“Lip Wrap / Air Hug / Energy Exchange” (2020) (Video, 2 min.) Text, Narration, Animation by Maiko Jinushi. Sound design by Youngchang Hwang. Photo credit: Deanna Cheng.
VANCOUVER — The Intimacy and Distances art exhibition at the Centre A, a public art gallery in Vancouver, features multimedia work by Tokyo-based artist Maiko Jinushi, where she explores relationships between herself and others.
Using poetry, drawing, and video installations, Jinushi created most of the artworks during the physical and emotional distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. They’re experiments reflecting different ways people share intimacy with others through digital means, asking how people are together when physically remote?
Curated by Vancouver-based curator Makiko Hara, the exhibition starts with Self Portrait Wearing Lip Wrap which features Jinushi holding a barrier over her mouth, mimicking a mask, with lips smeared on. This photograph sets the mood as guests move through the gallery: intimate, yet with some distance in the interaction.
In the next room, Lip Wrap, Air Hug, Energy Exchange (2020) is a two-minute animation of a poem Jinushi wrote in 2018, switching between pink words and drawings in pink lines.
While the text was akin to a near-future story before the pandemic, Jinushi explained, “the things like condoms for kissing, or the feeling of satisfaction by receiving stamps of hugging animal characters via a messaging app has become more of our common reality now.”
Each part of the poem and its correlating imagery refers to the desire to get close, yet without involving any physical contact, such as the satisfaction and dissatisfaction of receiving a hugging emoji via text instead of a real hug. Its message conveys the artist’s sense of entrapment, anxiety, and distance from family and friends in the early days of the pandemic lockdown.
The other works in this exhibition are A Detective in Mexico City, Fashion and Death, and On Telepathy.
These pieces focus on the emotional and personal sides of the artist.
Hara, the exhibition curator, said Jinushi’s work can be hard to interpret because of its personal, sentimental voice.
There are parts of Jinushi’s voice that aren’t necessarily understood, she said, but that reflects how we are all misunderstood at times.
Jinushi tried to open up, Hara said. It’s not a “super direct political statement,” but more about the power of the feelings Jinushi was navigating.
Hara added the exhibition also shows the artist’s new ways of storytelling and communication, which evolved during the pandemic.
The idea of this exhibition came together over a series of phone calls between Hara and Jinushi. It became clearer that this experience of both intimacy and distance at the same time was more universal.
This is Hara’s second time presenting Jinushi’s work. She wanted to encourage young artists in Japan by inviting them to Vancouver.
“I feel many young artists in Japan want to have more ‘out of Japan’ experiences.”
The exhibition ran from Sept. 9 to Nov. 10.
Centre A gallery is in the heart of Chinatown at 205 – 268 Keefer Street, just a few blocks away from the historic Powell Street neighbourhood.
Founded in 1999, it is the only public art gallery in Canada dedicated to contemporary Asian art and Asian-diasporic perspectives.
Centre A’s executive director Ellie Chung says the gallery supports artists of Asian descent but also considers artists not of Asian descent if the work speaks to subjects and issues within the Asian diaspora.
The gallery has worked with and exhibited numerous Japanese and Japanese Canadian artists in the past.
“There’s no other [art] institution that represents Asian Canadian diasporic perspectives and histories,” she said.
“It’s surprising, despite the long history of Asian Canadians and our involvement in Canadian history, that our voices and the stories and the history hasn’t been well represented.”