Barbara Hashimoto + Dana Major

October - December 2013 | Governors State University Visual Arts Gallery

Barbara Hashimoto

Barbara Hashimoto

Installation has been an integral component of Barbara Hashimoto’s art practice for 22 years. She incorporates performance with installation and employs these to further her intentions within a larger body of conceptual work. Embracing a broad array of media and formats, Hashimoto finds the process of handling materials as well as the physicality of building installations, a stimulus for her ideas. 

Her early installations were created during her residency in Japan (1987-1994). “Tokyo Bay Project,” built at a World War II military embankment, explores the issues of reconciliation from the evolving persona of citizen/terrorist/transient/friend. “Pink Tatami” addresses cross-cultural feminist concerns and was presented in varying distillations in Japan and The U.S. over a ten-year period. 

While based in Los Angeles (1995-2005) her work explored the book form and content, with source material ranging from Emile Zola’s “Nana” to John Locke’s “Essay Concerning Human Understanding.”  The installation/performance “Everyman Was Her Slave” centers on the repetition of a single line from Zola’s tome. In “Experience,” a video/audio mix of the artist speaking, writing, and erasing the words of the philosopher, Locke, plays alongside the memorialized tablets bearing what remains of the text after erasure.

Since relocating to Chicago in 2006, Hashimoto’s work has focused on the environmental art project, “The Junk Mail Experiment.” Prompted by some mind boggling statistics {100 million trees are cut down to produce junk mail annually; 44% of junk mail received goes unopened into landfill} Hashimoto collected and hand-shredded the junk mail delivered to her studio address for one year. The resulting 3,000 cubic feet of shredded junk mail was the material foundation for an expansive body of work. What Hashimoto experienced through the making, and subsequently, exhibition-goers discovered through the presentation of this work were acts of contradiction. The intellectual and emotional reactions to junk mail contrasts with the beauty, quiet intimacy, and gleeful engagement brought forth through the exhibition of the work. In her installation created for this show at the Visual Arts Gallery at Governors State University, Hashimoto offers “Playful Contradictions.”

The installation began as a lighthearted response to the spontaneous interaction between exhibition goers and the large-scale shredded junk mail installations that Hashimoto has built over the past seven years. Be it a mountainous landscape in Chicago, a tsunami in Los Angeles, or an entire room in a museum in Paris -- when invited, exhibition visitors eagerly played within these built environments with the exuberant abandonment reminiscent of childhood romps in leaf piles. 

Utilizing about half of her inventory of collected shreds which, after seven years are no longer crisp and fresh, Hashimoto has manipulated them into compacted ball forms. She began by molding small balls for play—tossing them as they were made. As the balls became larger and weightier, their making became an unwieldy burden mirroring that never ending daily stream of unsolicited trash delivered into our mailboxes and its effect on our environment. {the average American will spend 8 months of their life handling junk mail; each postal carrier hauls 18 tons of junk mail annually; junk mail uses more landfill space than disposable diapers and polystyrene foam products combined}

“Playful Contradictions” is offered as a place for stillness and contemplation. Exhibition visitors are invited to look for the pathways to enter and sit within the instillation, and listen to the ambient rustling of the paper and the sound-scapes provided through headphones. Along the paths are junk mail facts printed on strips of white paper.  

Barbara Hashimoto