There may be thousands of inspiring works on display at the 55th Venice International Art Biennale, but if you are a fashion designer (but also a writer...), Shinro Ohtake's Scrapbooks #1-66 (1977-2012) are definitely among the most interesting ones.
For many of us notebooks are key tools to collect random ideas, thoughts and images, but Ohtake's works are truly unique pieces.
Ohtake started the Scrapbooks series in 1977 and the collection grew to feature over sixty books, some of them featuring 700 pages.
The scrapbooks, showcased in the Central Pavilion at the Giardini are a riotous mass of colours and materials: each page is the result of a very special miscellaneous collage featuring vintage adverts, tickets, matchbooks, photographs, comic books, drawings or bits and pieces of everyday objects, relics of an ordinary life arranged in casual way.
Even the covers are works of art: some include scary plastic eyes popping out of the front cover, others seem to be tributes to Monster, Detective or Crime magazines.
Born in Tokyo, prolific Ohtake has been an influential presence in Japanese contemporary art since his first solo show at Tokyo's Gallery Watari in 1985.
In his scrapbooks the artist represents a maximalist accumulation of ideas, thoughts, images and found materials.
The pieces are quite low-tech when it comes to the techniques involved to make them, but the variety of eclectic materials and methods of collection symbolising cross-fertilisation of different cultures is amazing (random vintage Olivetti ads are juxtaposed to images taken from American comics or to Exotica photographs like a postcard showing the statue of Dino from the Flintstones Amusement Park).
The pieces manage to ooze an incredible visual energy, but they can also be interpreted as geological representations of our modern times.
The artist doesn't indeed use the pages of the books to stratify his personal experiences and life, since the scrapbooks aren't conceived as personal diaries. Ohtake employs the scrapbooks as monumental sculptures representing that quirky synchronicity between past, present and future.
The works on display at the Biennale also go well with the main theme of this year's event, the Encyclopedic Palace, as they chronicle a vast amount of knowledge in a sort of chaotic way.
Ohtake actually also tackled chaos through his noise-rock bands JUKE/19 and the Puzzle Punks (music is one of his passion as some of his scrapbooks incorporating musical instruments prove) and represented it on an even larger scale in his Naoshima-based Haisha (literally "dentist") Art House, once the home and office of a dentist, transformed into a unique large architectural collage of objects, scrap material, signs and neon lights.
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