Born in Tokyo in 1969, Todo studied and lived for many years in Germany before returning to Japan. Thanks to a new perspective on his homeland, he began considering the archaeology of cities, with their rapid cycles of construction and destruction. For this new exhibition at Art Front Gallery, Todo passes from the use of natural stones or of book covers inlaid with glass, to the stones drawn from historic urban contexts. Fragments of construction, from the Berlin Wall, ruins from the Tohoku Disaster, or remains of from Tokyo’s structures built at the time of the 1964 Olympics, are revealed by him on longer as debris, but as witnesses of the past.
Among the fragments Todo has gathered from around the world, a small tile from a decorative frieze at the old Hotel Okura Tokyo here appears as a small piece of the past, telling us takes of the city. The Okura was built as a luxury hotel for the 1964 Olympics, but is now scheduled for demolition for the 2020 Tokyo games, to make way for a modern hotel complex. Yet the old hotel was elegant, and being frequented by celebrities and elite society people, it has its ghosts, anecdotes and scandals. Todo takes these up in the encrusted tile, revaluating it as a discarded object, and reviving the loquacity and evocative power of the past. The interior of the tile is not a single stone, but multiple layers of thin glass, inserted like the pages of a book. A view inside this is blocked by diffused reflection of light in the transparent hollow space. Todo has carefully cut facets into this fragment, altering it into a precious stone, a magical object, and a fossil－all three at the same time. The tile becomes an intimate echo chamber, eternally repeating the tittle-tattle and the grandiose histories of the site, murmuring endlessly about secrets buried in the construction of our cities, or in the basements of our territories. Todo’s works of art create an infinite void in which to contemplate strata even from the most remote of times.
By means of its inmost transparent quality, the glittering interior gives the tile a phantom-like lightness. Wraiths survive in here, awakened again to speak of dramas of the past, the diverse facts, the polemics, the rumours and the scandals.
This anthology of details form personal histories, this archaeology of everyday life, can also been seen in Todo’s pillar of boxes, installed outside the gallery. Stones, debris and boxes are all like historians of our lives. Todo provides them with an eloquence, and gives them importance of archives. An accumulation of fragments comes together to constitute his new works of art. Another mass of stones, taken from Tokyo’s large stadium, demolished and now to be rebuilt, reveals the gigantic flux of consumption, and of the rubbish which our cities, like monstrous digestive systems, process and expel, without our being aware.
Clélia Zernik (Professor, École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts de Paris)