“Chim↑Pom”

by Jae Lee

Special To The Japan Times

The Container
Closes Dec. 19

The Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis highlighted not only Japan’s dependency on nuclear energy, but also how strongly the public felt about it. Sept. 19 saw the nation’s largest-ever antinuclear-energy demonstration in Tokyo’s Meiji Park, and other protestors — including musicians, celebrities and artists — have been voicing their opinion through marches, activities and announcements.

Artist collective Chim↑Pom have already received a fair amount of press about their activities. They added, guerrilla-style, an image of a burning Fukushima power plant to Taro Okamoto’s “Myth of Tomorrow” mural at Shibuya Station in central Tokyo, and then made a sand sculpture of a child wearing a gas mask in a Fukushima Prefecture playground that had been deemed unsafe for children.

Now they’re making a more intimate statement with “K-I-S-S-I-N-G” at the Container in the Nakameguro district of Tokyo. The exhibition — which manages to squeeze a video installation, a large photograph and a set of drawings into a freight-container space — is, say Chim↑Pom, “an allegory that uses lightbulbs to express the anxiety or loneliness people are still suffering since the earthquake (of March 11).”

The door welcomes visitors with a red kiss mark from the lips of Ellie, the only female member of the collective, who has also written “XOXO Chim↑Pom” there in red lipstick. Immediately, there’s a sense of intimacy, emphasized further by the tiny exhibition space.

“Shaken by anxiety and loneliness, people came to rediscover their close relationships,” says Chim↑Pom on discussing the effect of the Great East Japan Earthquake. “There’s been an increase in marriage and there may be fewer divorces from now on. Lovers are happy: They are reminded of the fantastic time they can share caring for each other. ‘K-I-S-S-I-N-G’ conveys those feelings that we can’t put into words.”

The video, which is projected behind a display of broken lightbulbs, shows a pair of lightbulbs circling each other, “courting” and “cuddling.” Chim↑Pom say the incandescent bulbs are an obvious reference to electricity issues — because such bulbs are now being replaced by more electricity-efficient LED versions, they serve as a stronger visual link to the nuclear energy that Japan has relied on for decades. The bulbs break and burst into flames when they kiss onscreen.

Though the collective claim they can’t explain the artwork’s true message, their installation does suggest a reliance on what many now see as an unstable and dangerous source of energy, while also referencing our heightened desire for meaningful companionship since the March 11 disaster.

The Container is inside Bross hair salon, 1F Hills Daikanyama, 1-8-30 Kami-Meguro, Meguro-ku; open Mon., Wed.-Fri. 11 a.m.- 9 p.m., Sat.-Sun. 10 a.m.-8 p.m., closed Tue.; admission free. For more information, visit bross.blog.so-net.ne.jp/2011-09-15.