Portrait of a young samurai. Meiro Koizumi.

Future Generation Art Prize@Venice 2013

Collateral event of the 55th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia

Meiro Koizumi, 'Portrait of a Young Samurai', 2009, multi-channel video installation, 9 min. Photo by Sergey Illin. © Author. Courtesy PinchukArtCentre.

Meiro Koizumi, ‘Portrait of a Young Samurai’, 2009, multi-channel video installation, 9 min. Photo by Sergey Illin. © Author. Courtesy PinchukArtCentre.


Meiro Koizumi was shortlisted for the PinchukArtCentre‘s Future Generation Art Prize 2012. He won the People’s Choice Award.

Among the works he presented at the exhibition in Venice, Portrait of a young samurai was above all expectations. After walking through the exhibition and not being much impressed by any of the work seen that far, entering this room was refreshing.

The experience was comical and dramatic at the same time. Lighthearted and painful, as if one should keep laughing but couldn’t help hurting for the young actor impersonating the kamikaze pilot. The constant and relentless intervention of the artist in the video, with his voice telling the actor to show and express more samurai spirit, almost seemed like a harsh voice from one’s conscience, telling one what to do until it was done right.

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As the video unwound and the actor repeated the goodbye scene over and over again, pain and tears seemed to seep through every pore of his skin; he appeared as if he had been brainwashed in the process, pushed to the limit of resistance and beyond. By the end of it, he could take no more of it, but he had also fallen into a state of symbiosis with his character, as if he had been that young kamikaze fighter all along and he was preparing himself to die.

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It was moving, it was tiring and extremely heavy by the end, but that heaviness weighed on me not as a negative feeling, but rather as a feeling of pity for the boy, as if I had really assisted to a heatbreaking goodbye scene. At the same time, I also felt comically lifted in spirits, it was so tragic that I could not help laughing. The bossy voice of the artist made it all the more comical.

Driven to the point of exasperation, that’s the right word. Both the actor and the viewer. The spectator cannot detach one’s eyes from the screen until the end. There is a desire and a compulsive drive to see what happens, to see at what point one’s resistance can explode, at what stage one cannot take it anymore, when the breaking point will come.

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The work was inspired by the plethora of war time films that Japan was producing at the time of the video. The artist felt the nationalistic messages imparted by those movies were almost vulgar and he felt the need to express this feeling. Almost a satire of film production and of Japanese nationalism, the video really resonates with meaning. It’s smart, it’s hilarious, it’s dramatic, it’s exasperating.

He should have won more than a People’s Choice Award!

“In his films Meiro Koizumi examines the psychological complexities that come with the concept of individual guilt, usually determined by social structures and behavioural patterns. His films are deeply rooted in the Japanese social and cultural tradition. During the filming Koizumi aims to capture explicit emotions. This can result in almost melodramatic films that balance on the edge between fiction, performance and documentary. On a deeper level, Koizumi breaks through traditional communication patterns revealing the restraints embedded in their form. ” PinchukArtCentre

About the artist

Meiro Koizumi was born in 1976 in Gunma, Japan. He lives and works in Yokohama. He studied at the International Christian University, Tokyo, at Chelsea College of Art and Design, London, and at the Rijksakademie van beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. He won the First Prize at the Beck’s Futures student’s film and video award in London in 2001. Koizumi’s work has been shown in group exhibitions including New Contemporaries, Barbican Centre, London (2002), Art Summer University, Tate Modern, London (2007), and the Liverpool Biennial (2010). In 2009 he had a solo exhibition at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo.

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All photographs (unless otherwise stated): Meiro Koizumi, ‘Portrait of a young samurai’, 2009, multi-channel video installation, 9 min. Installation view at “PinchukArtCentre – Future Generation Art Prize@Venice 2013”, collateral event of the 55th Venice Biennale. Photos by C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia.

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