Archive for October 30th, 2014

Hiromi Tango

hiromi_tango_01In May I went to hear Hiromi Tango speak at her exhibition Dust Storm at the Australian Centre for Photography ( Hiromi describes herself as a performance artist, but there were many aspects to the work she presented.

hiromi_tango_02The entire gallery space was painted in a carefully chosen colour, a yellow-orange reminiscent of a dust storm that enveloped Sydney and other parts of NSW and Queensland in 2009. I remember that eerie, suffocating light very well, especially a visit to an elderly lady “voluntarily” locked in a psych hospital. Hiromi Tango’s strong memory is of wrapping herself in the tendrils of soft, wrapped sculptures she had made, and performing a slow, almost static, dance in a rose garden.

hiromi_tango_03For Hiromi this was the beginning of a process of healing and self-exploration. This exhibition was her reflection on that cathartic process. I’m not going to go into any of the information she shared with the small audience at the gallery. I want to focus on the range of work and the immersive experience she provided. There were layers and layers, almost obsessively repeating the events of the dust storm from different angles and using different senses.

hiromi_tango_04A high definition video of her performance in the rose garden was on a loop in a side room. The sound track filled the gallery with the muffled noise of the wind that day. On another wall was a series of stills, printed and framed.

hiromi_tango_05Neon lights gave pointers to the theme in colour and text.
hiromi_tango_06In the centre of the larger gallery space was another light installation, surrounded by a heap of soft sculptures and hand-made books. Hiromi sat in the pile, clambered over it, pulled up items, yarn balls trailing, and demonstrated her wrapping. She was so intent on immersing us and herself in the experience, in engaging every sense, that she sprinkled mandarin oil over the mound and around the rooms before beginning her performance. She painted her face with yellow-orange as she spoke.

hiromi_tango_07Many of the items around had been included in earlier exhibitions and performances, or created as part of them. For example I think she once spent time in a shop window, and communicated with passers-by through shared notes. All of these she collected, saved, stored – and now she was finding new meaning and purpose in them.

hiromi_tango_08I thought Hiromi was brave and thoughtful. She shared herself and her experiences, risked herself, but often paused in thought before speaking to make sure she protected others in her life. Hiromi wanted to honour the gifts of others and her own past – the notes, old photographs, memorabilia – and she had finally found a way by binding some, and by tearing some into small pieces that became part of this new experience, this performance.

hiromi_tango_09My thoughts have returned to Hiromi’s performance and exhibition many times since. It forms part of my musing about what art is, and what I want my art to be. Hiromi’s work obviously includes textiles, drawing on their layers of meaning including the domestic, protection, containers of memories… The materiality of the textile is important – but it becomes one part of a whole, and of an ongoing journey.


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October 2014

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