Dazed Digital


Chim Pom

September 29, 2011

Introducing the controversial & socio-political art collective who refuse to stand back

  • Text by Sophie Jackson

Chim Pom were formed in Tokyo in 2005, an art collective composed of six people. They stand apart from other modern Japanese artists through their unique treatment of social issues including poverty, violence and most recently and controversially Japan’s relationship with nuclear power.

In 2007 Chim Pom began to seriously garner some attention after their work on a project in Cambodia exploring the destruction dealt out by landmines in the region. The lone female of the group, Ellie, had a yearning to carry out a project exploring the charity work completed by celebrities such as Angelina Jolie in the area. Collaborating with locals who assist with mine removal, the group arranged objects including luxury handbags and sculptures of Ellie posing like a celebrity and blew them up, subsequently live auctioning off the damaged remains in Japan to raise money for the affected areas. However, typical to much of Chim Pom’s work, the auction came with a twist. As opposed to the price of the artworks gradually increasing over the course of the auction, the prices began high and had two correlating figures indicating both famous artworks of the same amounts and also the number of artificial limbs that could be purchased with the sum, inducing guilt and a sense of responsibility amongst the bidders.

Since the tragic events of March 11, Chim Pom have become very well known both in and outside of Japan for a more extreme form of artistic intervention. As the disaster at Fukishima became more grave, Chim Pom turned to Japan’s history of nuclear disaster (it is the only country to have endured two atomic attacks) and a famous artwork depicted at Tokyo’s Shibuya station symbolising this past. Tara Okomoto’s "Myth of Tomorrow", was artfully vandalised by Chim Pom as they added a new section in the style of the original painting depicting the recent disaster at Fukishima power plant. Additional stunts included gaining access to the Fukishima plant and spray painting a Japanese flag to represent the nuclear symbol.

Since this activity in the spring of this year, the group seem not to have stood still. Satellite Voices got their first chance to check out the group’s work up close at an exhibition in a hair salon that quarterly transforms itself into a gallery, well why not? The latest show, entitled "K-I-S-S-I-N-G" assesses the increase in need for intimacy and affection in Japan following the events of 3-11. A video piece, Kiss, forms the centre of the exhibition playing with the loneliness and vulnerability that followed March's extraordinary events with the broken lightbulbs simultaneously nodding to the power outages that came and also representing the fragile state of Japanese people themselves. Other highlights included a nibble selection boasting an impressive use of food dye and vegetable arrangement and an image of Ellie provocatively embracing a life size sculpture of Jesus on the cross.

A thought provoking show from a fascinating group in a great use of space.

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