Noriko Ambe's “(Un)filtered Reflections” vernissage at Aloft at Hermès
Noriko Ambe’s “(Un)filtered Reflections” vernissage at Aloft at Hermès

“What do you think your textbooks teach you? And what do your textbooks not teach you?” These are the questions Japanese artist Noriko Ambe asks with her latest exhibition, “(Un)filtered Reflections” at Aloft at Hermès, which guides visitors (and not just bibliophiles) to question their relationship with and understanding of books. Before you head over to the third level of the Hermes flagship at Liat Towers for this, let us give you a quick introductory scroll first:

  • 1. Based in New York, Noriko Ambe is acclaimed for her paper and book-themed artworks, which have shown at established museums such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She takes an existing book—sometimes novels, or in this case textbooks—cuts them up and remoulds them into new sculptures that offer new visual and psychological narratives.
  • Noriko Ambe's “(Un)filtered Reflections” vernissage at Aloft at Hermès
    “From an artistic perspective we could say that textbooks also contain the achievements of individuals, families, nations, ethnicities, biological and cultural memories which have been built up over many years. I try to use the textbooks as the primary material, altering them into a sculpture with temptations. Once the textbooks are altered, the meaning of textbooks remain as they are. That dynamic transference is the core of this project.” Noriko Ambe on (Un)Euclidean, Art and History Textbooks, School of the Arts (SOTA), Singapore and Furukawa Junior High School, Japan

    2. Ambe is constantly inspired by real-life events and the deeply sensitive relationships people have with subjects like location, history, culture and society. Her art reflects those concerns and guides onlookers to think of those relationships in a new light.

  • 3. “(Un)filtered Reflections” sees Ambe collaborating with the public for the first time. She worked with students from Japan and Singapore (countries with a high focus on academic achievements) and engaged them to draw a single unbroken line in their textbooks that symbolised their future. Playing the role of listener to these students, she then cut these lines to create three-dimensional shapes that became visual portraits of the students.
Noriko Ambe's “(Un)filtered Reflections” vernissage at Aloft at Hermès
“The title of this piece is (Un)Filtered Reflections, the same title as the whole show. And so, you can see the mirror in the back but you can’t see yourself because the façade is blocking you. This is the front cover of a Japanese morals or ethics textbook. The text on the cover says, ‘Look at yourselves’ but we can’t see ourselves because this textbook is blocking us. It’s a metaphor, reminding me of the ethics textbooks of my school days that reminded us to be nicer. But now in Japan, this is one of the main subjects that children are graded on. It’s controlled by the Government, giving it a political undertone, so it’s going to be hard for children.” Noriko Ambe on (Un)Filtered Reflections 1, Japanese Ethics Textbook
  1. 4. Students that Ambe worked with are from Singapore’s School of the Arts (SOTA) and Japan’s  Furukawa Junior High School in Osaki City. She invited them to take a textbook of their choice and guided them to channel any negativity felt towards it into more a positive, forward-looking outlook.

5. Translating their thoughts and feelings of their education systems into paper- and book-sculptures, the three-dimensional works are physical manifestations of the anxieties, concerns and issues faced by the students with regards to the education system or even societal expectations. The personal stories reflect the emotional state of today’s youth that you can almost “read” at first sight.

Noriko Ambe's “(Un)filtered Reflections” vernissage at Aloft at Hermès
“Students may see themselves in the works that I have created, or they may feel as though they are being seen by the works.” Along with this collaboration, I also collected history textbooks from Asian countries as a form of political study through art. With I myself as the medium, and the textbooks as the material for the students, all of us meet in the installation ‘Under the Big Tree’.” Noriko Ambe’s Under the Big Tree, History Textbooks from Asian countries

6. Aloft is one of five Fondation d’entreprise Hermès art spaces around the world. Every year sees at least two artists come in to show their works, the other one this year being Korean artist Minjung Kim’s Oneness, comprising hypnotically idyllic contemporary ink paintings of Zen landscapes and reflections.

“(Un)filtered Reflections” is showing at Aloft, Hermès at 541 Orchard Road, Liat Towers, until 11 February, 2018

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