PRADA PRESENTS TWO EXHIBITIONS DEVOTED TO THE FOLDING SCREENS IN SHANGHAI AND TOKIO FROM 3 NOVEMBER 2023
Prada presents the exhibition “Paraventi: Keiichi Tanaami – パラヴェンテ ィ : 田名網 敬一”, organized with the support of Fondazione Prada, at Prada Aoyama Tokyo from 3 November 2023 to 29 January 2024. The fifth floor of the building designed by Herzog & de Meuron hosts this solo show, curated by Nicholas Cullinan, in conjunction with the extensive group exhibition “Paraventi: Folding Screens from the 17th to 21st Centuries” on view at Fondazione Prada in Milan from 26 October 2023 to 22 February 2024.
The Milan exhibition explores the histories and semantics of these objects by tracing trajectories of cross-pollination between East and West, hybridization processes between different art forms and functions, collaborative relationships between designers and artists, and the emergence of newly created works. The folding screens embody liminality and the idea of being on the threshold of two conditions, literally and metaphorically. They cross barriers between different disciplines, cultures, and worlds.
This project generates two emanations at Prada Rong Zhai in Shanghai and Prada Aoyama Tokyo. Both exhibitions arise particularly from artistic commissions focusing on how folding screens are currently influenced by our pervasive digital experience of layering and screens within screens.
Before the advent of mechanical image processing techniques in the 19th century, a screen was not a place of visibility but mainly a protective element. This contrast between revelation and concealment survives today mainly in the screens of our devices, at once opaque and transparent windows. Screen images provide virtual, in-depth access to archives and databases and conceal the functioning of hardware, perpetuating an ambiguous relationship between surface and depth.
The Shanghai exhibition includes two ancient Chinese folding screens from the 17th and 18th centuries – respectively a small standing screen intended for a desk and a 12-panel imperial screen – and develops into a sequence of rooms hosting five newly commissioned works by international artists such as Tony Cokes, John Stezaker, Shuang Li, Wu Tsang, and Cao Fei.
Tony Cokes’ Untitled (Sol Lewitt 1967 / 1968 / 1989) is inspired by the American minimal artist’s work Folding Screen. Cokes insert concentric circles, colored on one side and black and white on the other, in a complex sculpture-like composition. He adds “an affective layer, register, or zone of possibility” to his installation’s textual and visual elements featuring LED video walls and a music track by Irish- English rock band My Bloody Valentine.
John Stezaker’s Screen-screen evokes cinema imagery, introducing an idealized Hollywood domestic scene within a real space that preserves the elements of a private house. In his new work, Stezaker moves between the tangible dimension of a folding screen and the imaginary space of a movie screen.
Shuang Li’s This Mirror Isn’t Big Enough For The Two Of Us explores the notion of intimacy by projecting moving shadows on a screen. These ephemeral traces of a bodily presence are associated with an ordinary object like a bench that reveals a profound desire for a safe and familiar environment. This work aims to reaffirm the importance of corporeal value over the virtuality of screens: a relationship that the artist believes has been reversed in contemporary times.
Wu Tsang’s work Carmen sketch (encantada) deals with the performative nature of the folding screen and the idea of the screen as a symbolic limit or emotional boundary. A filmed performance by London-based producer, DJ and singer-songwriter Ms. Carrie Stacks is projected onto a curtain-like structure. In the video, the performer appears in a flashy gold dress, plays the piano, and sings two of the tracks from her 2017 EP 5 Sad Songs, I Gotta Pick Myself Up and Hit it Right.
Cao Fei’s Screen Autobiography (Shanghai) consists of photographic green screens of different sizes forming a composition that reminds a folding screen. A series of short videos filmed with these green screen items is looped on the LED monitors. This exhibition area becomes a temporary “live photography studio” where the boundaries between real and virtual, exaggerated and distorted, familiar and strange are blurred, making it difficult for visitors to trust the reality of the images.
The Tokyo show explores the narrative and performativity dimension of folding screens, alluding to their deployment as props for the Kabuki Theater and in the Kamishibai, a form of street theatre and storytelling by paper images that originated in Buddhist temples in 12th-century Japan and was popular during the Great Depression of the 1930s and the post-war period.
Keiichi Tanaami (Tokyo, 1936), one of the leading pop artists in Japan since the 1960s, created a new environmental work specifically for Prada Aoyama spaces, expanding the concept of his folding screen conceived for the Milan exhibition. His contribution includes a video installation that unfolds like a folding screen, a paravent collage, and a book-shaped sculpture with video mapping, emphasizing the notion of folding and evoking the Kamishibai tradition.
A combination of American pop culture themes with the stylistic features and techniques of Japanese illustration, such as ukiyo-e printing, shapes Tanaami’s commission. Characters from the cartoon and movie universe, set in surreal, psychedelic landscapes, meet iconic figures from artworks such as Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, expressing the rejection of the formal hierarchies of Neo-Dada.
By privileging methodology over medium, Tanaami’s practice crosses various languages, including graphic novels, collages, sculptures, paintings, and films. If his Milan folding screen results from the crystallization of moving images, the Tokyo installation could enact a reverse process, restoring the original performativity to the images that had inspired it. It will thus delve into contemporary and future declinations of the notion of the folding screen, further bringing to light its confrontation between what is concealed and revealed, withheld and unfurled.
The Tokyo exhibition also comprises a six-panel folding screen titled Plum, Bamboo and Mynah Birds by Terutada Shikibu, a Japanese ink and wash painter of the late Muromachi period (16th century). This ancient screen is a relevant example of employing the panelled structure to convey a sense of movement and atmosphere, subtly surpassing traditional landscape painting. It generates a dialectic with the kaleidoscopic and colourful intricacy of Tanaami’s style, revealing his connection to art history.