Koki Tanaka

Provisional Studies (Working Title)


Opening: 22.06.2017
Curated by: Barbara Steiner
Venue: Space02

Interview with Koki Tanaka

About the exhibition

Can you compose a sound track jointly and have five people play it on one piano? Can seven people write a protest song together? The Japanese artist Koki Tanaka creates situations—or you could call them ‘experimental set-ups’—that invite people to try out tasks that seem impossible. His works often revolve around the question: what and how can we achieve together?


In Tanaka’s first solo exhibition in Austria, the Kunsthaus Graz will show projects that involve collectivity and the potential for joint action. These include a new film work whose starting-point is the protest against the startup of the Zwentendorf Nuclear Power Plant in the late 1970s. Tanaka’s interest is also very much to do with the major earthquake and Fukushima disaster of 2011, as well as the resulting collective actions that took place in Japan, including silent protests, against nuclear energy.


A feature shared by all of the projects is that participants have to be open to exchange, develop a sense of community and creativity and at the same time explore new rules of negotiation and collaboration. Apart from his interest in collective forms of protest, Koki Tanaka’s focus lies on recollection, the identity-building function of shared events burned into the memory and their actualisation for the present day.




Koki Tanaka, * 1975 in Tochigi, lives and works in Kyoto, Japan. His works have been exhibited worldwide at venues including the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; ICA, London; Skulpturen Projekte Münster 2017; Liverpool Biennale 2016, Taipei Biennale 2006, the Gwangju Biennale 2008. He achieved greater prominence in Europe following his exhibition at the Japanese pavilion and its special mention at the 55th Venice Biennale. In 2015 he was named Artist of the Year by Deutsche Bank.

Koki Tanaka & Haegue Yang im Kunsthaus Graz
Barbara Steiner im Gespräch mit Koki Tanaka und Katrin Bucher-Trantow

Quick Tour

Together we are strong? Expand Box

Many things in life can only be achieved through teamwork. And yet working with other people can be difficult.

Before a group acts jointly they have to find a common way forward. Different opinions may collide. This process is exciting, but also time-consuming. This is why it sometimes seems simpler for one person to take the lead and decide what needs to be done. Although this means, of course, that all the others give up their right to have a say in what happens.  

Democracy is slow Expand Box

Within a group of people, can everyone get a chance to speak?

Do everyone’s concerns get heard?

Will an agreement ever be reached?


Koki Tanaka is convinced: democratic cooperation takes a lot of time. It is a seemingly endless undertaking, especially as the common goal can change: What exactly is it that we want to achieve together? As a result, when we collaborate there is much that remains tentative, provisional. Collaboration is a process with an open end.  

Provisional Studies: Action #8 Rewriting A Song For Zwentendorf Expand Box

The nuclear power station in Zwentendorf is unique: The building was finished but it never went into operation. During the 1970s there were large-scale protests against its activation. Eventually, in 1978, a referendum was held: 50.47 per cent voted against its start-up.


This project brings together people who took part in the protests against Zwentendorf with young people today. The aim is that they write a new protest song. This is a collaboration between different generations. Who can contribute to the result, and what? Who is learning from whom here? There is one point everyone agrees on: The use of nuclear energy is a subject that affects all of us.  

Precarious Tasks #7: Try to Keep Conscious about a Specific Social Issue, in This Case ‘Anti-Nuke’, as Long as Possible while You are Wearing Yellow Color Expand Box

In the hectic rush of everyday life we often do not find enough time to be actively involved in the things that are important to us. Can everyday life and political involvement be combined?


Koki Tanaka puts out some fabric in a gallery in Tokyo. The fabric is yellow—a color that stands for resistance against the use of nuclear power. Whoever wants can cut off a piece and wear it as a sign of protest against nuclear power. Wearing yellow fabric becomes a silent protest. Political protest can take many forms. It can be loud or quiet, strident or restrained; it can be an ‘event’ or an everyday action.  

A Piano Played by Five Pianists at Once (First Attempt) Expand Box

Koki Tanaka invites five musicians to compose a piece of music jointly and then play it together on the piano. The five people are of course used to composing and playing music. But here they face a new challenge: they must accept the others’ way of working and possibly change their own. In the end, there is not just one composer or performer, but many.

Are they all happy with the result?  

Daytime Task Expand Box

Is cooperation something that we have to practise every day?

This exhibition not only invites us to look but also calls on us to act:

Can you imagine yourself performing the ‘Daytime Task’?

How would it change your everyday life?   

Provisional Studies: Action #6 1985 School Students Strike Expand Box

In 1985, thousands of students gathered on the streets of Liverpool: Young people protesting against being exploited as cheap labour. Decades later, the same people reconstructed that protest.

What has changed?

Are the concerns they had back then still current today?


Looking back, some feel proud: They fought for the right to have a say in decisions that affected their future. What was it that inspired them to become politically active?  


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