This afternoon, at the VIP opening of Untitled art fair in Miami, London’s Edel Assanti gallery had a somewhat unusual offering: Yoshinori Niwa’s multimedia installationResending postcards sent during the Cold War to the intended recipients, (2017). Niwa, a Japanese artist based in Vienna, collected over 100 postcards that he found at various locations around the Austrian capital. Each of the postcards Niwa included in his installation date from around the time of the Cold War and went undelivered. A smattering of them is hung on a wall, along with two television screens. One monitor shows Niwa collecting the postcards from thrift stores, garbage dumps, and novelty shops; the other depicts him at the post office mailing them.
Niwa’s work typically draws on the desire to return objects to their rightful owner, Aloisia Leopardi, a gallery associate, pointed out to ARTnews. “He’s done a piece similar to this before,” Leopardi said, speaking of Niwa’s 2014–15 piece Selling the right to name a pile of garbage. “In the Philippines, where pickpocketing is frequent, he went around sneaking money into people’s pockets.”
Within hours of it having gone on view at the fair, That Language Sounds Like A Language had sold for £8,000. Leopardi said that the piece, which Niwa staged in the idiosyncratic spirit of Japanese avant-garde performance artists of years past, had a political context that may get lost in translation. She told me, “This piece shows him experimenting with the borders we create as humans.”