"you can't step in the same river twice,"
Heraclitus 500 BC
For Heraclitus the act of repetition seems to be something of a misnomer, consisting in the return, not of the same, but of the different--the return of something else, something other. Thus in fact it would seem there is no return... For no two "things" are ever identical or exactly the same.1 -Bruce Fink, 1995
“Never stepping in the same river twice” is now a well worn cliché repeated to the point of exhaustion. The works in the exhibition by Bruce Yonemoto utilize several strategies of conceptualization. The works can loosely be described as being détourned from a previous work. The term détournement is borrowed from the French, the original language of the Situationist International publications of the 1950’s.
Yonemoto’s détourned works are variations of previous media works familiar to the audience. The newly created work has a meaning that can be antagonistic or antithetical to the original, but always a revaluation of previous work so that the opposition of the new message can be understood.
Sounds Like the Sound of Music, (2005) engages the Peruvian culture by translating an iconographic American musical song into the indigenous Incan language of Quechua. This representation will, offer an insight to a colonized culture that has successfully coexisted to this day with the dominant societies of Europe and the US. The original 1960 feature film, The Sound of Music was a Heimatfilm, (German for "homeland-film”) a film genre that was popular in Germany, Switzerland and Austria from the late 40s to the early 70s. The purpose of these films was to retune and reframe the perception German society after WWII. Much like a Heimatfilm, Yonemoto’s Sounds Like the Sound of Music “détournes” the original film by representing Quechua society as a guileless boy singing praises of his native Andean environment. The Quechua language is spoken by 13 million people across the Andes and South America. Perhaps our only knowledge comes from the second installment of the Star Wars Trilogy. George Lucas’ disgusting villain, Jabba the Hutt speaks native Quechua. It is said that Lucas wanted to use a language which no one would understand.
Papa, (the original potato eaters) (2006) is a media installation where potatoes, indigenous to the farmlands of Andean Peru serve as the principal metaphor in this revisionist documentary. Papa replicates Vincent Van Gogh’s original painted composition, The Potato Eaters. The “uncivilized, unpeeled dusty faces” of the original Dutch peasants are portrayed by an indigenous Andean Quechua family who continue to this day “to earn their meals honestly (Van Gogh).” Following, the model of Luis Bunuel’s landmark 1932 surrealist documentary, Land Without Bread (Las Hurdes), Papa (the original potato eaters) attempts to détourne the discourse typically adopted by the ‘voice of god’ documentary form, simply by bringing the underlying elitism of such formalism to the foreground – the distance that is inherent to ‘objectivity’ is revealed merely as cynicism.
Following the strategy of détournement as revaluation, Kintsugi (2011) restages the practice of repairing broken pottery with a lacquer resin infused with powdered gold. The “recycling” of once valued objects, now broken and destroyed revalues the artwork. At this moment of world economic depression the practice of kintsugi is one of optimism. By repairing mass produced commodities instead of only unique artworks Kintsugi is an update of a practice which repeats strategies found in Marcel Duchamp’s Readymades.
Bringing together childhood memories of the family car trips from San Francisco to Disneyland, and the Reality Principle of French philosopher, Jean Baudrillard the video installation, Simulations (2008) draws from his text.
Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the “real” country, all of the “real” America, which is Disneyland….Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, when in fact all of Los Angeles and the America surrounding it are no longer real, but of the order of the hyperreal and of simulation. It is no longer a question of a false representation of reality (ideology), but of concealing the fact that the real is no longer real, and thus of saving the reality principle. -Jean Baudrillard
Simulations unites the sign of our collective memory, Disneyland’s Matterhorn with its allegorical referent, the newly machined 3-D print. Each of the works in this exhibition repeats but with a difference. By reinvesting both materially and theoretically into the previously exhausted forms, Yonemoto opens up new critical pathways.
1. Bruce Fink, "The Real Cause of Repetition," in Reading Seminar XI, Feldstein et al, eds. (New York: SUNY Press, 1995), 223.