Who would make a video of a cute young woman spewing up bright pink vomit? Who would pull a it’s me scam and direct the money into a complete stranger’s bank account? In the name of art, such interesting projects are being carried out by Chim↑Pom, a group of 6 artists who got together in 2005. Today PingMag tries to figure out exactly what they are up to.
Written by Ayana
Translated by Kevin Mcgue
A group photo of Chim↑Pom to commemorate their participation in the prestigious Venice Biennale in 2007…not! This photo was done guerrilla-style at Tokyo Disney Sea resort. ©2007 Chim↑Pom. Courtesy of Mujin-to Production, Tokyo
To start, could you all introduce yourselves?
Inaoka: I’m Inaoka. I build walls and make things with plaster.
Mizuno: I’m Mizuno. I’m going to be doing even more disgusting stuff this year, so please look out for it.
Okada: I’m Okada. I don’t have a specific role, so I do stuff on the sly.
Hayashi: I’m Hayashi. I do all sorts of chores for Chim↑Pom.
Ellie: I’m Ellie, Chim↑Pom’s leader…just kidding. I usually work on my blog.
Ushiro: I’m Ushiro. I guess you could say I am our captain.
So what does Chim↑Pom do?
Ellie: We show a wonderful world that most people don’t normally see.
I heard that you were all influenced by the contemporary artist Makoto Aida, but how did Chim↑Pom get started?
Ushiro: Ellie is very bright and cute, so we have always been friends. Whenever I did something interesting with Ellie, I thought that we could turn it into art.
I really want to ask you about some of your works. You made the “Super☆Rat,” a real rat, taxidermically stuffed, and frozen in a cute Pikachu pose. Could you tell us about that?
The rather cute “Super☆Rat” at the recent “Art@Agnes” art fair. Image by PingMag
Ushiro: It all started when I realized that the rats that you can see in Shibuya’s Center-gai and the girls in Pikachu costumes, walking around in the same area, really look the same! I looked into it a bit and found out that recently, some rats have developed immunities to rat poisons. They survive to pass this adaptation on to their offspring. People in the extermination business call them “super rats.” I decided to make “Super Rat” the name of one of our exhibitions. These super rats have developed into what they are because of human activities. Even though humans are trying to exterminate the rats, they have become an eradicable part of society. I also thought that the type of girls that hang around Center-gai are a bit similar.
But why is the rat in this pose?
Ellie: We wanted to do a faithful recreation of one of the poses that Pikachu often has in manga. I put a metal rod in its tail and bent it into a zig-zag shape just like Pikachu’s tail.
By the way, how did you get the rat in the first place?
Mizuno: We weren’t able to get a big rat with a trap. We saw an old guy who worked at a ramen shop beating garbage bags with a stick to drive away rats, and that gave us an idea. We beat on some garbage that had been put out and caught the rats with a net as they ran out. It was as easy as catching fish in a small pond. In 20 minutes we had caught 5 or 6 of them. We finished so quickly, we didn’t even have to pay that much for parking. (Laughs) What was interesting was that as we were leaving, a club tout told us, “don’t leave yet,” and then he gave us advice on how to catch female rats as well. (Laughs)
It sounds like you have a lot of fun. Could you tell me about “I’m Bokan”?
Ellie: When I was in junior high school, I saw images on TV of Princess Di walking in a minefield. That made a lasting impression on me. Much later, when Ushiro and Hayashi asked me what my dream was, I told them “clearing minefields.” We actually decided to do it, going to Cambodia for a month.
In this project, you blew up some of your personal belongings. Why is that?
Ushiro: I have never seen Japanese things that have been blown up by mines, so I decided to destroy my own personal property.
The other day you held an auction in which the prices went down rather than up, with the proceeds going to Cambodian charities. Could you tell us about that?
Ushiro: That is related to the recent bubble in the art market. I want to take our works and set them at the price of Damien Hirst’s diamond-encrusted skull that reportedly sold for $100 million, or Takashi Murakami’s Miss Ko2, which sold for $567,500. Starting with these prices, we worked our way down.
Hayashi: We got the musician Seiko Ito to be our auctioneer. We started by posing the question, “how many prosthetic legs could be bought with the $100 million that Hirst’s work got?” At one point I was thinking that it would be hard to donate all that money. The prices went down and down from there, and more and more hands went up. I had the feeling that the whole audience was deciding the final auction price.
Ellie: I was happy to see that normal businesspeople, not only collectors, were raising their hands at first. The auction was one link in the chain of “I’m Bokan.”
Could you tell us about your recent work, “Black of Death”?
Ushiro: We heard that the taxidermist we met during the “Super Rat” project was using stuffed crows to amass live crows. So when we opened an exhibition at Laforet Gallery, we decided to get together as many crows as we could, and we certainly got a lot of them.
Panic in the streets of Shibuya! Using a stuffed crow and a loudspeaker broadcasting crow sounds, Chim↑Pom amassed a huge number of crows at the fashion center of 109: “BLACK OF DEATH (above 109, Shibuya, Tokyo 2007)” ©2007 Chim↑Pom. Courtesy of Mujin-to Production, Tokyo.
Beginning at Yoyogi Park, Inaoka rode his scooter down towards Shibuya station. Ellie was on the back of the scooter with the stuffed crow and the loudspeaker. We filmed from a car in front of the scooter. This was all done around 5 a.m., when a lot of garbage is being put out and there are a lot of crows. By the time we got to 109, the sky was really something to see.
Wow! Ellie, weren’t you scared?
Ellie: No, not at all. The crows never attacked. Actually, this is a work in progress, so we will do it again.
Ushiro: The title “Black of Death” made me think of the funeral of a mafia leader, or crows circling above a bad man about to die.
Mizuno: There is nothing that doesn’t die.
Of course! Do you get ideas like that often?
Ushiro: Yes. Basically, I am an ideaman, so I always have a stock of ideas. Putting form to those, we don’t necessarily work in the context of art, we do something we want to do from our own state of impetus. For example, our simple motivation to go to Cambodia was to help Ellie realize her dream of doing work with landmines.
Have you discovered anything as a result of going out and creating art in the field?
Ellie: There are a lot of things you understand by actually doing them, and there are many things you see for the first time if you go out into the world.
Ushiro: And it is simply pleasurable. While out working on things, chance and fate become immediate feedback into what we are doing, and this raises our motivation.
Mizuno: By looking into things that aren’t known, you go down a new road where you find something new and charismatic. However, everyone we meet seems to have similar auras.
Do you have any final message for people who will be viewing your works?
Ushiro: We are doing what we really want to, and I hope more people will be able to do the same.
Ellie: You know, I just love Chim↑Pom! Ellie is so cute!
Art can be fun! Chim↑Pom’s members pose for a group photo. Courtesy of Mujin-to Production, Tokyo
The cover of Chim↑Pom’s DVD “P.T.A” from 2006. ©2006 Chim↑Pom. Courtesy of Mujin-to Production, Tokyo
Thanks so much to everyone at Chim↑Pom for showing us your fun art today!