Critics’ Picks

Taro Shinoda, Lunar Reflection Transmission Technique, 2007–2009, wooden platform, fabric, loudspeakers, video. Installation view.

Taro Shinoda, Lunar Reflection Transmission Technique, 2007–2009, wooden platform, fabric, loudspeakers, video. Installation view.

Boston

Taro Shinoda

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
25 Evans Way
November 5, 2009–January 31, 2010

Taro Shinoda’s video installation Lunar Reflection Transmission Technique, 2007–2009, rests on a seemingly hokey premise: the ubiquitous, universal presence of the moon, and its role (both visible and metaphoric) in uniting disparate geographies. The striking, even mesmerizing simplicity of the piece dispels even the most cynical criticism of its pretext, however. Over its forty-five-minute course, the video intercalates long takes of the moon’s surface with shots of unidentified and undistinguished cityscapes. The attendant sound track––a recording of a measured, tinny drip of water––unites these different images through its consistent, minimal pulse. A raised area inside the gallery serves as a viewing space and derives from Shinoda’s study of traditional Japanese gardens, in which such platforms serve as circumscribed zones for meditation and contemplation.

The work repays such contemplation. The slow swell of the moon across the screen––each time like a moonrise, but up close––never gets old. Having attached a cardboard tube to a video camera, Shinoda managed to capture some spectacular imagery with his homespun telescope. In fact, it’s often unclear whether it is the moon moving across a fixed frame or, conversely, Shinoda’s lens that pans across its surface. At times, the black screen––invaded only at its edge or corner by a semicircle of white––approaches a kind of post-painterly abstraction in motion. For a while, in any case, the extraplanetary eccentricities of the moon (think of the word lunatic) form the axis of our visual and existential attentions.

The moon’s smoldering surfaces seem not so much interrupted by the subsequent images of nocturnal cityscapes as matched by them. Atmospheric undulations (weather? wind?) cause the lights of city streets and airport hangars to flicker and sputter with a faintness reminiscent of heavenly bodies. The celestial sublime and the (sub)urban ugly seem not so different, in the end. It is only with the video’s credits that we learn the identity of these anonymous cities as Tokyo; Limerick, Ireland; Istanbul; and Boston (where Shinoda completed his work while in residence at the Gardner Museum). It is at the Gardner that Shinoda’s work will reach a kind of conceptual crescendo on December 31, when the piece will be projected in the museum’s courtyard on the occasion of the full moon and the New Year.