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NEWCOMER - Naoko Tanaka 

(by Melanie Suchy / TANZ / May. 2011)


She is not new, and yet in some senses, she is a newcomer, as the sole performer in what is also her solo creation. 

At the same time, Tanaka ‘disappears’ in her installation. In Die Scheinwerferin, presented at the Tanztage Berlin, the onlooker sits in a room covered with light-coloured fabric, not far from a kitchen table. On the table lies a doll, an exact replica of the artist. 

Naoko Tanaka explores the little body with a torch and then disappears. She projects light to the background rumble of a moving train. On hands and knees, she creeps through a landscape of objects on the floor underneath the table. On the back screen, a sort of film appears. Shadows softly sway in delicate motion in the light of a large lamp. First bent cutlery, then a railway track, a thicket, a fence, depressing and fascinating. When Tanaka's hair frames the images it is as though we are witnessing them through her eyes. As the artist holds the mini-spotlight in her ever-flowing hands, the pictures seem to breathe and what appears is not only what is seen with a glance out of a train window, but also insight into an inner, organic world.


This wizardry appears with such simplicity and confers upon the scene a sense of imagination or a semi-real world. The artist is just as recognisable in this world as in other works she has produced since 2001 in Düsseldorf, as part of the artists' collective Ludica, in collaboration with the choreographer Morgan Nardi. Previous work also features walls becoming transparent: ‘1’ gave us video projections portraying a white shadow scampering through underground tunnels and library corridors, The Corner had a sofa, a rubber plant, a queue-counter display and a door slightly ajar, Das Orchideenzimmer featured the filming of a model of a theatre hall, filled with rabbit figurines and Koko Doko came with cubes made of coloured filters held up in front of lights. 


Before beginning her first solo piece, Die Scheinwerferin, Tanaka stated that she wanted to get back to the simple shadow. She also decided not to include any musicians or lighting technicians in the installation, only herself. Born in Tokyo in 1975, Tanaka comes from a visual arts background. After studying sculpture and painting, she received a scholarship to continue her studies in Düsseldorf in 1999. She exhibits her own work and in previous pieces with Ludica has almost always been present, involved in some way, operating the camera or spot lights or sitting in a tent with a small light. Now she is the whole performance. 

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