Art-Mama of Life-Art died

One of the longest experiments Life-Art came to an end Thursday, May 25th 2017. Odai Orimoto, better known as “Art-Mama”, died at the age of 98 in Kawasaki-City. She has become part of the art-world, since Japanese Fluxus-Artist Tatsumi Orimoto included her in his Life-Art in 1996 and launched photoprints of “Tire-Tube-Communication” showing Odai with neighbors in her garden and in her living room.[1] It seemed slightly disturbing to the audience, to see three old ladies with tires as necklaces, and later also “Art-Mama”

Small Mama + Big Shoes, Kawasaki 1997, Courtesy of the artist

with gigantic custom-made shoes. But Orimoto’s work is about the burden of getting old and feeling one’s body as a weight, which becomes heavier and heavier every year. These aspects of the mature body, which have never been reflected by Body Art were introduced by Tatsumi Orimoto for the first time in art history. He started this unique artistic collaboration with his mother who was suffering from depression and Alzheimer’s disease and it lasted for 21 years. The whole artistic production of that period was labelled “Art-Mama” and focuses on the aesthetic implications of the growing number of elderly people in many contemporary societies. Beside the physical self-awareness it deals with the shrinking field of vision, deteriorated hearing and haptic sensations.

The last time, that Odai appeared in a public performance, was at a lunch for 50 grandmas in the Kawasaki-City-Museum in 2006. After that Orimoto spent more and more time taking care for his mother. Nevertheless he travelled in Japan and abroad, to show his new work (see several articles in this blog – just tick on Orimoto, Art-Mama and other key-words of this article like artist’s mothers) which he produced at home including his mother as usual and experimenting with new objects and tools related to his care-taking like diapers and wheelchairs.

The Stress with the Wheelchair, Kawasaki-City 2012, courtesy of the artist

Last year Orimoto appeared as a woman’s drag as “Art-Mama” by himself. Here he investigates the field of similarity and imitation not only of facial expression but also on body-language and habits as a topic in the arts.

[1] The first European shows of this series was realized by Aktionsgalerie in Berlin in 1999 and Fotogalerie Wien in April 2000 (Catalogue # 160, Vienna 2000)

Time-Pieces of „Bread-Man“

Performance: Clock-Men, Tokyo 1991, courtesy of the artist

One of Tatsumi Orimoto‘s photo-performances shows him and his friend Shobara with big clocks, wrapped in card-board and attached to their heads. This action represents time as a challenge to art and life and relates to Orimoto’s back-ground in FLUXUS, when he was participating in the Clock Show in Clock Tower in Manhattan in 1974. The affection of Orimoto’s art for life and time has stayed as strong as ever until today. The Plate-Clock-Objects of 1971 combining the running of time and the supply with food became a paradigm of his life, whose main artistic issues are bread and his life as a son, who takes care of his mother. She has been suffering from depression and Alzheimer for more than 20 years. Performances titled “Bread-Man-Son and Alzheimer-Mama” refer to this.

Tatsumi Orimoto, Performances and Events in Copenhagen, Aug. 2016, courtesy of the artist

Every year Orimoto issues an edition of posters and folders of his performances of the past year. Since his mother has become too old – she is 98 now – to perform with Orimoto-san in museums and galleries, the artist has been looking for ways of compensating for her appearance by photo-performances at home or by transforming himself into Art-Mama. “I Make Up And Become ART-MAMA” was performed November 13, 2016 at Aoyama/Meguro, Tokyo.

Orimoto: I Make Up And Become ART-MAMA, Nov. 13, 2016, Aoyama / Meguro, Tokyo, courtesy of the artist

Mother of Performance Art

A man tousles the thin hair of an old woman while you can hear Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. More intensity of the sound exaggerates the massage of the scalp and the expression of the mother’s face changes between relaxation, delight and surprise. In short this is what happens during the Performance “Beethoven-Mama” by the Japanese artist Tatsumi Orimoto and his mother Odai the 20th of October 2012 in Kawasaki-City.

courtesy of the artist

Video-still: Mitsunori Demachi, Courtesy of the artist

Since Orimoto sen. died the artist has been taking care of his depressive and hearing-impaired mother, who he continuously has included in his artwork since 1996. This highlighted the absurd and grotesque aspects of the dementia; his mother – born in 1920 – suffers from. Orimoto communicates the resulting artwork, consisting of photographs, videos, posters and drawings worldwide. Also he uses performances and events in galleries, museums and art-fairs.
His new work combines the cliché of Ludwig van Beethoven as a crazy composer with therapeutic effects of a scalp massage. However performances like this are no artistic extravagances but develop from everyday experiences and the needs of both. Orimoto calls his global activities “Communication Art” and now has to cope with a reduction of his activities abroad, as he feels responsible for the daily care of his mother. For her, a person with Alzheimer, who is unable to hear and who is losing memory, he looks for ways to create communicative situation. His drastic actions help to build bridges of communication to break down the growing walls of solitude of dementia.
Johannes Lothar Schröder