Shimabuku, Shimabuku's Fish & Chips, 2006

Shimabuku, Shimabuku's Fish & Chips, 2006

Shimabuku (b.1969, Kobem, Japam) reminds us of the Taoist who, when challenged by a Sophist friend ‘You are not the fish. How do you ever know the fish is happy by watching it swimming?’, responded, ‘You are not me. How do you ever know whether I know the fish is happy?’ The artist’s practice often involves going on a journey to act out this kind of allegory.

Simple, slow and meditative, these journeys embody folklore or proverbs taken from local cultures, usually about animals, and contain paradoxical or absurd ingredients which subvert our everyday thinking. What is achieved confounds our expectations of any adventure: no practical interests are served, no excitements aroused – not unlike Zen's mundane and humble practices. Hence, the documentary videos of these actions are undramatic, but beautifully mellow.

Yet underlying all these allegorical journeys is a deep concern about communication and mutual understanding between the self and the other, between humans and animals or plants, and, of course, most urgently, between different cultures. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is that, in real-life interaction, process and gesture are more important than the understanding achieved.

In 2000 Shimabuku gave an Octopus from Akashi a tour of Tokyo. Far removed from its natural habitat, the octopus experienced a series of encounters that were, unquestionably, historical firsts. In his search for new value in the everyday, Shimabuku’s works begin with simple, often surreal, ideas that are meticulously realised and documented. The narratives that occur throughout their production are as central to the final work as the original idea.

Visiting Liverpool, the artist discovered scouse, the dish made of lamb, onions, potatoes and carrots that gives locals their name. Curious as to how its component parts, each from different counties within Britain, first came together, he sampled various recipes in eateries throughout the city. Pondering other British dishes, Shimabuku came to the nation’s other great contribution to global cuisine: fish and chips.

His film for the International 06 entitled Shimabuku's Fish & Chips (2006) documented the fictional first encounter between the dish’s constituents and showed a potato embarking on an underwater tour of Liverpool. With the octopus, Shimabuku introduced the sea to the land;here it was time for the land to meet the sea. This seemingly absurd encounter ultimately encouraged a questioning of the mundane elements of quotidian life.

Shimabuku at Liverpool Biennial 2006 

Shimabuku's Fish & Chips, 2006
Commisioned by Liverpool Biennial 2006
Courtesy the artist
Exhibited at Tate Liverpool

Supported by

The Japan Foundation 
The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation
The Elephant Trust