Untruely, unmadly, shallowly in love

By JENNIFER PURVIS ~ The Japan Times


Daisuke Takeya went to New York to study art in 1989 and got thoroughly sick of being told by everybody and anybody that they loved him, in typically free and easy American style. On the other hand, he enjoyed the mispronunciation of his name Daisuke into Daisuki, meaning “I really like you” in Japanese and generally used more than the potent “ai shite-imasu” to express love.

This cultural gap, of being told he was loved at the drop of an American hat and hating it, and unwittingly being told in Japanese that he was loved every time someone used his name – and liking it – posed a conundrum for Takeya. It inspired him to create a multifaceted, mixed-media installation, using a juxtaposition of paintings and video to explore the complexities generated by the lexicon of ” love.” Minus the erotic, this show is about pure emotion, or rather, the words of pure emotion.

Takeya says he heard the expression “I love you” uttered to almost anyone, at any time, in the most banal of situations and thus rendered virtually meaningless. Americans might disagree, but at least to Takeya’s Japanese ears “I love you” had been neutered. It is this inanity of the oft-repeated expression, said with a lack of real feeling, that he brilliantly parodies in the wonderfully painted oil diptychs in the first gallery.

The blank-faced, strangely lit portraits glare out at the viewer, situated alongside the mannered and exquisitely painted cityscapes dominated by a looming sky, where perhaps the subject of the portrait lives. With works titled “Miki loves you” or “Richard loves you,” the viewer is left with a weird impression of falsity after a strange moment of being slightly fooled by the words, They have no real bearing on the work they title, part from naming the subject, who most likely does love somebody but you can be reasonably sure it is not you.

The videos in the next gallery echo the theme of the diptychs. One video, set in a tiny monitor, features about 100 people, shot from bared shoulders up, who one after the other repeat the words “I love you.”

Although it’s an attempt to neutralize any meaning from the expression, this appears to be surprisingly hard to de as we watch the difficulty many have in uttering the three magic words, which are often iterated with an amusingly embarrassed or a slightly twisted expression.

“I got about 100 people. I wanted about 200 people, but they were hard to get. I wanted them to look natural so they are completely without any props, like you can’t see the clothes, so you can’t tell what social group they are from – they are just talking heads, “Takeya explained.

At first unaware of where the little voices squeaking “I love you” are coming from, the viewer soon notices a tiny monitor fixed into a tall plinth against one wall.

Like a window into the city, the tiny monitor faces a video projection that displays 360 degrees of the Manhattan skyline on the opposite wall. The skyline was filmed with a revolving camera, a plaintive soundtrack of a saxophone played by Yuki Nakano accompanies the beautifully bleak, gray urban scene.

“In the video work, it is lighter or funnier than the paintings, which are more serious, “Takeya said. “The portraits are an expression of an inner emotion, which is obviously not happiness. So, when you say the words ‘I love you,’ you should feel some pleasure, but when you see the portraits they are obviously not happy.

“The video is very direct, but the painting tiles don’t really relate to the paintings – Richard looks sad or lonely rather than saying he loves you – they are in fact cynical.”

This somewhat melancholic, ironic exhibition offers no answers, though it does raise the perpetual question about the meaning of love, or at the least, the point in expressing it. The juxtaposition of the paintings in one room and the videos in the other reinforces how the different mediums also contribute to alter meaning, although the context of place, person and subject is the same for both.

Takeya appears concerned with subverting and exposing everyday life’s dualisms, which often, disconcertingly, signify nothing, a vacuum in the great gap between tangible and intangible.