On Chie Matsui’s Video Art —Dreams and Awakenings—

Masaru Aoyama

How thin are the windows of this world

(HEIDI 53 None )

Starting with her installation titled Allegorical Vessels, Chie Matsui has steadily been gaining

recognition for her work since the 1980s. The tactility of the materials she used--cloth, bricks,

sand, logs and furs--involved the senses and engaged visitors in a corporeal experience. 1

Although she began delving into the video in 2000, the works she produced between then and

her most recent HEIDI 54 Purusha (2014) have generally been conceived as parts of a larger

whole in an immersive installation. For this reason, one hesitates in categorizing Matsui simply

as a video artist.2

Despite this fact, Matsui s videos are far from mere material components of her installations;

isolating them from the installations does not render them lackluster or incomplete as artwork.

In fact, it often seems the opposite is true. Idiosyncrasies of the piece unravel in new directions

and realign themselves in shifted focus within their altered contexts. In this exhibition at

MEM, 8 works from the HEIDI series will be shown together. Including her latest piece, they

represent a project begun in 2004 and developed over the course of 10 years. It is an extremely

rare and valuable opportunity to be able to experience such a comprehensive collection of

Matsuis videos and surely a notable occasion for all those invested in the medium.

The HEIDI series is based on J. Spyri s novel of the same title, but not with the aim of

videographically reenacting its narrative. Matsui s method instead involves liberally selecting

elements from the original and throwing them into the allegorical vessel of video.

At the beginning of HEIDI 45, a woman (played by Matsui herself) appears bundled in heavily

layered clothing. This woman undoubtedly stands in an anaphoric relationship to the over-clad

character who is portrayed in the beginning sections of the original text, and in contrast

against the woman, also played by Matsui, who appears and reappears throughout the same

HEIDI series wearing a white sleeping gown. She, however, is not a surface-level narrative

reenactment of the cloaked girl who plods across the landscape in Spyri s introduction. The

Heidi who first shed her manifold layers for the white gown in HEIDI 44 (the start of the

series) has since roamed here and there, barefoot, during the past 10 years. Within her figure, I

see a compression and overlapping of these two oppositional visions of the girl put forth in the

original story.


The first of these images is of a girl who has fled from constraints pressed upon her by the

adults of society to find liberation and innocence in nature. The 5-year-old Heidi discards her

heavily layered clothing and frolics with her friend Peter in the vast and bountiful country.

Similarly free meanderings are also acted out by the woman in the white night gown. She, too,

is barefoot and vulnerable, roaming and feeling her way through surrounding spaces in paths

whose unconventionality bewilder the adult minds around her.

The other is that poignant image of the somnambulist. The girl who yearns to return to the

Alps contains her impulses during the day, but they flow out from the bottom of her uncapped

consciousness at night, risking harm to the girls body by pulling it out of the safety of her bed.

It is as if her longing for the mountains were manifesting itself as a ghost-like presence.

These images of the young girl are nearly opposites of one another, but the two share an

incompatibility with the perception-based order of daily life and may instead belong to the

zero-gravity realm of dream-logic. Their elating dynamism, deviation, and unfettered motion

lie on the other side of the stagnation and confinement that trail the fall-like awakening from

dreams. This may be why one senses a profound sadness or wistfulness that continuously

reverberates in the depths through all of Matsuis works.

The manifold, multi-leveled universe that unravels here provides an experience similar to

dreaming of waking from a dream. It is a universe where dreams reflect one another endlessly,

like images caught and bounced between coupled mirrors. Yet while the beauty of these scenes

may first threaten to intoxicate us, our consciousness is guided not toward the clouded

confusion of solipsism but closer instead to a clearer state of awakening. Purusha, the title of

Matsui s latest piece, indicates a spiritual-mental ontology that distinguishes itself from its

Prakrti counterpart of material phenomena. The former is frequently iterated with the

analogy of a person looking at reflections in a pool of water or mirror. 3 Video images,

characterized by the same immateriality, are closely related to these mirrors and glass

windows. Although they may reveal to us the diverse states of our world, they are themselves

fragile, contingent on external objects, thin, and near-transparent as an immanent presence.

Paradoxically, Matsui is able to endow her work with the brilliance, frankness, and

authenticity of archeological artifacts by fully acknowledging this thinness of video. She

makes no attempt at concealment or compensation.

What Matsuis art allows us to see is not the stuff of dreams in the sense of enthralling desires.

It is in fact these alluring visions from which her work beautifully yet cruelly awakens us.


(1) Keiji Nakamura Yokohama Portside Gallery Exhibition Statement ( We Never Went Out on a Date, Keiji Nakamura

and Chie Matsui, Robafilm Publishing, 2005, pp.12-13).

(2) In the statement cited above, Keiji Nakamura highlighted the new alternative possibilities offered by Matsui s work,

calling it a kind of video-performance art and positioning it in confrontation against the practice of working in the

more widely explored terrain of video art that was collecting momentum in the art world around the turn of the 21st


(3) Chie Matsui, On the work, Catalogue for the Yurinsou Special Exhibition of Spring 2014 (Chie Matsui: Purusha),

Ohara Museum of Art.


「ゆっくり生きる」What is the Real Nature of Being (2008年1月12日~2月24日)






 この作品に対して多くの人がまず感じるのは、映像全体の脈絡のなさではないか。鹿の剥製、楽器は何を意味しているのか、なぜ倉庫にあるのか、なぜハイジはわざわざ危険な梁の上を歩くのか、そもそもハイジが倉庫をめざす理由は何かなど、目を凝らして見れば見るほど、しかも同時に流れる言葉と関連づけて解釈しようとすればするほど、明快な意味づけから離れて行き、つかみ所のない混沌とした感覚が増幅される。だがそれこそが逆説的にも、一貫した文脈の生成や体系化を拒む作家の精神の有り様を浮彫りにしており、この特質自体は映像作品に移る前から松井の作品に顕著であった。 松井の2000年以前のインスタレーション作品は、質感の異なる様々な素材のオブジェが空間の各所に配され、またそれぞれが微妙なつながりを暗示するため、鑑賞者は実際にあちらこちらを歩き回りながら、意味の断片を試行錯誤でつなぎ合わせ、手探りで全体像をつかみ取る必要があった。それは、視覚だけでなく、身体の全感覚が関わることを見る者に要請する作品であった。それゆえにかつて中村は、日本では松井のみが真の意味でインスタレーションを自己の表現方法としている作家だと評し、インスタレーションの特性として次の点を挙げる。「インスタレーションは、主体と客体、形式と内容、そして美術と生活という、これまで絶対とされてきた区別の外側に美術を位置付けることを可能にする。インスタレーションは、非近代的あるいは超近代的な、超西欧的な態度のための方法であるともいえよう」(3)。


(1)中村敬治、松井智惠『一度もデートをしなかった』(ロバフィルム舎、2005年11月1日)付録DVD収録「COMENTARY」《HEIDI 44》


(3)前掲、p.80(初出:Out of Place, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1993, p.111)

(4)前掲、pp.68-70(初出:Out of Place, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1993, p.101)



Chie Matsui (1960-)

Chie Matsui first studied textile design in Kyoto City University of Arts and started her first installation using mixed media including silkscreen on various fabric, wood and plaster in early 80s.  In 1990 Matsui was invited to Aperto in the 44th Biennale di Venezia.  Since then, her works have been presented in many overseas venues including Site Santa Fe, Vancouver Art gallery, Louisiana Museum and The Museum of Modern Art, New York.  Through the 1990’s she had been working on large-scale installations consisting of minimal white walls, symbolic objects and drawings.  In mid 90s, Matsui started “Labor” series that uses different kinds of materials such as fake fur, mirrors and round saws surrounded by red walls with cut out letters.  Such cut out letters read, “She works”, “She testifies”, “She lacks” and so on.  She also represented the characters and landscapes from famous stories for children written by Grimm Brothers and Aesop in her drawings and objects.  In the series Matsui questions contemporary issues such as the position of women as well as artists in Japan’s society.  In 2000 Matsui produced her first video work She dissolves.  In the work, Matsui herself appears out of a square hall on the floor in her installation room and crosses the room to go underground again through another hall.  The course of action is repeated for about 30 minutes.  Matsui produced various version of this type of video; each shows Matsui herself repeating a simple course of action and behavior in gallery space, seashore of a small island and a spiral staircase in an old building.  Her tortured body bearing hard work reminds the viewers of penance by a pilgrim.   In Heidi series Matsui refers to a famous fable by Johanna Spyri and casts herself on the heroin, Heidi, who is an orphan raised by her grandfather in Alps.  Through the series, Matsui challenges the internationally well-known moral character and creates her own visionary story.  Her second Heidi series Heidi 45 was first presented in Yokohama Triennale 2005 in hi-definition format.  Heidi 45 starts with a cryptic dialogue between an old lady and a girl in imaginary language with subtitles.  Matsui is also known for her hallucinating drawings and paintings, which have been shown at the gallery from time to time.  Her drawings are not plans or drafts for her video/installation, but more independently created in association with her video/installation.Chie Matsui was born Osaka in a Buddhist temple family.  She lives and works in Osaka, Japan.