Makoto Aida


As I sit down to write this review I'm drinking a Pacifico beer, the staple of San Francisco artist Tom Marioni, which brings to mind his artwork "The Act of Drinking beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art." Thirty five years later, the japanese artist Mokoto Aida is visiting San Francisco with the exhibition Drink Sake Alone. Social alienation aside, Aida's work in the gallery is not far from the sense of humor floated by the early California Conceptualists like Baldessari and Marioni. Yet Aida is a much wittier incarnation, focused on global concerns and political satire.

Image Courtesy Lisa Dent Gallery


The bulk of the exhibition is comprised of a hand full of monitors surrounded by detritus, performance props, and the odd seating option (which hover in the ambiguous space between sculpture and furniture). I see this collection of 8 or so works in semi-installation format as cumulative. In other words I read them not as individual objects but as signifiers that build sentences and culminate in a sort of story line. The feeling underlying the story alternates between irreverent and charming. Works like "Attemped Suicide Machine Version 3 ...and 4" (2001/2002) sit a few steps away from "The Video from a Man calling himself Bin Laden staying in Japan" (2005). In combination they remind me of a fact I picked up recently: more people die each year from suicide than in all the world's armed conflicts. It's not that you should read this from the works, but I offer it as a way to suggest that Aida is calling up global concerns here. Concerns like the specters of war, the surface glance of tourism, and a shared sense of international anxiety. And he wraps it all up with a kind of humor that makes it easier to think. Or at least more inviting.

There are also several bonus tracks surrounding the exhibition. [....]