Urban Reflectors
Katharina Gruzei
Artist Statement
The establishing shot of the video shows a densely built urban landscape, which is contrasted by a concrete and fenced open space in the foreground. The area around a river in Tokyo is the scene of a strange phenomenon. An indefinable silver mass begins to move and seems to inflate from within. The wafting sculpture, which at times reminds of an organic body, then again acts like an architectural element, grows and in the next scene decays again to a small wrinkled accumulation on the ground. The erection and collapse of this foil takes us to four places whose apocalyptic mood is enhanced by sound. Silver foils that are used for covering cars, bikes and motorcycles are commonly seen in the streets of Tokyo. Urban Reflectors picks up on this appearance and the Japanese culture of wrapping and packing, which can also be read as an act of caring. Being part of everyday life in Tokyo, the intervention in public space is only discovered by few passersby. The narration is embedded in places that contrast with the stereotypes of Tokyo as a metropolis of millions. Accompanied by a dystopian sound, the video creates an apocalyptic mood that raises questions about the nature of public space and its use. Due to its geographical location, Japan is permanently threatened by natural forces and has developed comprehensive disaster control measures. Nationwide installed loudspeakers in the public area are intended to inform the urban population in the event of a disaster. But they are also used in everyday life, for example, to warn children before dusk to return home. As a basis for the sound of the video, field recordings were used with recordings of these public announcements. A voice speaking from "off" in public space moreover has the bitter connotation of authoritarian systems or dictatorships and corresponds to the human bodies that act as mobilizers of the in- and deflating silver form. The Japanese announcement is initially not translated, but used as a means of sound design and only made comprehensible at the end with subtitles.
My work refers to the public space in Tokyo and its use. It shows the status quo of the public and poses questions of space within the densely built city. The video mediates the futuristic but also apocalyptic quality of Tokyo and transmits my experience as a foreigner that doesn´t understand the Japanese language but hears the quality and impetus of speech. My intervention picks up on the silver foils used in public space and the culture of covering and packaging. It poses fundamental questions for the future: environmental issues, the power relations that apply within the public and also the humans within it.
Artist Bio
Katharina Gruzei (*1983) lives and works in Linz and Vienna, Austria. She is an independent artist working in various media ranging from photography, video, film and sound to installation and art in public space. Her works have been shown at international exhibitions, biennials and festivals. She had several solo shows in Austrian Institutions such as the Lentos Museum for contemporary Art Linz (2018) or the Salzburger Kunstverein (2020). In 2018 she presented her works at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. She is the recipient of numerous prizes and received international scholarships for Los Angeles, Paris, Moscow, Tokyo and New York.