Shotgun Reviews

Teiji Furuhashi: Lovers at the Museum of Modern Art

Shotgun Reviews are an open forum where we invite the international art community to contribute timely, short-format responses to an exhibition or event. If you are interested in submitting a Shotgun Review, please click this link for more information. In this Shotgun Review, Yuting Bai reviews Teiji Furuhashi: Lovers at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Teiji Furuhashi. Lovers, 1994; computer controlled, five-channel laser disc/sound installation with five projectors, two sound systems, two slide projectors, and slides (color, sound). Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art. © 2016 Dumb Type.

Teiji Furuhashi. Lovers, 1994; computer controlled, five-channel laser disc/sound installation with five projectors, two sound systems, two slide projectors, and slides (color, sound). Courtesy of the Museum of Modern Art. © 2016 Dumb Type.

Standing solemnly as an apocalyptic coda to Nan Goldin: The Ballad of Sexual Dependency (1985) at the Museum of Modern Art, Teiji Furuhashi: Lovers features an eponymous installation that invites viewers to interact with bare apparitions through multimedia technology. In contrast to the Goldin’s brutal details of sex, drugs, and violence during the 1980s in Lower Manhattan, Lovers (1994) displays nudity in an austere, almost asexual manner. Nonetheless, the Japanese artist addresses contemporary love from a similar standpoint as his intense New York neighbor: ars longa, vita brevis. This marks the first time Lovers has been exhibited since its inauguration at MoMA in 1995, one year before the artist’s death of AIDS-related complications at thirty-five. Reiterating the universality of alienation, especially the isolation of sexual minorities, the exhibition is particularly pertinent today, as discrimination has resurfaced since the recent presidential election.

The monumental entrance of Lovers starkly displays the artist’s name and the artwork title high above my head. Below, a sea of funereal blackness confronts my eyes. Such design seems to suggest that I should not enter if I am afraid. So I do.

The chamber looks like a minimalist coffin. Enormous black walls ascend to borderless ceilings, enveloping the cavernous space in a cosmic void. The ivory floor gleams as my eyes adjust. A tower of seven stacked-up projectors rotates at the center, emitting beams of light like a lighthouse. Five life-size, naked figures appear on the facades. Men and women, translucent apparitions, move and pose in nonchalant elegance. They are silhouettes of the artist and his friends. At times, these “lovers” walk and run toward each other. However, once the distance diminishes, their ghostly bodies overlap and never touch, as if they exist in parallel universes. The sound of wind chimes adds to the dreamlike atmosphere.

Motion-sensors detect me as I, too, circulate. A man on the screen opens his arms like the Vitruvian Man. As I approach him, a vertical beam of light appears with a programmed text “limit” attached to it. He fades into the abyss. A woman, in slow motion, cradles my shadow in her arms. The message is disillusioning. This is an interactive experience that challenges the possibility of true interaction. Lovers left me with a vulnerable feeling of ephemerality and bleakness. I wish there was something concrete to alleviate the effect, even a press release to anchor me. Instead, I walk out with nothing other than an empty embrace of an apparition. Strangely, it lingers longer than a real one.

Teiji Furuhashi: Lovers is on view through April 16, 2017.

Bai Yuting is an independent curator and writer. She is also a Curatorial Fellow at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

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