Communication through the Tire Tube
The adventure of communication between old and young in greater Tokyo as photographed by Tatsumi Orimoto and seen by Johannes Lothar Schroeder
The three old ladies look monstrous with car tires on their shoulders, meeting for tea, lounging on the living room couch, or meeting in the backyard in front of the camera. The artist’s mother with her neighbourhood friends in Kawasaki City, a city that has been swallowed by the conglomerate, Tokyo.
If the mother were not 80, her son 50 years old as well as an artist whose roots reach back to the Fluxus Scene in 1960’s and 70’s New York City, one would think that Tatsumi Orimoto is a naughty boy playing a bad prank on three ladies. Of all things, why does he burden them with old, worn tires from motorcycles and other vehicles? If one examines the Photographs closely, one notices that the three ladies carry the weight hanging around their necks with ease. They are not even feigning good humour to a bad game, no, they actually make a good impression; somewhat stoic, but all participants seem to get along. Social life is evidently intact: The three old ladies drink their tea together, live in their own four walls and have their social contacts. They don’t need the services of the various companies that send their employees rolling through the city to provide the elderly with their necessities: food on wheels, ambulant care etc.
Documentary Intervention in Everyday Life
Tatsumi Orimoto calls the pieces in which he includes people he has met during his travels, i.e. as the bread-man or those who he adorns with bracelets and earclips, communication art. Either he or his assistants photograph the intervention, and these photographs, which number in the thousands, show people who stop whatever their work and put forth their best side in full concentration. Orimoto decorates them with strange artefacts and things and allows them to shine genuinely and honourably. In all their seriousness, these actions are also related to humour because we can only laugh or chuckle at those things and situations which are no longer frighteningly strange yet not completely familiar. That is how we appear, when new or distant objects are suddenly brought close to us: both unsure of ourselves and misplaced, or things seem ridiculous. We call this situation crazy or feel that we are out of place. So what is it with these surrealistic pictures of worn black car tires around the old ladies’ necks? What are they doing there? The used tires have been taken off their wheels and have become dysfunctional. That picture alone would be enough to draw a metaphor for age in our time, where the elderly become a burden for those who want to determine society’s tempo. As far as this burden cannot be reduced, it is divided financially, politically regulated, and technically organised. Ambulant care for the elderly becomes a technical part of service oriented societies, which connect those who do not drive to the mobile urban infrastructure and current business.
The Provocation of Persistence
Slapstick movies accompanied the transition into automated industrial mass production in the 1920’s, and drew their humour from the now superfluous behaviours and movements of those who came from a context of familiarity and craftsmanship to the city centres of mass production. Modern methods of travel and processes accelerated by machines made those with their old habits seem so out of place, that it appeared comic. Today, where we have become accustomed to the speed of everyday life, endurance, static and immobility can make us feel estranged when the routine of acceleration is disrupted by traditional behaviour, unused vehicles, limping or thick skinned people. Orimoto’s photographs show pictures of people on the periphery of acceleration, in transition to a service oriented society whose wheels cut into a traditional, quiet, contemplative life.
The lives of the elderly tread in place, their everyday life is a cycle. The title, “Tire tube Communication” also alludes to the repetitiveness and rituals of a set routine. In this context, the circularity of the tire becomes like the circle itself, a symbol of the perfection and completion of the life cycle. At its end it tends towards the beginning, therefore connecting the calmness and honour of age with childhood, that dreamy game, the unintentional and the joy in the moment. Even the intervention with the heavy motorcycle tires cannot bother the old ladies who have been meeting for a long time. They sit in their spots and form the quintessence of persistence, which displays a provocation of restlessness. Apparently, wheels roll into all aspects of life, but it occasionally becomes evident that the dynamic of speed vectors is reversible.
A Photo series by Herbert Preyer-Bayer
Executing organ: Treasury of the “Dorotheum.”
This work was not commissioned, but was connected to a financial loan each time. I pawned the camera, one of the basic instruments of my photographic work, twelve times in the years 1996/976 in the Vienna Dorotheum. Each respective treasurer examined the functions of the camera according to regulations by pressing the shutter release. With each time the treasurer therefore took a photograph. I collected and assigned these photos to their respective pawn tickets.
Dorotheum: State institute equal to public funds in Austria, which lends to those who provide a security at low interest, auctions (art objects, furniture) and takes objects for saving. Headquarters: Vienna; branches in Austrian states. The Dorotheum is under supervision of the Interior Ministry (Bundesministerium fuer Inneres). It was founded in 1707 by the District Pawn office and moved into the building of the former Dorotheenklosters (convent) in the Dorotheengasse (hence the name) in 1787.
Brockhaus, Bd. 5, p.629.