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Masao OKABE Solo ExhibitionRuyway of Memory: From the Island of Forest to the Island of Stone
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승인 2021.07.12  09:16:30
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▲ Photo provided by Artspace·C

Artspace·C is pleased to present Ruyway of Memory: From the Island of Forest to the Island of Stone, a solo exhibition of the internationally acclaimed Japanese contemporary artists Masao OKABE (b. 1942) on view from July 15 to August 4, 2021. Installed across 3rd floor of the gallery, OKABE’s frottage works produced at the former Makinouchi Naval Airfield in Nemuro City (Hokkaido) and the Alddreu Airfield in Seogwipo City (Jeju Island) will present the wound of the war which resonates in two different sites built with the blood and sweat of Korean forced laborers. The footprints on the runway of the former Makinouchi Naval Airfield signifies the memory of the war, Japanese imperialism and colonialism just like the memory engraved at Alddreu airfield.

The attitude of ‘Questioning Modernity’ is one of the essential qualities for OKABE’s activities. Rather than answering the question alone, he creates a space where people can explore the question in collaboration. On the same horizon as the creative process, the act of questioning arises with people from the regional historians to the local residents. For him, art is a mindful action closely connected with time, society and people who specifically live in the region, as the title of the exhibition at Japanese Pavilion in the 52nd Venice Biennale Is There a Future for Our Past reminded us.

Everyone who has a pencil and a paper can participate in frottage as the critic Hang KIM points out. “Frottage is an art that elicits human self-consciousness through the minimal tools of paper and pencil. Through it, human beings can be freed from all kinds of pretexts or noble causes and become conscious of that which determines humans as humans by their own actions.” By inviting local people to participate this “thinking together” process with the minimal tools of paper and pencil, this exhibition led local people to (re)discover the historic sites by themselves in the Frottage Workshops, held not only at Alddreu Airfield but also at Gangjeong Village where the controversy over Jeju naval base still on-going. Discovery led by art inspired people and the works produced by them will be shown at this exhibition as well.

Meanwhile, special lectures by Sungyoun CHO (Title: Alddreu Airfield) and Sung-hee CHOI (Title: Peace that Breeds Violence) will be presented at 5:30 PM on the opening day. Besides, at 6 PM on 25 July and 1 August, two films, Grave of the Fireflies (1988) and Father's Tears; Two Tears, Double Conscription (2019), that can help the audience to understand historical context of OKABE’s works will be screened respectively at Artspace·C. Through OKABE’s frottages that defying the politicization of memories and diverse exhibition-related programs that Artspace·C prepared, it is hoped that the historical imagination can be conjured up with the traces of countless struggles that have been excluded from the accepted narrative.


Born in Nemuro, Hokkaido in 1942. Graduating from Hokkaido Gakugei University (now Hokkaido University of Education) in 1965, OKABE began making street rubbing frottages in 1977. In 1979, while staying in Ivry-sur-Seine, a town adjacent to Paris’s 13th arrondissement, he produced 169 rubbings entitled “Membrane of a City.” From the latter half of the 1980s he has devoted himself to rubbings of atomic-bomb remains in Hiroshima. In 1996 he created “N’oubliez Pas” (Don’t Forget)” from a placard that depicts the history of the abduction of Jews from a community in Paris. Around that time, he embarked on a project, traveling to and from Paris, Hiroshima, Gwangju, Nemuro and other cities, of sending frottage impressions made at historical sites as aerograms to his friends around the world. Since a frottage collaboration in Noosa, Australia in 1988, he has actively worked in collaborations and conducted numerous workshops involving local residents while creating works and holding exhibitions in various cities in and outside Japan.

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