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Hiraki Sawa – Lenticular

Dundee Contemporary Arts until January 5th 2014
Four stars
There's something quietly starstruck about the subject of 'Lenticular' (2013), the newly-commissioned film-work by Japanese artist Hiraki Sawa, which forms the centrepiece of Sawa's first solo exhibition in Scotland. Robert Law is a self-taught astronomer who works at Dundee's Mills Observatory, where Sawa filmed this cosmonaut of inner space going about his business of exploring other worlds with somewhat archaic-looking machineries of joy. The result is an impressionistic six-minute portrait of one man's parallel universe that's counterpointed by a domed facsimile of the Observatory, that comes complete with meditative projections and an ambient score that suggest the ultimate chill-out room.

It's a telling insight into Sawa's playful sensibilities, in which after-dark magical-realist dream-states conjure up imaginary worlds. The word 'lenticular' describes something that is lens-shaped. As Sawa focuses in on assorted obsessions in both wide-screen and miniature, the physical space left between each piece is also telling.

In 'Lineament' (2012), a vinyl record unravels and goes through walls and doors as a man attempts to recapture the threads of his memory. While this is spread across two screens, an actual record plays the film's soundtrack. All of this is synchronised with 'Lenticular' so they play in turn rather than over each other in a grown-up, sub-Lynchian affair.

If 'Aurora' (2013) gives its one-minute mirror image of the Northern Lights a wide-eyed depth and the five-film 'Souvenir' (2012) becomes a vivid set of sense memories, an even brighter sense of wonder prevails in 'Inhere' (2004), 'Unseen Park' (2006) and 'Elsewhere' (2003). With the first two pieces made with children, Sawa has spaceships fly through washing machines and goldfish bowls in 'Inhere', and a whole fleet of Origamied-up make-believe vehicles flying high in 'Unseen Park'. In 'Elsewhere', toilet rolls and other domestic objects come to life. It's as if the culprits behind the Cottingley Fairies hoax had taken over an after-hours toy-shop and reimagined the world anew.

The List, November 2013


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