“I am already naked. What else can I remove?”
The installation Undress is a space designed to create a fragrance La Japonaise composed of eight different scents separately floating in the exhibition space. Those eight scents mix in the installation, integrate in relation to movements of the visitors and environments, and create the presence of the ninth scent La Japonaise that is completely absent in form.
Each of the eight scents emanates from an image that originates in the artist’s personal journey within North Africa and beyond. The images were transcribed into her texts, then translated into scents by a Moroccan ‘olfactorer’.
As opposed to the modern Western perfumery world, where constructed synthetics are used to create an illusion of an existing image, the process here is almost a reverse: a constructed image is translated into a scent created from a combination of the purest kinds of essential oils.
The combination of these eight scents, all reproduction of memory, creates the experience of the fragrance La Japonaise.
Juxtaposed with the fragrance is a series of excerpts from her upcoming artist’s book The Tale of the Japanese and the Clothes. Deeply connected to the idea behind the fragrance La Japonaise, the texts and photographs will give a further understanding of the project Undress.
Undress is a project conceived by Megumi Matsubara in November 2014. Its first presentation takes place in May 2015 on the occasion of Carrefour / Treffpunkt at ifa Gallery Stuttgart.
“I am already naked. What else can I remove?”
Once, I attended a cicada break its shell.
I stayed up all night to be present—I was eight.
It was summer, in the silence of dawn, blue light.
The cicada started knocking its body, from within.
Blinks perplexed me. Every time I blinked, it pared itself.
The new body exposed—white, glittering, so new it was wet, so naked, almost invisible.
Its transparent wings reflected the blue.
When it fully came out of itself, it stood on the top of its empty self.
Its volume was in two—void and lightness.
The cicada did neither move nor sing until the morning came.
It stayed still, gradually altering the colour of its body.
Quicker than speeding—
In the sunlight, it was no longer white, nor naked.
It flew away, leaving the empty shell behind.
I took the shell on my hand. It weighed nothing.
No body owned that body anymore.
Transparent, obscure, tangible form of void.
Opaque, absolute, naked form of presence.
When I attended someone’s leaving, we were alone in the room.
We were two, until one left.
My hand was laid upon another, on the forehead.
There was a sound of pulse, to the rhythm, in the background.
I stroked the forehead quietly, to the rhythm, for hours.
Our eyes met, sometimes.
There was an understanding—we said nothing.
A few minutes before the pulse went offbeat, something subtly pressed back my hand.
I had to make way. I felt the leaving.
Gently, my fingers only traced.
The body remained, removed from what had just fled.
Our eyes met again. I saw nothing hereat. I was alone.
Doctors came, minutes after the parting.
Mechanically, the sound of pulse played syncopation.
The heart was looking for its owner: the one it used to synch to.
Two—is not one.
More than two, I cannot count.
I have no power over this collision against the sameness.
If I get rid of myself, how do I look?
Feeling a drop of sweat sliding on my arm—and it was an ant walking on the skin.
Putting punctuation marks here and there, it deliberately hovered around.
I flicked it with my finger. Flying an arc, it glittered like spangles.
It landed on my chest, then crawled into my heart where everything goes through;
dark, deep, empty space that carries the whole weight.
It goes in all directions, looking for an exit.
But there is none. Only an entrance.
Resistance, under the skin.
It traces an outline of my self.
Patiently, it separates me from my mold.
My reversed unevenness.
A hollow becomes a bump; a bump, a hollow.
Already, I am inside out.
Where is the ant? I cannot feel it anymore—
Who is it that knocks me from within?
If I answer, do I begin to peel off?
But how would I know the visitor is myself?
Where will I go if you undress me from within?
Where will I go if I undress myself?
*First appearance: Carrefour / Treffpunkt Exhibition Catalog, May 2015
*Performed by Megumi Matsubara at ifa-Galerie Berlin, 17th July 2015
Carrefour / Treffpunkt
Published by ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen)
Images by Saâdane Afif, Leila Alaoui, Yassine Balbzioui, Max Boufathal, Megumi Matsubara, Clara Meister
Texts by Iris Lenz, Alya Sebti, Nico Anklam, Bonaventure Soh Bejeng Ndikung, Stacy Hardy, Megumi Matsubara and Angelika Stepken
Book design by Demian Bern
German / English 24 x 21cm 84p
Dr.Jalil Belkamel (‘olfactorer’/aromatherapist/botanist, Marrakech) for realisation.
Soulimane Madini (perfumer, Tangier), Mélanie Carestia (perfumer, Paris), as well as to Stéphanie Gaou, Nouzha Tadly, Rashid Ouedrhiri, Nina Mohammad-Galbert, Léo Fabre-Cartier, Michel Biehn and Camilia Belkamel for advising Megumi Matsubara.
Alya Sebti (exhibition curator) and Iris Lenz (director, ifa-Galerie Stuttgart) for their trust and unceasing support.
Megumi Matsubara, Installation, 2015
Composed of Scents, Organdy, 3 Photographs (archival pigment prints), 5 Texts (archival pigment prints framed with glass)
Exhibition: Carrefour / Treffpunkt
Artists: Saâdane Afif, Leila Alaoui, Yassine Balbzioui, Max Boufathal, Megumi Matsubara, Clara Meister
Curator: Alya Sebti
Exhibition team: Iris Lenz, Stefanie Alber, Valérie Hammerbacher, Rainer Koch, Maximilian Bauer, Matthias Merker, Hans
ifa-Galerie Stuttgart / 8 May – 5 July 2015
ifa-Galerie Berlin / 17 July – 4 October 2015