Critics’ Picks

Meiro Koizumi, Human Opera XXX, 2007, color video, 17 minutes. Installation view.

Meiro Koizumi, Human Opera XXX, 2007, color video, 17 minutes. Installation view.

Tokyo

Meiro Koizumi

Mori Art Museum
6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-Ku Roppongi Hills Mori Tower 52/53F
July 25–November 8, 2009

Occupying two tiny areas in the bowels of the Mori’s vast Ai Weiwei survey, Meiro Koizumi’s project is modest but not insubstantial. The two video installations by Koizumi pack considerable emotional punch, predicated as they are on unraveling the dynamics of melodrama and then stitching them back together for full tragicomic effect. The sophistication of Koizumi’s work lies in its refusal to fall into smug self-satisfaction at exposing the superficiality of culturally constructed sentiment, opting instead to tease out clichés and see what gives them such purchase on human relationships.

Human Opera XXX, 2007, details Koizumi’s increasingly bizarre and irrelevant directorial interventions into the confessions of a man invited to tell a sad story on camera. That the protagonist manages to complete his tale of alcoholism and family breakdown with a hunk of bread in his mouth and a ridiculous cartoon on his face addresses both the power of recent visual culture’s confessional aesthetic and a genuine need to offload personal tragedy.

My voice would reach you, 2009, is more explicitly cinematic in its construction, featuring a man, standing in the street, engaged in what appears to be a long-overdue cell-phone conversation with his mother. The scene plays once as viewed from an outsider’s perspective, with the sound of the man’s words accompanied by a “touching” score, and again with the addition of the voices of confused call-center operators on the other end of the line responding to the script. Installed alongside real childhood photos of the actor with his mother and a letter written to her after her death, the work plays for laughs but retains remarkable emotional piquancy.