crane: A reversal
by Yoshitsugu Mohri

There is a folktale of a rescued crane using its own feathers to weave as an act of appreciation; I wonder what on earth has been done for Hirano as she is endlessly labouring to unravel threads. Who is it for?
Her work is of deconstructing objects (often clothes) to its components, for example, threads, and reconstructing them. Her subject is not just anything, it should be something someone has worn or possessed — in the case of clothes, secondhand clothes would be used. Previously, in relation to her practice, Hirano had spoken about “giving death” (by taking away the clothes' function). As new things have not started living yet, Hirano does not use them. Usually, when a product is used, its market value is lost or decreases. However, when clothes are used, they are given another value, one that accumulates and is branded with preciousness — an accumulation that is rearranged as it is unravelled, revealing an appearance like another creature.
The artist's imagination quietly moves towards the daily lives and memories of those who used to wear the clothes. The threads are released from their original function, rearranged and united. Presented in a space, the work starts to speak of a new life. Over time, the traces are tinged with vitality, returning to this world. Such a feeling of “rebirth” has been in Hirano's past works, yet together with a frequently observed wittiness and fascination with deconstruction itself. Via New York to Berlin where she has been residing in recent years, the feeling of something not visible being there has further increased, that is to say, it seems that the centre of gravity has been shifting towards giving life rather than death.
Since the artist herself has explained the intention and background of untitled -Berliner Family- (p. 82), the work exhibited this time, I will only give a summary of it. These are portraits of a family in Berlin. The artist had looked for a family that had been living in East Berlin for generations and was given their clothes. In this family, the grandmother (whose clothing is a negligee) was born before the Berlin wall was constructed; the father (the shirt) while the wall was there; and the daughter (the polo shirt and skirt) after the wall fell. The clothes, whose original owners are this three-generation family, have travelled here to Takamatsu in Japan by an uncanny coincidence, quietly resting in the exhibition space. However, on closely observing the intricate connections of the threads — strongly affected by gravity vertically and the flow of air horizontally — they are always swaying subtly, as if alive. Each is close to the height of the ceiling, such that one would look up, giving a sense of dignity and sublimity. At the same time, coloured by the soft glow worn within, the light figure bears gentleness and frailty.
It is interesting that in Hirano's artist talk, she mentioned that according to the initial plan, she was going to make the work from the grandmother's, mother's and daughter's clothes, but decided to use the father's clothes instead of the mother's because she thought it would express the notion of “family” more strongly in that way. Initially, for her early works, from using things that she herself wore, an aspect of self-portraiture was strongly featured. In fact, for many of her later works, women's clothes were unravelled. Though not of hers, it seems as if she has been layering herself harmoniously onto anonymous portraits. However this time, she chose to include clothes from other known individuals including men. “Families” are created and connected when strangers meet. It is not so much that the appearance changes drastically because of men's clothes. It is not about appearances here, but rather, by showing the time and space they lived in, it is an effort to have us first face the “distance” of a stranger. From an intimate thing to an unknown one, then to an intimate thing again. The artist here, and us too, find gifts from the things that one has not known for long, taking the opportunity to accept them.
That is to say, in this work, through the clothes as personal objects, Hirano identifies with particular lives, facing a society and history of endlessly connected individuals. The complex and harsh reality related to individuals, nations and ethnicity, is approached with material of easily damaged threads. They bear danger and warmth which would creep into the viewers' minds. On receiving such gifts of old clothes accompanied by irreplaceable value, she unravels them like slowly spinning the owners' lives in reverse. It is also to return the favour in her own way, to those now living and the next generation.
On 11th March last year, Hirano was in Berlin. However, the artist, who was born in Nagasaki and lives in today’s turbulent period still continues to experience 3/11. In her display, people 's daily lives are picked up and woven in a careful and sustained manner. The earthquake and tsunami caused mass destruction, and the end point of the nuclear accident is yet unseen. In this unreal reality, she tries more than ever to make “memory” and “history” major themes. While staying in Germany with a society different from that of her homeland and living with various people, I wonder how she will continue her practice. This time, there is a work installed in a sloped area outside the exhibition space — untitled -Berliner Flag-. Reaching 7 metres, it always waves in the flow of air. At the first sight, one would not quite know what it is. However, viewed from an angle, one would realise that it is a flag with the design of a bear. The flag, a symbol of society and history, is unravelled with such simplicity by Hirano's pair of hands. In their lightness, one can see the hope that leads to tomorrow.

Translated by Ryotaro Hoshino and Magdalen Chua

平野薫 ー鶴の恩返し・リバース

 今回の出品作<untitled -Berliner Family->の制作意図や経緯は作者自らが記しているので、ここでは概要のみ述べる。これらはベルリンの家族の「肖像」で、東ベルリンに代々住む家族を探し、衣類を譲り受けたものである。この家族の祖母(衣類はネグリジェ)はベルリンの壁が出来るより前に、父(シャツ)は壁がある間に、娘(ポロシャツとスカート)は壁がなくなった後に生まれている。この三代の家族を元の持ち主とするその衣服たちは、不思議な縁でここ日本の高松まで旅をし、展示室の中で静かにたたずんでいる。しかしよく見ると繊細な糸のつながりは、縦方向には引力の影響を、横方向には空気の流れの影響を強く受け、生きているように常に微かに揺れている。それぞれの高さは天井近くまであって見上げるようなかたちとなり、ある種の威厳や崇高を感じさせる。と同時に柔らかな光をその内部にまとって色づく軽やかな姿は、優しさとはかなさをもたらしている。
 昨年の3月11日、平野はその時ベルリンにいた。しかし長崎に生まれ、時代が激動するまさに今日を生きているこの作家もまた、3.11を経験し続けている。彼女の表現は人々の日々の生活を持続的に丹念に拾い編み上げるものだ。地震と津波による巨大な崩壊、未だ収束が見えない原発事故。これら非現実的な現実の中で、今まで以上に「記憶」や「歴史」を主要なテーマとしようとする彼女は、故国とは異なるドイツの社会に滞在し多様な人々と生活する中で、どのように制作を続けるだろうか。今回、展示室の外のスロープの空間に設置された作品が一点あった。<untitled -Berlinr Flag->である。7mにもなるそれは空気の流れに常に揺らめき、一見すると何かよく分からないが角度をつけて眺めると、熊のデザインを持った旗であることが知れる。社会や歴史の象徴である旗を、これほどにシンプルに解く平野の両手の軽やかさに、明日へと続く希望が見える。

by Kaoru Hirano

I focus on someone's presence that remains on clothes. I unravel old clothes into threads which are rearranged and revived as a new form. By doing so, the figure of the owner who had been wearing the clothes, emerges. I have been using this method to make works.
I pull out threads, one by one, from old clothes and rearrange them. By this endless repetitive movement, the empty shell whose owner is not there gradually disappears, recalling the memory which is worn again. Even though clothes fundamentally have the part of being worn, as a result of this rearrangement, they become an entity that wears the owner's presence.
Clothes that wear the owner's presence are there as if they were the owner. However, what is there is not the owner's body; it is like presence and memory that the eye cannot see, sometimes speaking more eloquently about the owner than the owner himself or herself does. It speaks to each viewer's heart.
Threads pulled out from old clothes have been tinged with all these, like — wearing, tailoring and being worn by someone. I assume this is the reason a figure like this emerges. Each of the threads remembers all occurrences.
By using the method described earlier, the exhibited work, "untitled - Berlin's family" focuses on a family living in the city of Berlin which has a history of its east and west being split by the Wall from 1961 to 1989.
I moved to Berlin in 2009 and I currently live in the former East Berlin. Beside my apartment is where the wall used to be. Every day I step over the wall to the former West Berlin to go shopping. There is also the Berlin Wall Memorial a few minutes away on foot where one can see the existing Berlin Wall. This room near the former East-West border probably had someone living in it too, during the period of separation.
The scar of history remains in the city which still changes every day and while I live in it, I wish to introduce Berlin's history in my own work. In general, it is not easy to see an individual existence from a historical point of view. By focusing on one family (individual) living in Berlin, I thought that an expression, to sense the person living there and even think about history, could be possible.
First, I looked for a family who had been living in Berlin for 3 generations or more. Contrary to my expectations that I could probably quickly find one if I asked acquaintances, I received several responses saying that they did not know any family living in Berlin for so many years and I almost gave up. I then found that a friend called Florian Goldmann was from East Berlin, and was made an offer of his family's clothes. Goldmann's family has been living in East Berlin's Prenzlauer Berg district for a long time. The grandmother, father, and daughter, all three were born and grew up here. Though it is now a fashionable area where young people gather, during the former East Berlin, it was a gloomy area where dilapidated buildings stood. Though born in the same place, three people have lived through different generations in the city transformed by the Wall.
I selected each piece of clothing from three closets. Thread by thread, the clothes I brought back were gradually unravelled and united, slowly retracing three lives. Over time, the figures of the family from Berlin emerge and they start to speak their story.

Translated by Ryotaro Hoshino and Magdalen Chua



 出展作品「untitled -Berlin's family-」 は、前述の手法を用いながら、1961年から1989年まで壁により東西を分断された歴史を持つ都市ベルリンに住む、ひとつの家族に焦点を当てた作品である。
 まず私は、三世代以上ベルリンに住む家族を探した。知人に聞けばすぐに見つかるだろうという私の思惑とは逆に、ベルリンに古くから住む家族は知らないという返事をいくつかもらい諦めかけた。その時Florian Goldmannという友人が東ベルリン出身であることを知り、彼の家族から衣服を提供してもらうことになった。Goldmann家は、東ベルリンのプレンツラウアーベルグという地域に古くから住んでいる。祖母、父、娘の三人は共にここで生まれ育った。現在は若者が集まる華やかなエリアであるが、東ベルリン時代は老朽化した建物が並ぶ薄暗いエリアであった。同じ地に生まれながらも、三人は壁により変貌する街の中で、それぞれの時代を生きてきたのである。

© Kaoru HIRANO