Friday, September 21, 2007

Art Space News: Naomi Kasumi's MEM: Memory Memorial

Photo by Punchlist Design

Two parts of Naomi Kasumi's MEM: memory memorial installation series are on display at the Simmons Visual Arts Center at Brenau University. The exhibit deals with the artist's experience with having an abortion. "I know I am not alone in dealing with this experience", proclaimed the Seattle based Kasumi-- recalling the procedure and psychological aftermath.

Kasumi has stated that the creation of art is like a cathartic ritual experience. The Japanese-born installation artist stated that her process of grieving and healing began nine years ago after she, as a young college student, chose to abort a pregnancy-- "Coming from Japan, I have a different cultural background and perspective. Abortions are considered taboo and such events must be kept secret. Through my art, I found that I could share my concealed emotions and personal experiences in public. Sharing the truth of my experience with others..." Kasumi explained.

One part of the exhibit features 108 slip casts of Kasumi's hands, open and extended. Another part features 5,000 egg shells from which Kasumi removed the white and yolk-- a process that spanned the course of 18 months. The artist stated that visitors sometimes place a gift or message in the hands. In a sense, the audience builds upon the space that Kasumi has provided-- making the installation a very interactive experience that enforces positive dialogue.

Controversial themes, like abortion, are often viewed in a negative manner by onlookers and the media when it comes to artistic expression. However, Kasumi has had positive reactions in regards to her work. One would think that an installation like this would stir political debate, but the MEM: memory memorial installation has yet to polarize anyone. Viewers have focused on Kasumi's experience rather than politics when viewing the installation.

In my opinion, works like this are important because they allow people to see a different side of issues that are often the source of political bickering. MEM: memory memorial provides viewers-- no matter what their political agenda --with an experience that allows them to discuss a tough issue on common-ground. In a sense, Kasumi has made an aspect of her private life public in order to help others who might be dealing with the same struggle and to foster peaceful conversations about the issue of abortion.

What do you think about this exhibit and the intentions of the artist?

(The exhibit runs through October 7th at Brenau University's Simmons Visual Arts Center in Gainesville, Georgia.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin


Anonymous said...

what i saw was generic at looks like she's trying to gain attention with the whole abortion gimmick too.there's gotta be a more creative way to deal with her emotions.balls with red ribbons is just plain lame.

Balhatain said...

Those are not balls. Look closer! They are eggs. Eggs have long been used as a sign of fertility. You can trace that symbology throughout art history and in many cultures. In that sense, her art can be placed within the context of art history. Thus, it is valid as far as that is concerned.

I don't understand why she decided to use 5,000 though. I've read that there are 3,000 abortions in the US each day. Maybe that is what she is reflecting. I don't find the piece itself overly impressive visually, but I don't think that was her goal. I do find the way she handled it interesting. It is simple and sometimes simple can say more...

She is dealing with a hot issue in a manner that does not threaten the viewer. In that respect I have to admire her honesty and approach. I've seen a lot of work dealing with this theme that come off hostile.

It does not appear that she is 'attention seeking'. I think she is just expressing a form of personal narrative. She is sharing her experience in order to say, "It is OK to talk about it".

Anonymous said...

she is exploiting her abortion.there's not much doubt in my's pretty clever of her to do so.if she wasn't,she would have kept it quiet and found other ways to let off steam.maybe with symbolism.she's fake......well,even if she did have an abortion she should express the shame she feels.maybe do a self portrait of herself with a sword taking off her head.

Balhatain said...

I will assume that the two anonymous posts are from the same person due to similar sentence structure.

The severing of her own head would be a symbol of redemption. I don't believe Kasumi is looking for redemption or a form of sacrificial punishment with her work. She is confessing. There is a difference.

I don't feel that she is confessing a sin either. She is simply confessing to the choice. I don't believe she is saying that she was wrong for her choice-- she is simply confessing to it.

The importance of this piece can be discovered in the fact that confessing in this manner-- open, in public-- conflicts with her cultural upbringing. In that sense, she is brave.

By implication you suggest that a self-portrait must be of strict visual reference in regards to the human form, in this case how the artist appears in person-- that she must paint, draw, or sculpt a likeness of herself in order to truly express what she is conveying. That is a value judgment on your part. Those eggs can indeed be a self-portrait. However, I suppose that is just my opinion.

Anyone else care to offer their opinion?

Anonymous said...

I can't say it moved me.But I also feel the photo might not be doing it justice. For it doesn't capture the whole piece.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, I find any art that relies this heavily on a specific hot button issue to be very limited. I thought the same about the work by Sarah Maple that Brian posted a few weeks back who relies almost entirely on being both attractive and muslim.

It is a shame that Kasumi got so specific, because the open hands piece sounds like it could have multiple meanings to many people if it were more loosely focused on the pain of loss.

And on a really nit-picky note I have no idea why it took 18 months to clear out 5000 eggs, we blow out 200 in two weeks over easter. at that rate it should be 5-6 months at the most.


Anonymous said...

I think the art and the blog are tender and lovely. It's about time that the world supported the strength and courage of women.


Anonymous said...

That's a good article. I thought it was interesting that she kinda like blindfolded 2 of the eggs. I was wondering if one was supposed to be for her and the other for the baby.

Anonymous said...

It is a nice installation.
I rarely read the narrative for a visual piece.
I (like so many) either "get it"
or not. Installations are so often liken to expressionism paintings in that I take away MY impression, and enjoy the work or not.
I find the visual aesthetics of this work to be pleasing.
Thank you Ms. Kasumi.
Christopher Gulick

Anonymous said...

I'm not an artist; however, I am a pro-life activist, so of course this registers on my radar. Of course the artist herself does not say exactly how the abortion affected her, but it's obvious she feels a deep sense of loss and grief; empty eggs, symbolizing a barren womb and aborted rebirth. The open hands could mean many things; open to what? Open, to symbolize that she has dropped or lost something dear? Open to judgment for past wrongs? Open to whatever else life has in store? I suppose I would have to actually see the exhibit for a better opinion.

I think that every woman, whether she "feels sorry" for her abortion or not, is going to experience a deep and sincere sense of loss, guilt, shame and despair; even if it's repressed, it's there, and needs to be discussed. Those who look down on women who attempt to open themselves to free exchange simply don't understand how difficult it is to do so. Yes there are women who attempt to cash in on their past mistakes (I've known a few), but that does not mean that their contributions aren't valuable in the larger sense; they open the public forum to rational discourse and put a face on what is too often a faceless issue.

Anonymous said...

My opinion about this topic is just that. An opinion! Everyone has one. If people are disgusted by something then most likely they have never been in any situation remotely similar and they have no need to voice an opinion in an effort to change another persons method of thinking. Her art is beautiful and it demonstrates the artists ability to create a vision regardless of the implications...5000 egg shells, WOW!

Some people may say that Andy Warhol was not an artist because of his simplicity and lacadaisical attitude towards it but he did make art and he put himself on the line by saying that it was art and isn't that what makes us artists. The effort to produce a piece or installation that represents our thoughts that most people hide from the world.

Good for her!!! Her art is Beautiful.

Jon Griffin
Jon Griffin Art & Design

Anonymous said...

It any of you, especially those attacking Kasumi's art, knew anything about her, you would understand that this is neither a political statement nor a confession. Kasumi, who was raised in Japan and was greatly influenced by Buddhism as a child, is simply expressing the pain and grief she felt after losing her child. In Japanese Buddhism, this ritual is often called Mizuko Kuyo and is a way for women to reconcile their guilt or shame with their unborn child. Abortion has been legal in Japan since the Second World War, and no one is trying to change that.
Kasumi is simply sharing her artistic expression of the experience with the outside world. I think it's lovely and hope it invites dialogue and conversation about healing rituals in the West.

She does this ritual annually, but it's much more for herself than for anyone else. Unless you even have the remotest idea of what you're talking about, which, anonymous, you don't, please keep your offensive comments to yourself.