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Alex Kershaw

Fantasticology Tokyo: faults, flesh and flowers

Alex Kershaw Muscles and pears 2011 from Fantasticology Tokyo: faults, flesh, and flowers 2011-13, production still, HD video and sound, 25:06 min, courtesy and © the artist

Fantasticology Tokyo: faults, flesh and flowers is a a multi-screen video installation that includes raw and woodfired ceramics. In this project Alex Kershaw considers the practice of Japanese flower arrangement, known as ikebana, and its relationship to the human body. The project was developed through a series of artistic collaborations in Japan and Australia, beginning with an artist residency in Tokyo during 2011.

Individually titled, each video references the respective themes and influences that emerged during interviews with ikebana practitioners in Tokyo. The video narratives conceived through collaboration and performed by subjects from the interviews relate to perfection and imperfection, form and formlessness, and how human action is differently shaped by choice and obligation. In this process the practice of ikebana is subject to a series of transformations — the strange becomes normal and the normal becomes strange. Through the loosening of ikebana’s traditions Kershaw reconceives the practice in fantastic and unnatural ways.

The 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which happened during the production of the videos, permeates the work. These events focused the precarious position of an ‘outsider’ in a foreign culture and by extension framed a space where ikebana plays in passages between the visible and invisible — as well as this life and the next.

Adding a physical dimension to the exhibition, Kershaw has collaborated with Sydney ceramic artist Barbara Campbell-Allen to produce a group of ceramic vessels that were conceived as a response to the videos on display. Visually, the ceramics oscillate between highly formed and contorted objects to raw formations drawn from nature.

For this project, Kershaw’s other artistic collaborators include: Osen Endo and Haruko Hiratsuka (Sogetsu school of ikebana), Naohiro Kasuya (Ichiyo school of ikebana), Itoh Teika (Ohara school of ikebana) and sound artist Gail Priest.

Artist talk
Saturday 14 September, 2pm, Contemporary Project Space, free

Notes to editor
Alex Kershaw was born in Sydney, Australia. He currently lives and works in San Diego. His selected solo exhibitions include One of several centres, Performance Space at Carriageworks, Sydney (2010); 3 films made between 2005 and 2009 – FlatScreen Alex Kershaw, Beaconsfield, London (2009); The Phi Ta Khon project, Grantpirrie, Sydney (2009); A lake without water, Artspace, Sydney (2006). Selected group exhibitions include Boo Australia, Matucana 100, Santiago (2012); Tokyo story, Tokyo Wonder Site, Tokyo (2011); Fabrications: the theatre of everyday life, Jeu de Paume, Paris (2010); 55th International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Oberhausen (2009); Perfect for every occasion: photography today, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne (2007).

AGNSW Contemporary Projects are supported by Andrew Cameron

Contemporary art with UBS
Contemporary art with UBS

On view
12 Sep – 10 Nov 2013
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Art Gallery Road, The Domain, Sydney


Media contact

Claire Martin
Tel 02 9225 1734
Mob 0414 437 588