Yoshiaki Kaihatsu Interview
Yoshiaki Kaihatsu is currently artist in residence at 3331 Arts Chiyoda. He will be in residence for 3 months until August and during this time he will not only be creating new work but also holding a series of events and workshops along with an exhibition. He kindly gave his time to answer a few questions about the residency program and his artistic practice.
Q: You have participated in many residency projects, what do you see as the function or importance of such programs?
A: Yes, I have joined a number of residency programs including ISCP, international studio & curatorial program NY, 1 month in BANFF (the media arts centre in Canada), then a residence funded by the POLA foundation at Triangle Artists Workshop and more recently a residency in Berlin, Germany. One good reason to join such programs is the opportunity to go abroad, to stay in another country and experience a new environment. This encounter of a new place, new things can be fed into the development of your own work. It is not only the chance to produce your work in reaction to this new context, but also to meet with many other people. Often a residency program is not for just one artist, but several artists at the same time, making it possible to share many ideas and experiences, learning from each other and forming a network.
Q: These residencies have been a good opportunity to engage in another country, but in this case joining the residency at 3331 in Tokyo is a rather different situation isn't it?
A: This residence still allows for a new response to one's environment and offers the opportunity to enter wider networks. It allows me to make a specific investigation of the local area, Akihabara. 3331 itself is a very unique place with so many creative practitioners under one roof it is a good opportunity to meet people as well as to reexamine the familiar image of Akihabara itself.
Q: So how is the residency going so far, what are you working on?
A: Well I am working towards an exhibition in June. In fact I am working on a double work, I suppose you could call it. I am making work for the Children's Museum in Funabashi, Chiba and also work for an exhibition at 3331. My idea is to connect the two works so visitors to one venue can become interested in the work in the other venue and create a link between the two places. For the work at 3331 I am currently making a video of the Akihabara area. I have a work made from a washing machine, with a tree growing out of it, it's called "girlfriend", as I see it as a person. I am taking this character around Akihabara going for a walk, a date I suppose. The video takes this image as its central focus but in the background the landscape is always changing, the present Akihabara with its electronics stores, maid cafes and otaku culture. I want to present this landscape as my work, to bring an awareness to the environment that we usually ignore and for this to be appreciated as a video work.
Q: So what is the present Akihabara like?
A: Well I was brought up in Yamanashi and as a child I often saw the adverts for Odenboya (he sings the theme tune - about walking in space) and Anko (Akihabara electronics stores), and as a child I imagined what Akihabara could be like. For me the image of an electric city was very strong, with its electronics and Laox stores. Wherever you went in Akihabara,, whether in the tiny backstreets or upper floors of the various you would find people selling all sorts of gadgets. But then after some time there began to spring up stores for Otaku figures, anime and manga, and in a good way these different cultures came to exist side by side. Then even more recently maid cafes started to appear. When I heard about them I thought I want to try that out, I am planning to go at least 4 times, but perhaps now is not the best time to do that. I haven't gone once yet. Anyway in my moving image work, trailing a washing machine through the streets I want to capture this eclectic image of Akihabara. Akihabara is always changing, it is not like an abandoned shopping arcade, as new buildings pop up, new businesses move in and it increasingly becomes more and more of an everyday place. I felt this time that in the next 10-20 years Akihabara will lose its character and become just another miscellaneous part of the city.
Q: In this residency program you are not only producing your own work but also engaging the public in a wide variety of workshops and events, could you tell us more about these?
A: Well it started with the welcome party where we held a live performance and I will go on to show video works I have produced or been involved in, along with a talk show. I will also be holding a series of workshops for adults. As I have been provided with this space and support I want to share something with the visitors to 3331, to activate participation, not just making work to show people but to share something, to put something out.
Q: You are holding a "workshop for making a workshop" I hear, along with a workshop especially for children. It sounds interesting. In your activity are you often facilitating workshops and working with children for example?
A: Yes I am often making workshops, often children's workshops. Perhaps it is not by design, but rather that many galleries and arts facilities are keen to engage children and I somehow become involved in this. Through this I have come to consider the role and function of workshops. This time I decided I wanted to facilitate a workshop for adults. I am sure there are many kinds of workshops which adults can enjoy the experience of but in this particular case I want to think about how to make a workshop together. I will introduce my works and previous workshops and hope participants will generate a response to this. It's not just the case of sharing my knowledge and experience. For me the process of making something is very interesting, to show the final product is not enough, I want people to enjoy this experience together, this is a pure motivation. I want the participants to generate something themselves over 4 weeks and to realize this together while having fun.
Q:In your work interaction seems to take a central role. I wonder how much you have to create a framework for such interaction how much do you want to control what happens and how much freedom do you want to leave to what can occur?
A: To be honest I don't really think about the framework that much. Rather I think if I do this I might get this reaction. It is more a case of opening a space for something to happen.
Q: Taking a quote in relation to your work "Perfect World", it says that in many of your works deal with communication and attempt to foster a positive relationship. I wonder if you could say a bit more about the role of communication in your work?
A: I use many different means of expression, my work includes performance and installation for example. But I don't set out to create communication for communication's sake. Take the example of 365 project, where people from all over the country agreed to show 365 objects of my work. Over 1 year I visited to each of these places and became a kind of commentator. I spoke with the local people about what they thought about the work and if they didn't know how to react I would explain my motivation for making such a thing. It is through such objects that a natural relationship between people was formed, offering the chance to meet and exchange, and finally this communication can also be taken as work in itself. It is this kind of process which is important to me.
Q: Again referring to the previous quote I would like to pick up the word positive. This positivity is also an important feature of your work I believe.
A: Well at the moment I like something funny, something with humour, something fun. Probably my "hobby" will change but this has been very important for me.
Q: While this positivity and humour exists there is also a critical element contained within it.
A: Well you can say perhaps there is some critical comment about culture or society behind the work, that's obvious, but the surface humour has an important energy which I really want to encourage.
Q: In many of your works you have used Styrofoam why did you decide to work with this particular material?
A: Well I started to work with Styrofoam in 1990. I was working for a casting company and often using Styrofoam to make maquettes etc. Styrofoam is a very convenient material, it is easy to shape, its cheap and light. In sculpture there is an appreciation of materials such as wood for smell and ease of carving, metal for its quality of melting at high temperature, but for me I take a different perspective. I want to use materials which seem to have no value, to create a new value from these in some way. The transformative properties of Styrofoam are very interesting for me. For example you buy some product carefully packaged like headphones, a dvd player, a microwave etc. and carefully carry it home, the material at this time is something protective and necessary. But as soon as you have reached home and opened the box the Styrofoam loses its function and it becomes rubbish. This manner of becoming rubbish holds something important to me. I take this rubbish and redesign it put it together in a new form and in re-using this material it suddenly becomes valuable again, the moment in which this becomes valuable is very interesting for me.
Q: You are also very active in organizing events, residences, exhibitions as well as producing your own work. Do you see this activity as part of your practice as an artist, or do you take a different position as a curator/organizer?
A: Well I don't really think about it, but basically as an artist I create things and this activity can be included in this. It doesn't really matter if it is an artist or curator or whatever, that you organize such events, what is important is to nurture that network and bring artists together. For example when I was younger I established a space in Kunitachi with a good friend "FADs Art Space". At the time it was popular to have 1-2 week exhibition in a rental gallery and young people had become familiar with this form but we wanted to create a different kind of model for presenting work and so at this space we facilitated long term exhibitions of several months, being flexible with the amount of time that could be spent in the presentation of art work. Also I was aware that when international artists came to Tokyo and held their exhibition they had an opening event but then they were pretty much on their own and I wanted to create an environment which would allow for greater interaction between international artists and young Japanese artists. If the current situation doesn't fit me then I try to make a new situation which does.
Q: One of your renowned projects included "Thank You Art Day" - a special event held on 9th March every year in celebration of art. What motivated you to start such a project?
A: Well this was born from the same motivation, in approaching many different artists I came to appreciate a certain discontent with the current art world, the current way of appreciating art and wanted to change this custom, to create a different value a new way of being for art. There have been various efforts to engage a wider audience for the arts for example the popular art festivals but perhaps there are more possibilities I thought. By creating a celebration, a memorial for art I wanted to give people who would not usually hold an interest in art an opportunity to encounter it in some new form and through such activity I hoped this could expand engagement and broaden the arts world. However it is difficult to expand the event and keep it going, yet still it has been running for 10 years now. I can not say if it has been a success or not yet. Many say that the number of people are interested in art is limited, the same people go to every opening event etc. but if this kind of event keeps going then I hope this can change.
Q: What do you plan to do after this residence?
A: Hm, well I have a feeling that even when the residence has finished will it will in fact still carry on.... Actually I have an exhibition in Kobe which I will be making new work for as well as a 1 month workshop project with elementary school children in Chiba. Well I am sure I will continue to flay about here and there.
Born in Yamanashi 1966. MA in Tama Art University. Since 1988, he has been energetically exhibiting works internationally. for more information please visit his web site: http://www.yoshiakikaihatsu.com
interview conducted by emma ota
NANAIRO CHANNEL is an associate project of 3331 Arts Chiyoda. It is a new enterprise initiated by local arts students to create a space of expression and exchange between young people studying the arts throughout the country. Based in the radio centre above the milieu of electronic parts stalls and beneath the railway line of Akihabara, NANA CHAN is taking on the challenge to connect the diverse practices of young creative practitioners through a dedicated media platform, utilizing the latest in personal broadcast and social media. Based upon the infrastructure of Ustream participants can broadcast their events, art production processes and presentations, to name but a few of the possibilities of such a facility, which provides not only the ability to document creative engagements but also the possibility of being employed as a form of artistic expression in itself.
I spoke with Nanaho Kanmuri, one of the leading members of the project, to learn more about this innovative bridging of individuals and institutions across different arts fields and different geographic regions of Japan.
What is NANAIRO Channel (NANA CHAN)?
NANA CHAN is a media centre providing a space for students to broadcast their range of expressions and ideas through various different media. NANAIRO means 7 colours in Japanese, a reference to the multicolours of the rainbow. This reflects 7ch's purpose to bring students of many different fields, with their own individual colour, together in collaboration, mixing together to form a brand new colour as it were.
How was NANA CHAN formed and why?
NANA CHAN was born from a frustration with the confines of engaging in expression limited to one's own department or own university, and aims to create an inter-disciplinary network which allows for new forms of expression on a much wider stage, overcoming this isolation of artistic practice and aspiring to instigate new discussion and collaboration.
How have you formed the network of NANA CHAN?
The network began through friends and through the use of Mixi, twitter, SKYPE, Ustream and other such online communication media we have expanded to include students all over the country.
How many members does NANA CHAN have?
There is a core team of 10 people working on NANA CHAN, but in terms of participation and contribution this number easily exceeds 100 at this time.
What is the vision of NANA CHAN?
Through building an inter-disciplinary network create the next generation of leaders for both the art scene and society.
We want to encourage a deeper connection between creative students which will carry on into their future careers, firstly in Japan but with the possibility to spread internationally.
How has NANA CHAN been used so far?
It has enabled participants to realize the events that they want to make, it has provided a space for presentation and for critical discussion, with many different approaches indicated by the students involved. The project launched in February of this year and we held a series of events marking this in March, to coincide with the opening of 3331 Arts Chiyoda. Throughout March NANA CHAN, in its satellite space of 3331, held exhibitions, performances and live programs, demonstrating the energy of arts students. There were original programs such as 'Akihabara Bento Boys', a cooking program lead by a group of male students, programs documenting the very process of creating art work, live dance, theatre and music performances and even an auction of artists' signatures (which could be bought for exchange of a personal item).
Your office space has a very distinctive interior architecture - formed of cardboard boxes - could you explain the relevance of these structures?
The cardboard box has become quite an emblem of NANA CHAN. We want to emphasise the migratory nature of the project, its constant movement in a relay between different participants. Cardboard boxes are used for moving things from one place to another, they indicate a transitory state which reflects the situation of NANA CHAN itself. Each box can be seen as an individual space, which can contain different forms of expression. We are utilizing these boxes as an exhibition space and archive of past events through the collection of items which act as relics of previous broadcasts. We also want to exchange these boxes with students participating in the project from different parts of the country, so that they can build a physical sense of connection, as well as their online connection.
What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of using media tools/the internet for communication?
Such tools have enabled a kind of communication that was not previously possible. We were particularly interested in using Ustream, for example, because of that sense of liveness, which we think is important in communication. Through these media we can connect with people all over the country (and even internationally) and receive direct feedback on our activities and begin to enter into discussion through the mediation of the internet. However we are also aware of the problematics involved in such a mediated engagement. In particular you have to be aware of the risks of publishing personal information in a public space. I personally feel that face to face communication is extremely important and that the internet can not replace this. We want to bring a balance between the physical and the virtual in a way. Therefore with many of our events there is an offline audience physically in the space, as well as the online audience. We also want to engage people into more direct exchange beyond the internet.
In the 80's Kogawa Tetsuo was pioneering the miniFM movement in Japan encouraging students and local groups to set up their own short-range radio broadcasts. There seems to be some correlation with your own activities. Have you been in contact with him at all?
We have not spoken to such a respected figure, but it would be interesting to know his perspective on our activities. There appears to be a kind of cycle which repeats itself in different forms over the decades, NANA CHAN is perhaps a modest interpretation of similar interests in community, network and open broadcast which Kogawa was dealing with at that time. There is now renewed interest in the practices of radio because of new convenient and cheap methods of broadcasting via the internet. NANA CHAN brings sound and image together, which is interesting, but also has many areas unexplored, and entails the instability of the actual media itself and a certain difficulties which come about due to unfamiliarity with the technology/program/website itself.
What kind of activity and exchange are you hoping to instigate from now?
With the opening events of March as a starting point, we aim to build upon these towards a wider approach assimilating many different fields and students from the various regions of Japan. We also think it important to take a wider grasp of media, which is not limited to twitter, skype and Ustream, but includes writing, radio, photography and other forms of communication.
How can people get involved?
We encourage any creative student who is interested in participating through their own broadcast to contact NANA CHAN at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will gladly schedule them in to the program.
NANA CHAN is planning more events for this month, so please stay tuned to www.nanachan.tv