Koki Tanaka

Koki Tanaka, Provisional Studies Action #6, 1985 School Students' Strike, 2016. Installation view at Open Eye Gallery. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones

Koki Tanaka's recreation of the YTS 1985 school student strike, 5 June, 2016. Courtesy the artist

Youth Training Scheme Protest, Liverpool, 25 April 1985. Photo courtesy of Dave Sinclair

Youth Training Scheme Protest, Liverpool, 25 April 1985. Photo courtesy of Dave Sinclair

Koki Tanaka, A Behavioral Statement (or, An Unconscious Protest), 2012. Photo courtesy of the artist, Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou and Aoyama

Koki Tanaka, A Pottery Produced by 5 Potters at Once (Silent Attempt), 2013. Photo courtesy of the artist, Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou and Aoyama

Koki Tanaka, Someone’s Junk Is Someone Else’s Treasure, 2011. Photo courtesy of the artist, Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou and Aoyama

Koki Tanaka, Provisional Studies Action #6, 1985 School Students' Strike, 2016. Installation view at Open Eye Gallery. Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones

Koki Tanaka (b. 1975, Tochigi, Japan) lives in Los Angeles and Kyoto. In his diverse art practice spanning video, photography, site-specific installation, and interventional projects, Tanaka visualises and reveals the multiple contexts latent in the most simple of everyday acts. In his recent projects he documents behaviour unconsciously exhibited by people confronting unusual situations: for example, a haircut given by nine hair stylists at once, or a piano played by five pianists simultaneously. 

When Tanaka visited Liverpool for the first time, he came across a book, Liverpool in the 1980s, by photographer Dave Sinclair. The book contains images of a mass protest against the Conservative Government’s Youth Training Scheme, criticised as a means of providing cheap labour with no guarantee of a job at the end. In Liverpool, where youth unemployment was as high as 80 percent in some areas, 10,000 young people took to the streets in opposition to the initiative. The march, which took place on 25 April 1985, began outside St George’s Hall and moved quickly down Dale Street, past the Town Hall, ending at the Pier Head. This wasn’t the route the organisers had planned, but the sheer enthusiasm of the students meant that the crowd moved fast and was hard to contain. For Tanaka, Sinclair’s photographs show an unusual combination of energy, optimism, joy and anger.

In June 2016, Tanaka revisited the scene of the protest, inviting original participants to share their memories of the event. They were joined by young people in order to reflect on the way in which the future that the students fought for in 1985 relates to the present political situation. This walk has been documented, and the resulting film is presented at Open Eye Gallery, alongside photographs by Dave Sinclair. His work also appears in Cains Brewery.

Recent solo exhibitions include venues such as MACRO, Rome, Italy (2015); Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle, Berlin, Germany (2015); Passerelle Centre d'art contemporain, Brest, France (2014) and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, USA (2010). He has presented work in various group exhibitions including those at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, USA (2012); the Taipei Biennial, Taipei, Taiwan (2006); Gwangju Biennial, Gwangiu, South Korea (2008) and Yokohama Triennale, Yokohama, Japan (2011). He received the Deutsche Bank ‘Artist of the Year’ award (2015) and exhibited at the 55th Venice Biennale where he received a special mention for national participation (2013).

Koki Tanaka at Liverpool Biennial 2016


Provisional Studies Action #6, 1985 School Students’ Strike, 2016
5 HD videos, 2 photographs, 9 placards, megaphone, 4 free-standing walls
Commissioned by Liverpool Biennial
Exhibited at Open Eye Gallery

Unknown, 1981
Pen on paper
Exhibited at Cains Brewery

Supported by

The Japan Foundation
Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation
The Great Britain Sasakawa
St Georges Hall Liverpool

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