Simon Fujiwara’s aesthetic vocabulary is varied and inclusive. In his exhibit at Harvard’s Carpenter Center for Visual Arts, he skips lightly between media — shuffling text, sculpture, photographs and video with apparent aplomb. In years past, this may have left guests curiously pondering artistic boundaries and teleology. But the current environment frees us from media restraints and expectations and allows Fujiwara to focus on the narrative of the relationships he weaves through deeply personal installations.
“Three Easy Pieces” may be a slightly misleading title. Three pieces comprise the show, but none of them is particularly easy to interpret in the effortless way the title seems to suggest. That’s right where Fujiwara wants you — reflecting on the relationships between memory and reality, the West and foreign cultures, parent and child, past colony and present identity. And in a slightly subversive wink to the audience, Fujiwara considers and reconsiders the relationship between the artist and the observer. Earnest as he may be as a narrator, you are never exactly sure if his version of truth is rooted in fact or fiction.
The confusion is cultivated by the physical space. The CCVA exists in what is technically the single North America building designed by Le Corbusier. The building plan highlights key Le Corbusier architectural elements; chief among them and particularly interesting for a gallery is a lack of interior walls. That allowed the center’s director, James Voorhies, to erect temporary walls, curtains and pedestals in a serpentine fashion. Add to that the fact that Fujiwara’s “Studio Pieta (King Kong Komplex)” is up several flights of stairs and across an outdoor ramp, and you have the sense of really working for this exhibit — mentally and physically. “Confusion abounds and momentarily arrests the spectator,” writes Voorhies, in “Groups of Strangers We Call Friends,” his beautiful accompanying essay. “Confusion makes room for thinking.”