TABAIMO (Ayako Tabata) Hyogo, Japan, 1975; currently based in Nagano. Graduated Kyoto University of Art and Design, 1999. Her work was shown in the Yokohama Triennial in 2001 and biennials in Valencia (2001), Sao Paulo (2002) and Venice (2007); solo exhibitions at the Hara Museum of Art, Tokyo and the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain, Paris, 2006; major exhibition of her work to be held at the Yokohama Museum of Art, winter 2009-2010


Tabaimo’s extraordinary video installations often focus on communal spaces such as public restrooms, commuter trains, and bathhouses, where anonymity and intimacy collide.  Through such projects she explores the undercurrents that can disrupt the orderly surface of contemporary Japanese society. Seemingly mundane tasks and events often take absurd, comical, and occasionally grotesque twists in Tabaimo’s work. Her imagery draws from the aesthetics as well as the urban and domestic subjects of traditional Japanese Ukiyo-e woodcuts in addition to the iconic and sometimes violent narratives of Japanese comics (manga) and animation (anime). Tabaimo translates the wood grain patterning and softly blended veils of color found in Japanese woodcut prints and the slick visual short-hand used in manga and anime into elegant hand-drawn video animations.  

The interaction of the audience with the video is crucial to the artist. She meticulously installs her videos in well-defined spaces or stage-like settings in which they directly confront the viewer and are typically shown on a human-size or slightly larger scale to more fully encompass the viewer in the work. The level of engagement she seeks (though vastly different in presentation) may also be compared to printed forms such as woodcuts and manga, both in the vital role of the audience to whom the images are disseminated and the manner in which people experience them – close-up, personal encounters designed for contemplation.Tabaimo is intrigued by the idea of coexisting layers of reality and the variation in people’s perceptions of the same event: do viewers directly identify with the figures in her images? Imagine themselves in the settings? Or are they simply spectator/voyeurs? The artist provocatively engages the viewer with unanswerable questions in her works, encouraging us to reconsider our relationship to the world in which we live. The U.S. debut of her installation video, Dolefull House, 2007 will be presented in the Museum’s Stieglitz gallery.   
Project Description for Philagrafika 2010 The Graphic Unconscious

On view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Dolefull House (2007) is a single-channel video installation in which a pair of giant hands systematically arranges western-style bourgeois furnishings in an oversized dollhouse. The rooms become increasingly cozy and orderly until the calm is infiltrated by an unwelcome presence lurking behind the walls and a seemingly mundane situation dissolves into a gory surrealistic scene. A giant wave washes everything away and the Sisyphean process of furnishing the empty house begins again. The western doll house acts as a façade behind which the underlying life-force tries to assert itself.

dolefullhouse, 2007
Single-channel Blu-ray video, 6½ minutes

Untitled, 2010
Wall drawing in acrylic paint

*Image credit: Jason Wierzbicki, Philadelphia Museum of Art

More Info

Tabaimo on view in the Stieglitz Gallery in the main building
Philadelphia Museum of Art

26th & Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, PA 19101-7646
(215) 763-8100

Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm