Make Believe - Full Text

Naoko Wowsugi, a Japanese-Korean artist from Tokyo, arrived in Kansas City Missouri in 2002. She had five-hundred dollars and could speak her name and one English word, “Yes”. Her artistic practice grew out of a necessity and desire to build an understanding of people and place. Using photography as a vehicle for communication she documents her integration into our society but more importantly, shares her unique understanding of how relationships develop.

For her newest solo presentation, Naoko Wowsugi is offering an experience in the Gallery at Black Iris where language, image and action envelop you into world that is at once minimal, sterile and humor filled. “Make Believe” explores two ends of the cognitive experience, learning and forgetting, taking shape as two overlapping installations  

“Thank You For Teaching Me English” is a photography installation that pulls from over a decade of experiences resulting in 30 discrete moments represented by a portrait and a handwritten word that the sitter taught Naoko. Wowsugi has problematized the one-to-one function of signifier and signified resulting in stories that confound succinct representations of language. By externalizing the narrative of learning she has isolated moments when people have touched her life, and the imprint left on her mind and being are transferred to a photographic prints, each one offering a glimpse into a universe filled with love, longing, joy and the complexities of being human.

“Laboratory of Forgetting” is a participatory performance installation where melancholy and joke meet urging us to embrace, then abandon, the moments of our lives we wish had never happened. Participants are invited to take part in an experimental memory trial. Careful instructions will be dispensed on how to utilize a prescribed roll of film in order to enact selective amnesia.