Tabaimo Art

Today I would like to share with you some works of an intriguing Japanese visual artist, Ayako Tabata. More famously known as Tabaimo; she created the name “Tabaimo” using her last name and the Japanese word for “little sister”, imooto.

Her work has really captivated my interest (as well as many others around the world) in what is known as ‘Tabaimo Art’. We all conceive Japan as a super-efficient society with all their technological advancements, however, Japan as a nation is good at ‘pretending’ that everything is OK, but it only takes one to look beneath the surface to notice things aren’t as perfect as on one’s initial perception. This is where Tabaimo’s drawings and video installations come in to play and expose unsettling themes of isolation, disease, and instability that have spread across daily existence in contemporary Japan.

I recently read her interview in my copy of Tabaimo – Fondation Cartier por l’art contemporian in which she expresses her sources of inspiration from diverse forms of materials ranging from traditional prints, through to manga and anime.

Japan’s flawless infusion of the old with new, is something that fascinates many people around the world. Building on this infusion of contemporary and traditional aesthetics, Tabaimo Art, utilises traditional Japanese woodblock prints (Ukiyo-e) coupled with sophisticated computer technology. A surreal, intricate and quite often a disturbing insight in to the modern Japanese society is the outcome of her animated installations.

When asked if her aim is to “trigger a physiological response to reach viewers in a more profound way, provoking strong reactions?” This is what she had to say:

…Once events have been filtered by the media, they are turned into simple news items and stripped of any emotive charge. We receive them as such, even though they’re very serious incidents that would be extraordinary upsetting if they were to happen to anyone we knew personally….This same process also happens with me. Even though I exist here and now, news items create a sense of unreality in me that I find very strange. My works consist of this sense of strangeness conveyed in various ways. I’m neither trying to describe the world as it exists nor am I attempting to trigger a particular psychological response in the viewer. I simply wish to express the “me” that appears in the mirror of the media.”


On observation, you will see how she uses surrealistic narratives in home interiors, communal spaces such as public baths (although on the decline, are still common in Japan) and their super-efficient commuter trains as the backdrop for her installations. Once the backdrop is chosen Tabaimo populates them with strange characters that, either through mutation or as victims of bizarre violence, become disjointed in their connections to the environment and ultimately their own identity.

Tabaimo is a graduate from Kyoto University of Art and Design. Her much acclaimed, theatre like installations, have appeared in major exhibitions around the world, which include:

The Venice Biennale

Parasol unit foundation for contemporary art, London.

Yokohama Museum of Art, Tokyo.

National Museum of Art, Osaka.

Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Moderna Museet, Stockholm.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, Paris.

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.

Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne.

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.

São Paulo Bienal.

You can watch her interview about her installation “dolefullhouse” below.

I’ll certainly be keeping an eye and ear out for any of her future exhibitions in London.

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