As Though Tattooing on My Mind


As Though Tattooing on My Mind is the first exhibition of the Japanese poet and artist Gozo Yoshimasu in the UK, and summarises fifty years of Yoshimasu’s career as one of the world’s most innovative and influential poets and artists. The exhibition presents pieces of his visual artwork together with various forms of his poetry, including double-exposure photography, copper-plate engravings, the sui generis gozoCiné video work and original manuscripts from his latest visual poetry series, Kaibutsu-kun (Dear Monster).

Yoshimasu launched Kaibutsu-kun soon after the March 2011 disaster in Japan. The complex catastrophes of the earthquake, tsunami, and the accident in the Fukushima nuclear power plant caused more than 20,000 deaths and forced the evacuation of 280,000 people from the affected area. Yoshimasu embarked on the project out of a deep sense of sympathy and commitment, in pursuit of “poetry possible after March 2011” but without exactly knowing where he was heading.  He started scribing lines and letters on exceptionally large manuscript paper that he handcrafted every day. The new routine resembled the way that Buddhist monks copy sutras: Yoshimasu devotedly prepared the materials, his groundwork, and ran a pen across them day after day, ‘as though tattooing’ on his mind. Although his works appropriate tragedy as their monstrous source, they also take form as a peculiar offering of prayer.

Tattooing has long been practiced in Okinawa, among the Ainu, and on the Japanese mainland where tradition associates tattoos with shamanic power, sin, or specific occupations. Tattoos have also been thought to offer protection from enemies. For this exhibition, Yoshimasu draws on all of these historical meanings involved with the culture of body marking in Japan.

Date: 31 Mar – 13 May 14
Venue: Daiwa Foundation Japan House, 13 – 14 Cornwall Terrace, London NW1 4QP
Tel: 020 7486 4348
Organiser: The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation

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