About the artist
Hiromi Tango’s collaborative performances and installations blur distinctions between the artist and her audience, and democratise the process of art making. Through her practice, she engages people, listens to and records their stories, accepts their donations of photographs, mementoes and other personal items, then stitches them together in homage to collective memories. Born in Japan in 1976, Tango was raised on the island of Shikoku by a family who encouraged traditional values. She felt stifled in this environment, revealing:
There are lots of expectations, particularly in Asian countries of being a female, of your national and cultural identity… I did not grow up in contemporary Japan – there were certain conventions that I always had an issue with. I have always been attracted to the new, to the contemporary. When I got to university… I embraced that part.1
After completing her Bachelor of Arts at Japan Women’s University, Tokyo, in 1998, Tango met and married her husband, new-media artist Craig Walsh, and moved with him to Brisbane. Here she began producing art full-time, a decision that caused friction with her family. She admits, ‘I am not quite sure my blood family will ever understand my art or feel supportive [of] my creative exploration.’2 Arguably, Tango’s experience of familial separation drives her to produce art that has a comforting, nostalgic resonance. By binding together sundry materials donated by members of the public, she gathers their memories, histories and emotions, and makes them joyful, beautiful and monumental.
About the work acquired
The ‘Insanity magnet’ series 2006–2013 began as a public installation in a shop front that Tango occupied, encouraging passers-by to attach messages to the outer window. These tags were combined with personal items and elements of other artworks, including fabric flowers, multi-coloured skeins of wool and pieces of lace that Tango had collected over several years. She bound this mélange of personal artefacts together to create a rope of splendid textures and colours, a method that has become her trademark.
During Brisbane’s dust storm of 23 September 2009, Tango went to New Farm Park’s celebrated rose garden, wrapped herself in the rope and took a sequence of photographs.3 Describing her state of mind, she explained:
I was burning angry… Then the dust storm came. The outside was dusty-grey yellow. It was hard to breathe. I have never seen anything like that in my life. Not a cyclone storm. It was rather quiet and beautiful. The whole air was sepia and nostalgic. [The] energy of the storm made me even more powerful – burning angry – a big fire… I just breathed in, and reproduced the energy of the time.4
In the photograph, the garlands engulfing the artist transform her characteristically collaborative practice into a deeply personal narrative. The roses on the bushes echo the fabric flowers in the weaving, which seems to have been thrown together by the storm. The rope itself is reminiscent of kedzuna, Japanese Buddhist temple cords spun from hair that is donated by female devotees.
Adapted from text by Emily Poore (Curatorial Assistant) April, 2014.
- Laura Bannister, “Hiromi Tango,” Russh, http://www.russhmagazine.com/arts-music/artists/hiromi-tango/.
- Ursula Sullivan, email to Dr Campbell Gray and Michele Helmrich, 10 October 2013, artist’s file, The University of Queensland Art Museum.
- Hiromi Tango, Insanity magnet, dust storm and me (Sydney: sullivan+strumpf, 2013), 2.