The Angels of Testimony

Artist: Meiro Koizumi
installation, video | 3-channel video installation: colour, sound; archival materials | 2019

Often drawn from constructed scenarios and performances with ordinary people, Meiro Koizumi’s works consider the dividing lines between public and private and probe public and private awareness of innate and socially conditioned behaviours. In his SB14 commission, The Angels of Testimony (2019), Koizumi explores guilt as personal experience and collective inheritance by examining the ‘war guilt of a nation’. Guilt is normally seen as a private feeling associated with the psychological sphere of one individual. However, in its collective emotional manifestation, an individual is expected to feel guilt on behalf of the entire group, even if she or he is not one of the direct perpetrators of the crime. There is a gap between the emotions an individual is supposed to feel and her or his psychological reality. In his three-channel video, Koizumi traverses this gap between personal experience and collective obligation through the creation of a ritual. Working with 11 Japanese youth between 17 and 26 years old, the artist explores ways this group grapples with the deep-seated guilt of a soldier who perpetrated war crimes in China during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–1945). Koizumi’s work aims to locate and process an individual sense of guilt within the country’s wider cultural DNA, thus questioning ‘national’ responsibility. The work resonates with the way Japanese culture is structured around formal rituals, engrained from an early age at home and school. For the artist, bodies become ‘ritualistic vessels’ for prescribed emotion. The silence surrounding Japanese military atrocities in East Asia also extends to Southeast Asia and can be traced in the works of SB14 artists Phan Thảo Nguyên and Antariksa.


Journey Beyond the Arrow@Sharjah Biennial 14 - Leaving the Echo Chamber | 2019.03.07 - 2019.06.10 | Sharjah Art Foundation(Sharjah, United Arab Emirates)