ELEMENTS OF THE ABSURD AND CONTRADICTORY - Comparing Kenji Kawakami and Fiona Hall, using the four frames as a guide.

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Yr 10


Research Assignment

Artists now and in the past, have used elements of the absurd in their art making. These two different artists, Kenji Kawakami and Fiona Hall, are great examples of artists who use elements of the absurd in many, or all of their artworks.

Japanese gadget guru and father of 'Chindogu' (a made up word meaning "strange tools" in Japanese), Kenji Kawakami, creates pieces that are completely absurd. Not only does the thought of a hay-fever hat(above), or a portable zebra crossing(below), a butter stick amuse me, but it also challenges and encourages my mind to think beyond the surface.

Looking at Kawakami's work through the Subjective frame, my first impression is to laugh. The inventions that have been created are highly amusing and interesting and I believe that they wouldn't only appeal to myself, but to everybody. I think that Kawakami wants to create artworks, or inventions, for humor, but not only that.

The sense of anarchy in every Chindogu is strong and I think it may have a lot to do with the basis of the inventions. In fact, one of the tenets set to form the basis of Chindogu is that "Inherent in every Chindogu is the spirit of anarchy".

I believe that Kawakami thinks that everybody needs to laugh, but Chindogu aren't just created for pure humour. The creation of Chindogu is primarily a problem-solving activity. Humour is simply the by-product of finding an elaborate or unconventional solution to a problem that may not have been that pressing to begin with.

To begin with it was just fun, but now its much more than that. The tenets that were set are the fundamental basics of every Chindogu:

1. A Chindogu cannot be for real use

2. A Chindogu must work

3. Inherent in every Chindogu is the spirit of anarchy

4. Chindogu are tools for everyday life

5. Chindogu are not for sale

6. Humor must not be the sole reason for creating Chindogu

7. Chindogu are not propaganda

8. Chindogu are never taboo

9. Chindogu cannot be patented

10. Chindogu are without prejudice

Considering Kawakami's work from the Structural Frame, we can see how every Chindogu are made from found objects. In fact, nearly every Chindogu is a combination of two unlikely objects. For example; the 'Butter Stick' (left), a wad of butter shoved into a glue stick; or the 'Cat slippers', slippers for your cat to wear to clean the house.

Not only these two examples, but in every Chindogu, we can see everyday objects thrown in together to create a new, crazy invention that creates more trouble than its worth. But that's the spirit of Chindogu.

Taking into consideration Chindogu from the Cultural frame, we can se how there is a social meaning behind every Chindogu. Kawakami raised an interesting point when he told London's The Independent last year, "I think my inventions show us how stupid the Japanese and Western World's obsession is with making life as easy as we can through new inventions." From this we can conceive that Kawakami's inventions make fun of the technological world and its passion on making everything easy and simple. One example is the 'Mopping Baby Suit'(above left). Obviously this was created to save the house cleaner a lot of time mopping the floor

Now looking at Kawakami's inventions from the Post-modern Frame we can see how Chindogu represents freedom of thought and action. They challenge the suffocating historical dominance of conservative utility with the freedom to be useless. For example, the 'Car washing Line' is not a common spectacle and definitely challenges conservative art practices and traditional materials and the same goes for the 'Eye Drop Funnel' (right). These inventions challenge the norm and make the mind think about another way of life, the Chindogu way of life, where everything tool while solving one problem creates another.

Another artist who uses elements of the absurd throughout her artworks is Fiona Hall. Hall's pieces are completely different to Kawakami's. Not only are her views towards the world and human life portrayed differently, but her style overall is much more delicate than Kawakami's.

Looking at Hall's work from the Subjective Frame, my first impression is a strange one. Her works all have this weird, wacky touch to them and it creates a feeling that it isn't quite normal. The sculptures in 'Cell Culture' remind me of strange science-fiction characters in their detail and appearance, I really like Fiona Hall's work because it carries a lot of meaning and it challenges normal art-practices.

In her artworks, Hall likes to use opposites, humanity and plant-life. We can see this in several of her artworks, for example, 'Leaf Litter', 'Cell Culture' and a piece called 'Nelumbo, nucisera, lotus, elum, thamarei' which is part of a series.

Studying Hall's artworks from the Structural Frame, her pieces are aesthetically pleasing but I don't think they would appeal to everyone. The shape and texture of her works, particularly in 'Cell Culture', (right) are completely unique. Although she has created works with a lot of detail, the colours are bland and metallic, sometimes even appearing luminous. Personally I believe that she chose the colours so that her works look like they have come from a scientific experiment. While the works look amazingly real in detail, the colours give a feeling that it is only science-fiction.

Hall has used many different objects in her works, and not only building materials like steel, glass and metal. Objects that she found around her home, for instance tupperware containers, played a major role in the initial ideas and development in many of the artworks.

Apparent in each work is a specific personal comment or opinion. Hall enjoys making art to do with human and plant life that is at conflict, or has been combined together. She is interested in world economics and politics, as well as colonal history. We can see her viewpoint on these issues in her work.

For example, one of Hall's series, 'Leaf Litter', is an excellent example of Hall's opinions on and colonisation in the past, and world economics in our world at the present time. On this topic Hall said, "Money doesn't grow on trees - or does it? Plants have played a crucial role in the history of colonisation and the development of the world economies. Many species have been responsible for the rapid growth of European power and wealth over the past five hundred years. Plants, and along with them people, have been shifted across oceans, battles have been waged over them, forests razed.

"But everything comes at a price, and now we are paying heavily for over-taxing the environment and for cultivating an ever-widening gap between rich and poor nations. Many of the once most plant resource-rich countries are now amongst the poorest on earth. Leaf Litter aligns the distribution of plant species with the distribution of monetary wealth."

Looking at Hall's works through the Cultural Frame, we can see that in 'Cell Culture' and 'Nelumbo, nucisera, lotus, elum, thamarei', she comments on social issues concerning colonisation, world trade, economics and divisions of the world. In her works she makes fun of the colonal obsession with classifying 'finds' (every new specie discovered) and we can see that through the crazy new creatures formed in 'Cell Culture', and in the ridiculous, yet utterly believable title -

Nelumbo, nucisera, lotus, elum, thamarei

Examining Hall's works from the Post-modern Fame, we can obviously see that she works beyond the norm, and is defiantly not a mainstream artist. Her style is clearly non-traditional as she challenges all conventional art practices with her own innovative and fresh methods. Her media, ideas and opinions, are expressed throughout the entirety of her work, and she also throws in a speck of irony and humor.

These two artists have very different techniques and opinions, yet both their works are inspired by, and involve, aspects and elements of the absurd.