Critics’ Picks




Tadasu Takamine

1-33-10-3F Higashi-Shinagawa, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo Floor 3
June 13, 2013–September 20, 2008

In his current solo exhibition, Tadasu Takamine turns his attention to the looming threat of a global energy crisis. Specifically, he focuses on the supercapacitor (a device capable of storing large amounts of electricity), positioning it as a potentially essential part of our future energy infrastructure, though it remains too expensive for broader commercial release.

Rather than dwell on the severity of the challenges that lie ahead, Takamine deliberately employs an aesthetically driven strategy to promote the invention. It seems that his aim is to raise awareness of the supercapacitor through artistic branding of the device. Accordingly, the style of the work on display varies, as if to appeal to as broad a demographic as possible. Throughout the pieces, the word SUPERCAPACITOR recurs, rendered in all manner of fonts and hues: One highly limited edition of silk-screen prints boasts a gold and brown pattern and color scheme reminiscent of Louis Vuitton’s luxury goods, while elsewhere, supercapacitor T-shirts have a more popular appeal, and an accordingly more affordable price tag. Takamine has even adorned many of the works with logos reminiscent of cartoon characters, giving this otherwise faceless device the kind of cute, anthropomorphic appeal that is so effective with Japanese consumers.

Precedents set by other artists trying to draw attention to a cause, such as Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s “War Is Over! If You Want It” billboard campaign in New York in 1969, make it hard to debate, or even measure, whether artists can really effect meaningful social change. Nevertheless, in spite of the limited social leverage that comes with working in a commercial gallery, Takamine knows his small audience well. The world may be a decade away from knowing whether the supercapacitor will have any long-term relevance, but either way, like the “War Is Over!” campaign, it is already clear that Takamine’s works are an inevitable product of contemporary anxieties.