“I get it!” is not always possible with contemporary art, and sometimes I don’t mind being puzzled, mystified or confounded. But other times there are art works where I think I ought to get it – but feel pushed away and then annoyed by the fact that I haven’t been given enough information to “get it.” Not here. Tatzu Nishi’s installation in Sydney is profoundly gettable, simple, direct and straightforward. It made me think; and laugh out loud.
Nishi is getting pretty well known for working with public monuments and statues. What he does is build a scaffold around an existing statue’s plinth and then makes a small building on top so that the statue is entirely enclosed by a small room decorated in the manner of an apartment or hotel. In Liverpool he enclosed a statue of Queen Victoria within a grand hotel bedroom room; in Christchurch he enclosed a statue of Captain James Cook within motel bathroom. At the Art Gallery of New South Wales he enclosed the two equestrian monuments that stand either side of the Gallery’s main entrance, giving each a room of their own. In one room Nishi had organised the room, decor and furnishings so that the huge bronze horse and rider looked as if they were standing on a pair of disheveled double beds. In the other room Nishi had turned the allegorical figure of “Peace” riding on a rearing horse into a divided duo: “Peace” was now a head-and-shoulders bust sitting on a coffee table, while the horse’s head was enclosed by (stuffed into) a set of cupboards.
There’s another coffee table arrangement that I’d seen photos of, and wish I’d got to see in person. It was in Cologne. There Nishi managed, after quite a process, to get permission to build a scaffold right to the top of the Cathedral's roofline where he built a viewing room around the gilded cross that sat on top of the roof’s apex. Imagine that: climbing all those stairs up the outside of the Cathedral and entering into the temporary room to find the cross sitting on a coffee table like an ordinary, but over-sized piece of objet d’art.
Where, what, when: Tatzu Nishi, "War and peace and inbetween" 2 October 2009 - 14 February 2010, Sydney, Australia (photos by Rob Garrett)