Curated by Stephen Sarrazin
videos by Gary Hill, Shelly Silver, Pascal Lievre, Woody and Steina Vasulka, Robert Cahen, Lydie Jean Dit Panel, Michel Jaffrennou, Miya Ando

Artists showcased by Rebecca Lee
With videos and installations by Valérie Mréjen & Bertand Schefer, Dominique Gonzales-Foerster, Pierre Joseph, Eric Baudelaire, Louidgi Beltrame, Nathalie Nisic, David Beautru & Dorothée Lorang, Aurélien Froment.

Single channel video and Installation Exhibition
Red Brick House, Yokohama, June 24- July 3rd 2011

The Red Brick House

Back in 2005, Bangkok-based French Artist Philippe Laleu was named director of the Institut Franco-Japonais (IFJ) de Yokohama, a post held for a maximum duration of five years. During his tenure, Laleu established a number of contemporary events in collaboration with budding venues, huge warehouses lining the Yokohama Bay, transformed by the city into massive independent exhibition spaces, the likes of which are not to be found in Tokyo, including Aka Renga/ the Red Brick House. One such event was YVC, the Yokohama Video Collection. Three French curators would share the Red Brick House’s galleries, conceiving individual readings of a common theme. I had the good fortune to collaborate with Philippe Laleu during those five years, before he returned to Bangkok to launch a new art center.
His successor, Rebecca Lee, taking over duties in the Fall of 2010, chose to keep YVC on the calendar of events initiated by the IFJ, with guest curators granted access to the same spaces.

Shelly Silver

Then March 11 happened in Japan, and in the days and weeks that followed artists and exhibitions across the country were either cancelled or postponed. YVC was to remain on schedule though not in its previous incarnations.

Coursing the separation between state funding and the means to conceive a project free from interference can be a delicate process. Philippe Laleu’s stance on this issue was exemplary, due in large part to his ability to speak both languages, as artist to curator, and as administrator to curator. Following March 11th, his successor informed all parties involved with YVC that the year’s theme would be a tribute to Japan, by French video and media artists who’d produced a work in Japan. Initially titled ‘Japon mon Amour’ by the IFJ, the Red Brick House directors let it be known they were less than comfortable with the reference to Alain Resnais’ film about Hiroshima. Thus the change to ‘Bien à vous’ which loosely translates as ‘best regards’, a proposition to which I would not adhere, going ‘bande à part’ with the title Plein Soleil, and an international selection of artists.

Gary Hill

Witnessing the process at hand, it recalled the coming to power of French président Nicolas Sarkozy, when he became known as the ‘hyperpresident’, taking on the role of each minister, nearly writing press releases himself. The IFJ director, not a curator, as the selection of work, and the manner in which they were boxed in within an exhibition space that allows from breathing room, demonstrated, did exactly that ; she appointed herself curator, assigned herself nearly two thirds of the exhibition space, and wrote much of the press releases herself. Her ‘Bien à Vous’ did serve to highlight what is the function of a curator. In Ms Lee’s selection, French artists were culled from the list of the Villa Kujoyama’s (1) recipients since its inception. Each piece was either walled in, or curtained off as they had little to say to each other, outside of having been shot in Japan.

As for the presence of rising French artist Aurélien Froment, this was due to his upcoming selection as sole French artist in the next Yokohama contemporary art Triennale this coming Fall. A kind of ‘coming soon’ trailer for the art world, to the delight of the French Embassy.

Lydie Jean Dit Panel

Some exhibitions are born out of difficulty, and to pay tribute to Japan did serve a noble purpose. As was shown in videos ranging over a thirty year period. Japan was and still is to this day a pole attractor. All artists in Plein Soleil waived fees, informing their distributors to forward the works, or doing it themselves. Yet I was to encounter one celebrated video distributor from New York City which, in spite of such instructions, wanted to charge adminstrative fees for posting dvd’s…(2). A gesture that diminishes the purpose, as did the IFJ’s accumulation of functions as a representation of power. Both of which were, to this extent, firsts for me. Which goes to show…

Stephen Sarrazin
Tokyo July 2011

1- The Villa Kujoyama, located in Kyoto, is operated by the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As with the Villa Médicis, French artists come to Kyoto to create a work in and around Japan.
2- I am grateful to the artists who once informed of this sent me their works directly to Japan.