Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tyler's Talk

A big thanks to everyone who made it to Cullom Gallery to hear Tyler Starr last Saturday.  Here are some photos of the event.  Tyler walked us though some interesting passages in his creative process.  We saw jet engine diagrams from his father's career as an engineer, unintentionally comical pictures from a Japanese illustrated children's Bible, snap shots of cultural events in his Tokyo neighborhood, Japanese naval bases, and bigger public works projects across Japan, particularly dam construction and resulting protests. The later has become the source material for many of Starr's newest works, including a small illustrated pamphlet, which I have available through the gallery.  I found his description of these dam projects to be the most interesting and blackly comical portion of his talk.  As he described it, the building of new dams in Japan is largely conceived as a way to support jobs projects.  Their consequences both unavoidable (the flooding of centuries-old towns and villages and resulting displacement of some of Japan's oldest citizens) and unintentional (like the reservoir made largely useless as a result of Tokyo's massive effort to install low-flow toilets), have sparked wide spread protest across the country.  All the parts of the dam stories are the stuff that fascinates Starr.  As he says in his statement for this show, There is a gap in manmade things between the idea and the actual realization of the idea.  This gap is a result of many things including unintended consequences and contradictory intentions.

But whether it was his telling of the facts surrounding these dams, or the machinations of neighborhood festivals and protests, or the national conflict around U.S. bases in Japan, I was struck by Starr's thoughtful and respectful, even distant, approach to his subjects.  Though the circumstances he lays out are often the stuff that makes you smack your forehead in disbelief, still he takes a look at all angles, the history, cultural aspects that affect these projects for better and for worse, and the how often the solution is not seen as a failure by the recipients.  Like that dam full of water.  It's now a tourist stop to watch the artificial waterfall released from the sluice gates twice a day, and a light show projected against the dam's massive concrete wall on summer evenings.

Miyagase Dam.  Photo courtesy of Tyler Starr.
Tyler Starr at Cullom Gallery, January 29, 2011

Tyler Starr at Cullom Gallery with (left) Structural Props (right) Infrastructure.

Illustration from a Japanese children's Bible.  Photo courtesy of Tyler Starr

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