The Fussy Eye: Cruel Harvest

A gallery turned greenhouse.

It's a sad fact of Northwest history, related in Snow Falling on Cedars and elsewhere, that most of our Japanese-American population was illegally removed during World War II and incarcerated in detention camps. In Bellevue, as on Bainbridge Island, the old farm plots and strawberry fields once tended by Japanese-Americans gave way to malls and tract homes after the war. And as visiting Japanese artist Meiro Koizumi reminds us during his residency at Open Satellite, that gallery stands on the site of a former strawberry patch. For that reason, the first portion of his installation The Corner of Sweet and Bitter is brilliant and simple: The sunny space becomes a greenhouse, sheltering neat rows of strawberry plants aligned in tidy furrows. Artist, your job is done! But unfortunately, Koizumi insists on pushing things further. In a half-built wooden Kaczynski shack, there's a loop video of a Mexican illegal immigrant singing "The Star Spangled Banner," an American flag superimposed over his face, with Koizumi's voice interviewing and coaching him in the background. "Sing from your heart," he encourages. Yeah, right. The poor Mexican is being forced to sing through a kazoo made of a hot dog wrapped in bacon and other uncertain garnishes. All you get is a muffled, mangled tune—hardly a free, joyous expression of patriotism. Oh, wait—it's supposed to be conceptual! The Mexican is having his freedom taken away, just like the Japanese-Americans! Thanks for making the irony so explicit. Next time, stick with the fruit. (Koizumi has a concurrent show at Seattle U's Lee Center for the Arts.) 

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