since 1977, japanese artist shinro ohtake has been collaging found materials, personal mementos, and an astonishing array of other odds and ends into a sprawling series of ‘scrapbooks’. the collection now numbers over sixty albums, some of which contain as many as seven hundred pages, and is on exhibition as part of the ‘encyclopedic palace’ at the venice art biennale 2013.
the ‘encyclopedic palace’ (‘il palazzo enciclopedico’) is curated by massimiliano gioni and serves as the conceptual heart and organizing theme of this year’s art biennale. the title comes from a patent filed by self-taught italian-american artist marino auriti in 1955 for his ‘palazzo enciclopedico’, a proposed museum that would house all human knowledge and innovation.
‘today, as we grapple with a flood of information, such attempts to structure knowledge into all-inclusive systems seem even more necessary and even more desperate,’ gioni explains. the exhibition offers ‘a reflection on the ways in which images have been used to organize knowledge and shape our experience of the world.’
overflowing with artifacts, shinro ohtake’s ‘scrapbooks’ are precisely that. collaged images, newspaper clippings, paintings, and found objects intermingle on the covers of the books and each page, responding directly to mass media culture and contemporary urban life. the albums themselves at times adopt sculptural forms: for example, one book is attached to the body of an electric guitar in a work that bridges the divide between ohtake’s artistic career and work as a well-known noise-rock musician.
shinro ohtake uses his journeys, dreams and diaries to examine the inner surface of his layered perceptions. during his stay in london, he purchased a collection by an old man who had obsessively collected matchbooks and glued them into pages of a notebook.
these artifacts have since then influenced ohtakes own artworks. his ‘street books’ feature an excessive layerings of found images and discarded tickets, tags, currency, newspaper pieces and other mass-produced printed matter. being both, one-of-a-kind and multiples, the books are sculptural objects that interact with ohtake’s own painting and drawing — before he seals them with coats of wax, stain, and varnish, plastic or fiberglass.