Shimabuku is a poet of the everyday, finding significance in the smallest things in life, but he is as much a surrealist trickster, making the familiar strange and inviting us to consider with fresh eyes the world around us. He gives the impression of an innocent abroad, yet the artist’s highly perceptive observations of day-to-day minutiae seem to work to alienate us from our most familiar home ground, setting us adrift in a parallel universe where nothing can be taken for granted. Like Mark Twain, this itinerant observer travels the world, interacting with strangers and conversing with nature, always maintaining the fresh perspective of a stranger in a foreign land. In the process he chronicles moments of poetry, humour and wonderment, highlighting the strangeness of the worlds that he encounters, finding enlightenment, and darkness too, in the most incidental details of life. Each of his works tells the story of an improbable encounter across borders, species, or states of being. In the work Then, I Decided to Give a Tour of Tokyo to the Octopus from Akashi (2000) he took a live octopus from its coastal habitat for a day out on the train, in a glass aquarium, visiting the Tokyo fish market, before returning it back to the sea. For the Dojima River Biennale, Shimabuku presented a series of site-specific installations relating to the idea of the river, choosing to locate these in the backroom spaces of the Forum, such as a small office workers’ kitchen, a long office corridor and the luxury ‘VIP changing rooms’. Two of these works, Lamprey in Bordeaux and Photograph wearing rain boots (Bordeaux) were originally produced during a residency in France, in 2011, when he became interested in the life surrounding the river Garonne. The first installation included a video of the artist joining in the different stages in the capture and preparation for the table of the ‘lamprey’, an unusual ancient fish found in the Garonne, which looks like a large, blue-eyed eel. Often referred to as the ‘nine-eyed eel’ due to the seven external gill slits, along with the eye and nostril, on either side of its body, the mucus of the river lamprey is known to be toxic and requires thorough cleaning before cooking and consumption. The ad hoc structure of a mop and a ladder improvised by the French fisherwomen to prepare the fish was re-constructed by the artist in the domestic setting of the office kitchen, standing on empty wooden crates of claret. Down the corridor, a pair of rain boots protruded beneath a ‘free- standing’ photograph of Bordeaux, viewed from across the river, giving the impression of a hidden human presence holding up the image for inspection. Finally, in the context of two, nearly identical VIP changing rooms, he presented a two-part installation, Something that Floats / Something that Sinks, featuring two simple metal tubs, each containing water and a pump, sitting on a white pedestal; one in each room. In the first space the bowl contained two limes, in the second two tomatoes, but in both instances one of the fruits lay still on the bottom of the bowl, while the other circled around the edge on the surface, drifting on the current made by the pump. The artist discovered whilst cooking that certain fruits of the exact same species, and even of the same plant, will float while others sink, and this simple but inexplicable phenomenon became the inspiration for this work. In the background, through the windows of the VIP changing rooms, the Dojima River flowed past towards the bay of Osaka, and beyond.
== Text by Tom Trevor for the Dojima River Biennale 2015 ==