MoMA’s “Liquid Reality” explores the intersections of Shigeko Kubota

Installation view for Shigeko Kubota: Liquid Reality, August 21, 2021 – January 1, 2022 at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2021 Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photography by Dennis Dorley

Fluxus is all we care about now: mixed media, beyond classification, and collaborative operations. But Fluxus isn’t the first thing we talk about; It’s not a toast to the table, or the footnote to the opening page. Fluxus is too many mediums, too many people, and we need heroes with superpowers. To sell the wheat, the plates, the recordings, the newspapers, the history research, and all the ginkgo, we need to be champions ourselves — like new Cadillacs, Hermes belts, and Doctor Squash soap.

Shigeko Kubota’s problem is that of collaborating artists. The spirit of collaboration is not the way we communicate product or entertainment; It does not feed our market or our narcissism. Kubota has been an integral part of Fluxus and the work of the Fluxus artists we are talking about – Yoko Ono, George Maciunas, John Cage, Nam June Paik, etc. Fluxus is underestimating the importance of its work and the value of the dollar.

in a “Shigeko Kubota: Liquid RealityThe Museum of Modern Art collects six of the artist’s sculptures and video installation hybrids: portrait (c. 1970-71); Duchampiana: Naked descending the stairs (1976); three mountains (1976-1979), The Berlin Diary: Thank you to my ancestors (1981), River (1979-1981), Haiku video (1981) and Niagara Falls (1985). NSA fifteen-year span spans an uneasy cultural landscape: from the last years of “Juveniles” to pre-punk to punk to post-punk to disco to non-wave to new wave. The organization goes on the line of individual versus context with a simplified presentation of Kubota fixtures, and plenty of contextual information if you’re looking for it; There is a wonderful catalog presented and moderated by Erica Papernik-Shimizu, and in the online magazine MoMA, Equally good overview Submitted by Papernik-Shimizu and Veronika Molnar. With a Kubota retrospective that travels in Japan through February 2022, “Liquid Reality” champions and brings back Kubota’s work in New York, compiling nearly enough from a checklist for regular museum visitors to identify the artist. Kubota, who passed away in 2015, had not attended a solo show at an American museum in twenty-five years.

Shigeko Kubota. Personal photography. California. 1970 – 71. Video Standard (colour, silent). 5:24 min The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift from the Shigeko Kubota Video Art Foundation, 2021. © 2021 Estate of Shigeko Kubota / Licensed by VAGA at the Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Gift from the Shigeko Kubota Video Art Foundation, 2021. © 2021 Estate of Shigeko Kubota / Licensed by VAGA at the Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Born in 1937, Kubota was introduced to the experimental arts and music circles in Tokyo by dancer Chia Kuni. Through combinations of noise, avant-garde performances, and cutting-edge technology (such as tape recorders and projectors), Tokyo paralleled contemporary explorations of New York City—and in 1962, Kubota met John Cage and Yoko Ono at Tokyo Station for Cage’s concert tour. Kubota, after correspondence with Fluxus founder George Masionas, ventured to New York City the following year, and appeared with her in 1965 vagina drawing The performance, which was seen at the time as a feminist response to the works of Jackson Pollock and Eve Klein and a spectacle dominated by masculinity. (Kubota will only perform a file vagina drawing Once, in an oral interview with MoMA shortly before her death, she recalled that George Macionas and Nam John Pike, whom she married in 1977, “begged” her to do so).

Continuing her studies in New York at NYU and The New School, Kubota went on to become an active citizen of the New York art world, teaching at the College of Visual Arts, working for the first annual Women’s Video Festival at The Kitchen in 1972, and curator at Anthology Archives For films from 1974 to 1983.

Formally trained as a sculptor, Kubota was quick to adopt the video: the heavy and exquisite equipment appealed to her. (Sony’s first recording and playback system, Portapack, was released in 1967.) Burden was part of her identity, both as an artist and as a woman. For the 2013 book, History of video artShe told Chris May Andrews, “Portapak and I traveled all over Europe and Japan without a male escort. Portapak rips my spine, shoulder, and waist. I travel alone with a Portapak on my back, as Vietnamese women do with their children.” Kubota viewed the intrinsic decadence and distortion in the video as pantomime, fitting her at the same time her American and Japanese fascination with the landscape. In a 2007 interview with Phong Bui for Brooklyn RailroadShe recalls, “The film was chemical, but the video was more organic. For me, the Portapack was like a new paintbrush.” In her 1991 exhibition at the American Museum of the Moving Image, she demonstrated how the video itself resembles natural processes, such as the movement of clouds or Water, or even the tide of life itself: “Once converted into video reality, infinite variation becomes possible, not only weightlessness, but complete freedom to resolve all shapes, shape, color, position, speed, scale… Liquid Reality.”

Shigeko Kubota. Duchampiana: Naked Going Down the Ladder (1976). Standard resolution video and Super 8mm film are transferred to video (colour, silent; 5:21 min), four cathode ray tube monitors, and plywood. 66 1/4 x 30 15/16 x 67 inches (168.3 x 78.6 x 170.2 cm). Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift Margot and John Ernst, Agnes Gund, and Barbara Payne, 1981. Artwork © 2021 property of Shigeko Kubota / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital image © 2021 Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photography by Dennis Dorley

While the six works of “Liquid Reality” Presenting only a portion of the artist’s production over five decades, the years represented – 1970 – 1985 – represent a shift in social, technological and artistic consciousness: the 1975 Whitney Biennale included video artists for the first time – eighteen of them; Warhol’s impossible vision of fame culture began to materialize; The muted palette of the late ’60s, moss green, bark brown, and dungaree, exploded into the bright black neon of East Village and the candy-coated MTV tune.

Chronologically the first work in the show, portrait, 1970-1971, artist poses in medium close-up as she claps, sings and sings for the camera. The image is punctuated by video distortions: banding, color, and ghostly layers. There is a chemical/acrylic quality to the clarity, but the image is not as stable as a photo or painting. The camera sometimes swings unsteadily. The effect is very personal and immediate – despite all the post-production being very conscious. The artist, in her moment, reaches you. portrait Will eventually evolve into poem video, which was shown at the first official PS1 presentation, Rooms. The 1976 exhibition depicted the zeitgeist in New York City with installations by 78 artists. It’s easy to put Kubota’s work at the company even on partial and self-explanatory: Lynne Hirschman Leeson, It was recently displayed in the New MuseumRon Gorshoff Currently on display at Cheim & Read, Bill Jensen, Colette Lumiere, Dieter Froese, Lucio Pozzi, Marjorie Stryder, Jodi Rivka, Stefan Ainz, Eve Sonman and Robert Grosvenor.

The second chronological work on display, Duchampiana: Naked descending the stairs, 1976, integrates television tubes into a plywood drawer, reimagining Duchamp’s iconic work, as well as a classic composition, with the fast cuts and erratic pace of the video. In the layers of film and video, the model smiles once, in passing, bringing to life Duchamp’s now meaningless revelation. three mountains 1976-1979 River, 1979-1981, involved in the artist’s relationship with the landscape. three mountains He takes on the meditative grandeur of the American Southwest, while River, the later of the two works, is more edgy, edgy, and conquers East Village style: black paint, vibrant colors, video elements of hearts, stars, squiggly lines, and an ultra-80s SMPTE color bar. in a The Berlin Diary: Thank you to my ancestors, 1981, Kubota considers form, abstraction, and possibly graffiti, with the names of her ancestors written in Japanese characters on a thin slab of quartz that hangs above a small Sony TV. Video Hanging haiku piece, 1981 also, promotes the artist’s reflection on the self, technology, and everyday life. Niagara Falls, 1985, is greater thinking on a grand scale. Such as Haiku Video – Hanging PieceArguably the work is more concerned with shadows/reflections than the sculpture itself.

Shigeko Kubota. Detail of Niagara Falls 1, 1985. Four-channel video (colour, audio; 30:55 min), ten cathode ray tube screens, plastic mirrors, plywood, water, and sprinkler system, 8 feet x 54 inches x 8 feet (243.8 x 137.2 x 243.8 cm). Courtesy of the Shigeko Kubota Video Art Foundation. © 2021 Estate of Shigeko Kubota / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Digital image © 2021 Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photography by Dennis Dorley

The two “Liquid Reality” rooms compose Kubota’s works into a nearly infinite symbol, and the more the viewer is willing to stand, watch, and drift away, the more the artist does his work. But if the ‘liquid reality It is an introductory book on Kubota, whose violent wit and assertiveness resists reductionism, and is a series of perplexing coordination questions. flow and the avant-garde Tokyo? History of the video Art as “Herstory”? (MoMA recently acquired early work for Gretchen Bender, Dara Birnbaum, Beryl Corot and Stina Vasolka.) Kubota and Nam Jun Paik? (It was Baek Nam Joon Recently shown in SFMOMA.) Both 2020 and 2021 may have necessarily instilled a type of optimism — there has to be something coming, some new perspective, a better way of understanding — and Kubota is the perfect artist who gropes that instinct.


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