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Koki Tanaka: Potters and Poets

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This exhibition by artist Koki Tanaka explores the idea of temporary creative collaborations.

Its two featured projects—A Poem Written by 5 Poets at Once (First Attempt) and A Pottery Produced by 5 Potters at Once (Silent Attempt) are part of a larger series in which Tanaka assembles strangers with a common profession or avocation and asks them to work together simultaneously to create new work. The projects are represented through documentation, primarily video.

For the first work, Tanaka brought together Japanese poets who write in different styles. The poets, seated at a small round table, write verses, exchange ideas, think and write quietly, pen to paper, no computers in sight. They edit and add to each other’s work, read lines aloud, and talk about the processes of writing, in some cases talking around tensions and unspoken disagreements.

For the second, Chinese potters sit around a pottery wheel and form clay into vessels using an assortment of techniques and tools. At times they work together, at other times they ask one potter to take the lead, and sometimes they disagree with the next steps they should take. The resulting vessels are on display as part of the exhibition.

Tanaka’s interest in human relationships, activism, history, and community comes through in these subtle, humorous, unscripted works. He says, “To do something collaboratively is an ethical proposition….What is documented here is a kind of social sculpture, and as such it is also a document of the failure of that process.”