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Sat, May. 9th, 2009 07:15 am
Maru: emerging volumetric performance artist

One of the most exciting artists to emerge from Japan is Maru, a prolific cross-disciplinary volumetric performance artist whose pieces have acquired him a cult following in recent months. Maru's pieces -- shown exclusively by Mugumogu Gallery in Tokyo -- are videos of performances, always staged in the same minimal, monochromatic apartment setting.



As in the seminal Big Box and Maru (above), the artist is primarily concerned with the exploration of enclosed volumes: boxes, paper bags, bath-tubs and water bowls. We sense a deep curiosity at work as Maru, dressed up as a cat of the Scottish Fold breed, negotiates and interrogates the volumes, often penetrating them and turning them into a sort of "portable architecture".



Maru's best-known piece may be Dive into Diet, in which the artist -- commenting, perhaps, on the constraints of consumerism -- dives into a cardboard wrapper marked DIET, only to find himself trapped in it. But personally I find Mask Maru (above) a more deeply satisfying and profound statement . Parading around the house with a paper bag over his head, Maru prompts a deep consideration of the nature of delusion. He later repeated the performance with semi-transparent bubble-wrap -- a reference, perhaps, to Zen Buddhist ideas of enlightenment.



Despite its originality, this work clearly has precedents. Tunnel and Maru, for instance, recalls The Way Things Go by Swiss artists Fischli and Weiss, although it's possible that Maru may just have seen Pythagora Switch, the cult Japanese educational programme. And Playing with Water, a microtonal musical performance, is clearly indebted to Tomoko Miyata's work



The breadth of Maru's cultural references is as impressive as his prolific work rate (ten pieces this month alone). Maru Enters (above) contains a clear reference to Samuel Beckett's harrowing play Endgame. His most risqué stunts (like Tranced Out, in which Maru flagrantly dispays his genitals to the camera) bring to mind the work of "splash" porn-star-turned-artist Fareeza Terunuma, or the performances of fashionable artist collective Chim↑Pom who, like Maru, consciously employ the trope of cuteness in their work. Since the departure of blonde bombshell Ellie, however, Chim↑Pom are lagging somewhat in the cuteness stakes. Perhaps Maru could replace her?



Alternatively, I'd love to see Maru perform a two-hander with Sako Kojima, the artist who dresses up as a gigantic hamster. I wonder which of them would survive two weeks in a gallery together?

24CommentReplyFlag

loveishappiness
loveishappiness
O.H.
Sat, May. 9th, 2009 11:45 am (UTC)
I see what you did there

Doesn't this cat have a blog? Japanese videos of pets on youtube are always the best because they keep the camera steady and don't say anything.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, May. 9th, 2009 11:54 am (UTC)

Are you already trying to subvert your own status in the art world by making a mockery or art criticism or did my comment yesterday about crapping my pants in a gallery space open your perception to a whole new world of possibilities for art?


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(Anonymous)
Sat, May. 9th, 2009 12:21 pm (UTC)

Now that's what you call performance art. "You've Been Framed " have been documenting it for years, you are a bit slow on this one.


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slime_slime_sly
slime_slime_sly
slime_slime_sly
Sat, May. 9th, 2009 12:49 pm (UTC)


I <3 Maru!!did he have a piece at the new museum??


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, May. 9th, 2009 02:31 pm (UTC)

Plagiarism is a very serious accusation, your lordship. Maru isn't litigious, but he does tend to take the law into his own paws and give his critics a bit of a mauling. I can see his tail wagging already.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, May. 26th, 2009 02:02 am (UTC)

I agree!


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eptified
eptified
H. Duck
Sun, May. 10th, 2009 08:35 am (UTC)

That last piece in particular looked to be heavily influenced by the Kipper Kids


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(Anonymous)
Sat, May. 9th, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC)

a weird American costume designer once told me about a club in New York somewhere (gay?) in which people go and dress up in a range of different animal costumes in order to fuck each other.


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internought
internought
denial o'niall
Sat, May. 9th, 2009 02:56 pm (UTC)

Boredom breeds performance art in all species.


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unsarah
unsarah
sarah
Sat, May. 9th, 2009 07:07 pm (UTC)

i check out the maru blog daily and i'm fascinated!


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tailchaser
tailchaser
das weiner klitten
Sat, May. 9th, 2009 07:32 pm (UTC)

oh maru. i am always eagerly awaiting each new piece that he does.

i admit to joining his fan page on facebook too.

such a briiliant artist


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collisionwork
Ian W. Hill
Sat, May. 9th, 2009 08:56 pm (UTC)

I have to say I was immediately taken with the early work -- Dive Into Diet and Mask Maru, but after that, I was wondering if Maru had gotten stuck in a rut. I didn't see what you call the "Zen Buddhist" influence in the bubble-wrap piece, and still find it a simplistic restatement of the mask piece, with the original quiet subtext becoming overstated and obvious. I was worried that perhaps Maru had shot his load with one or two good ideas, well-executed, right out of the gate. The tunnel and microtonal pieces in particular seemed derivative and inexpertly executed (as you somewhat allude to).

However, Big Box and Maru is not only a return to form for this artist, but, I feel and hope, the beginning of a new and more mature phase. The change in scale between the artist/performer and the object, plus Maru's return to pushing his physicality, Matthew Barney-like, to the limits, reinvigorates both Maru and the auditor of the work, as Maru combines the ideas seen in Dive and Mask, using both the plunge (am I reading too much into it to see an Yves Klein reference here?) into the unknown and the blindness of one's own personal prison, without the on-the-edge-of-heavy-handed political statement (I don't read Dive Into Diet as you do, as a consumerist statement, but more as a work about governmental repression in regards to Japan's bicameral legislature, the National Diet).

At first view, I was a little taken aback by the new optimistic strain in Maru's work -- he is able to escape from his constrictions, finally! But the repetition of escapes (some of them less clean than others) winds up suggesting that any escape is only temporary. The box is still there, and still waits. For all of us.


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(Anonymous)
Tue, May. 26th, 2009 02:00 am (UTC)

Nice


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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, May. 10th, 2009 02:21 am (UTC)

Yeah, I like Cindy Sherman's work.

Someone videoed the stuff we did today but said the sound came out badly and is going to try again next week.


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(Anonymous)
Sat, May. 9th, 2009 11:23 pm (UTC)

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uberdionysus
uberdionysus
Troy Swain: Black Box Miasma
Sat, May. 9th, 2009 11:54 pm (UTC)

Nick, I got sick and side-tracked. Are you going to be at Supercore tomorrow or Monday? Meet for a tea when I'm not soaking wet?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, May. 10th, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)

I'm actually not in that area over the next couple of days, Troy. But it was good to see you!


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(Anonymous)
Sun, May. 10th, 2009 02:41 am (UTC)

you really are the marcel duchamp for the naughties ,only that was then and this is now.dadism may no longer be of relevance.an eyebrow can only arch so far.and most importantly the elastic of ones tolerance and indulgence stretches then stretches then stretches again then snaps.
paradoxically dear momus keep those boundaries pushed.never rest on laurels.are yours rested if i may be so bold.


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(Anonymous)
Sun, May. 10th, 2009 06:50 am (UTC)
show video


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wildilocks
wildilocks
Cass
Sun, May. 10th, 2009 07:44 am (UTC)

A minor point, but as a Scottish Fold owner I feel compelled to correct your claim that Maru is of the Scottish Fold breed. It's a common error, as Maru is actually a British Shorthair, the breed from which the Scottish Fold mutated. All responsible breeders will breed a British Shorthair to a Scottish Fold to produce Folds who are not susceptible to severe genetic defects as Folds bredto Folds often produce: and many British Shorthairs are the result of the pairings, with only occaisional Folds produced. It'sentirely possible that Maru's mother or father was a Scottish Fold, however.

In all other respects your review of Maru's works is exemplary and I applaud your foresight and vision in recognising this talented artist.


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cerulicante
cerulicante
cerulicante
Sun, May. 10th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC)

I like the look Maru gives when he's in the box. Reminds me of Biggie:

Motherfucker please, this is my box, with my rocks,
Fuck that hip hop, them one-two's and you don't stops


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pixoteandcupido
pixoteandcupido
if you know me, than you know me.
Sun, May. 10th, 2009 11:20 pm (UTC)

I love these videos. They made me think of Wegman early black and white videos of his dogs. Have you seen Guy Ben Ner's film WILD BOY...?


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attg
ATTG
Tue, May. 12th, 2009 09:41 am (UTC)

man that gigantic hamster is friggin hilarious bmw engine san diego


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faerieboy
faerieboy
Potter of Faerie
Fri, Sep. 11th, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)

As a Poe-tv user, I've been a fan of Maru for years, I have to say this is one of the most insightful critiques of his work EVAR!


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