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October 21, Harajuku
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Japanese art collective Chim↑Pom gained widespread notoriety last year when they pasted an image of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant into the corner of Taro Okamoto's 'Myth of Tomorrow' A-bomb mural in Shibuya Station. You can see the offending image at the Watari-Um's latest exhibition, in which the group curate a selection of artist-provocateurs from around the world, with mixed results. By far the most controversial of the groups represented are Voina, a Russian mob who rail against corruption in their native country by overturning police cars, orchestrating mock-hangings in hardware stores and conducting orgies in public museums. These feats are reproduced in videos and enormous posters, the most striking of which depicts an enormous phallus that Voina's members hastily painted on a bridge near the KGB headquarters just as it was about to go up.
Chim↑Pom's own works, including stuffed rats painted as Pikachu and an image burned directly onto the wall of the gallery, seem a little tame in comparison, while their photo of a nuclear worker brandishing a red card at the ruined Fukushima plant lacks the potency of the infamous 'Finger Pointing Worker' video, which also features here. There's a nod to an early generation of atomically informed artist in the form of a video of Iri Maruki's 'The Hiroshima Panels', which addressed nuclear issues at a time when such discussions were forbidden in the mainstream Japanese media. Yet one of the most disquieting pieces is Takeuchi Kota's series of paintings based on wanted posters, which the artist dubs 'Post-its of Fear'.
Other parts of the show are less satisfactory: it was disappointing to discover that the contribution by Canadian anti-consumerists Adbusters amounted to nothing more than a rack of magazines, while street artist JR's films have the feel of slick promo videos, like a feelgood Banksy complete with TED talk footage. It was also noticeably incomplete: one of Chim↑Pom's pieces won't be appearing until April 7, while the patchiness of the explanatory translations suggested a rushed job, though that's probably what you should expect from a show that opened on April Fool's Day.