Critics’ Picks

Meiro Koizumi, Defect in Vision, 2011, still from a two-channel video installation, 12 minutes 9 seconds.


Meiro Koizumi

Annet Gelink Gallery
Laurierstraat 187-189
March 24–May 12

The people of Japan very rarely saw their emperor—that is, until the country lost the Second World War and the Americans thrust Hirohito and his family into the public eye. The earliest result of this policy was a photo series in Life magazine, “Sunday at Hirohito’s: Emperor poses for first informal pictures.” Suddenly the world was confronted with an emperor who visited “ordinary” Japanese people and went for walks in the garden with his wife. The island nation’s god had become a man.

But did that matter? The main question posed by Meiro Koizumi’s exhibition “Defect in Vision” is how much influence the eye, or visibility, has on a person’s notions of the world. A book based on the Life series is on display, as are photographs of the emperor over which Koizumi draws brains and other organs, emphasizing Hirohito’s “humanization.” A still more important element, however, is the large two-channel video installation Defect in Vision, 2011, which depicts a Japanese man and woman in traditional dress having a meal. They discuss the war (“There will be a full-scale attack on Americans in Okinawa”), the use of kamikaze pilots, and their desire to visit a hot springs resort in the mountains after the conflict is over. Only gradually does it become apparent that both are blind—and that changes everything. But what their sightlessness signifies, and what it meant to the Japanese people to be led during the war by an invisible ruler who was a god to them, are questions left unanswered by Koizumi. The fact that the blind diners often handle their chopsticks and food awkwardly is no more than a subtle hint. Meanwhile, Koizumi brings home the importance of the gaze, of every glance—and of the crucial way in which our memories and worldviews are formed by the act of looking.

Translated from Dutch by David McKay.