This blog intoroduces Critique Sessions held at Youkobo Art Space, Tokyo. The sessions are for artists, who present their artworks at gallery or studios, to receive constructive feedbacks. It is also an opportunity for the participants including artists, workers in art industry, staff members and visitors, to exchange open discussions.
Jaime: We’d like to hear what you wanted to
do in this work.
Marte: I want to say that
actually my original plan was different. The original plan that I had when I
applied here was completely different. I know that I had a project in my mind
but didn’t have it worked out. When I came here, I had a completely different
image in my head of a film I wanted to make, but I’m not one who plans projects
in advance. Each time when I go abroad, I see things, I meet people, it’s so
hard to describe but then it suddenly changes.
The thing with the door for
example. I didn’t plan on doing something like that but I spent a-lot of time
in the tatami room. I don’t sleep during the night, I work. During the night,
these doors are very weird because you see the trees, the leaves, everything is
moving. It’s hard to describe but they somehow became so stuck in my head that
I spontaneously decided to change the whole thing and use the doors. It’s
difficult to describe a concrete intention but it’s like a connection of impressions.
Utako: It’s easy for me to get
the way you were. Your impression was inspired by the Japanese living
environment. Maybe, Tokyo is a very large city landscape. And it’s easy to tell
what you were doing prior to making this work. It’s very approachable as a
Marte: The funny thing is that I
wanted to make an animation of a virtual city. That was the original plan. And
it is also connected to the fact that I have a show in March about virtual
Utako: What’s that?
Marte: Like a utopia. Like that
I thought my coming here was the perfect thing for that, because it’s an Asian
megacity compared to Berlin because Berlin is a village. But I couldn’t really
do that anymore when I was here. The whole thing I had laid out in my mind
didn’t seem right anymore. That also maybe why there’s this leftover city in
Jaime: So this is all just from
Marte: Pretty much.
Utako: It’s not really like what
you see in Japan.
Marte: That’s actually maybe the
reason why it suddenly didn’t seem right in my head anymore because I had this
completely different image in my head of Tokyo when I was here ten years ago.
It seemed so much crazier to me, and then when I came back this time I don’t
know why the buildings are not so special.
now, in the last ten years, Shanghai and other Asian cities seem much crazier.
I agree that to me now Tokyo isn’t so incredible. Skyscrapers like those in New
York are also aging, while Shanghai, Singapore, and other new Asian cities seem
more futuristic and exciting to me.
Marte: New York has an even
different feeling. If you walk through Manhattan, it feels much slower than
here in Tokyo. Even though there are huge scrapers, where you are in narrow
streets and they have incredibly high buildings. Here it somehow, I suddenly
realize it isn’t my image any more.
Jaime: Is it kind of a city the
way you would like a city to be? Your own kind of dream world? I don’t want to
use that word.
is. Because you asked me about my intention, and it’s a little hard to
describe. I always see it like a system and then I can say more. It’s like
trying to create an atmosphere…Like a combination of…It was just in my head.
It’s not really supposed to be scary, but it’s also not supposed to be pretty,
you know what I mean?
example, I had a very interesting conversation at the opening with somebody. He
came in here and he looked at it, and then he came back again and said “that’s
so cute.” And I said, “ah, it’s not supposed to be cute, but OK”. And then an
hour later, he came and looked at it again, and said “it’s actually not cute,
it’s scary”. I think for me it should be something in-between.
Utako: Between scary and cute?
Is that the kind of atmosphere you want to convey?
Marte: Maybe yes. There is one
thing which makes it very difficult to show that; it’s very noisy here.
Hiroko: I think you have found a
balance between scary and cute very well. The color schemes, shapes and other
elements really draw you in, it’s very open but there are things that make you
feel uncomfortable. This is just my opinion, but when a female artist fromthe west comes to stay at Youkobo with the
paper sliding doors, it’s an unusual environment. I wonder whether that had a
strong influence, these elements which are often used in movies.
Marte: I’m pretty sure that
a-lot of people have used these elements before. You’re right because it is a
very unusual environment for westerners because we only see that in media.
Maybe the doors do exist sometimes, but we never have tatami. It is unusual so
that’s why it gets used a lot. Speaking about the residency, that’s why I
wanted to be in residence 1. If I’m going to be in Tokyo, I didn’t want to be
in a western apartment.
Marte: Yes, I saw the pictures
on the internet, the description said Japanese-style room, so I thought yes.
Utako: Did you feel something?
You said before you saw shadows. Did you read something as something else?
Marte: To be honest, when I was
sitting there at 4 in the morning, it was quiet and when you saw shadows, you
sometimes get these strange images like you think something is moving. Now in
the video, the shadows from outside. There were these strange moments when you
think “oh, is there someone outside?”
Hiroko: It’s just that when a
foreigner comes, you are exposed to Japanese culture. The way that you’ve used
the tatami mats, the sliding doors and other elements, it’s kind of as a
foreigner you have these...it’s like an alien environment, and they come out in
the work as a feeling of anxiety. These kinds of feelings bubble up in the
Marte: I mean this is more
strange, now that I stayed in that space for two months, it’s not that strange
any more. But still it’s more foreign for me than the city itself.
Utako: Hiroko insisted how much
she likes this work. So in a way you are looking for something really strange
rather than foreign.
Marte: Maybe, I don’t really
know. I have lots of German words in my head, but I don’t know how to translate
that into proper English. There’s one thing that I wanted to say about this
atmosphere situation. One thing I realized is that this thing is too loud, and
there is a lot of noise from the street. So a part of me thinks that I should
try this again. Maybe it’s too much, but it would be an interesting experiment
to show it in a completely exposed space where there is no noise from outside,
no noise from my heater because there is also this sound.
<On masks and other elements in the
Marte: The mask thing is also something
very very Asian to me. You don’t see it in Germany, only in hospitals. Here
you’re sometimes surrounded by people all wearing masks. I think it also has
something scary in a way, because you don’t see the faces any more. I actually
tried wearing one for a couple of days, but it’s actually really hard because
you can’t breathe.
Utako: Yeah I don’t like the
masks either. It’s scary, and it sometimes looks like something related to
Hiroko: Masks are very important
Marte: I suffer from hay fever
as well, I’m constantly crying in springtime. Maybe I should try walking around
with a mask. If I did that in Germany, people would think I’m crazy. But I was
originally also thinking about working with the mask. Julia and I made some
kind of performance in the streets but nobody really saw that. But somehow I
got away from the masks again. I also wanted to make something using the coca-cola
signs or something, I don’t know.
Utako: Maybe this is just a play
with words, but a mask or screen is also a dividing device, this side and the
other side. Having found these two you found in Japan, almost like pointing to
an excess of Japanese culture. A kind of screening or division. But I’m sure
there are so many foreign artists pick exactly this thing and use in their work
when they come. There nothing wrong but it could be tricky to use obvious Japan
emblems. But I was simply enjoying your work regardless of this. I thought this
work was very interesting as it is.
Marte: You know what was funny,
the last time I was in Japan ten years ago, I was just starting to study art,
and I had an exam three months after I came back which determined whether I
could stay at the school or not. I made a Japanese installation because I had
just come back from Japan. Now I would say it was crappy, I would never do
something like that again. But I think even though it’s not so different here
from the west. People are not so different and the culture is not so different
but there is still something which is completely different, so it’s hard not to
take that in and use them. Maybe there is a difference in trying to take all
Japanese elements and putting them on a pile, but you do get impressions that
are so hard to get out of your head. Ten years ago for me it was eating noodle
soup, I didn’t even know you had to eat it very loudly, so I made an
installation about slurping noodle soup.
Manabu: What I thought was
interesting is that you have taken different elements and experiences in Japan
and put them together in one work, but not actually made any clear connection.
There’s not necessarily a story there, they’re just there. Not that you were
trying to make a story, but putting these elements together makes something
complex but it’s not clear what it is.
Marte: I’m never trying to tell
a story, to be honest. I tried that but it didn’t work. Maybe I’m just not a
Jaime: Are there elements from
the past as well?
Marte: Yeah, because always when
you go travelling you have time to think about so many things. And then sitting
in this room at night. You do have more time than when you are back at home
because at home there’s also the jobs you do and people you meet. I don’t think
that much at home as I did do here. There’s a lot going on in my head.
<About the drawings and use of video
Utako: So are they drawings for animation?
Marte: No. What I usually do
is….like you have to work on the computer a lot. Even though I have a very fast
and very good computer, it still takes it hours sometimes to render and work.
You can’t do anything else, but you can draw. So in-between, I draw.
something that you’ve seen. Is it stuff that has come up?
Marte: They are such a Japanese
Utako: Are they very precious
Marte: No. I have a lot of
arguments about that but when I draw, it’s never as precious for me as other
works. But I did argue with a lot of other people because they said I should
never say that.
Utako: It’s quite refreshing for
me to hear a German artist saying that a drawing is not precious, because I met
a lot of German artists who really value drawing and they really value such a
very raw gesture.
Marte: I also love drawing a
lot. But that’s not the point. Drawing is what everybody does. Even if you
don’t show drawings at the end, you make sketches of how your work will look
like, you note stuff down, maybe you just doodle around. You make drawings
before you make a sculpture
I never used to show them. Because
I did draw all the time. But I thought I should make a decision about the work
I show. At some point, a couple of years ago, I took part in a sale show, and I
was supposed to show videos. How do you show videos? Difficult! So a friend of
mine said take a bunch of drawings, and they liked them and they showed and
sold all of them. So there is a part of me which is torn between should I maybe
draw more, and show them more often to earn some money. But I tried that, and I
showed a lot of drawing, but it suddenly felt like it wasn’t me, it’s not my
work. That’s when I started the animation.
Utako: Richness or content,
maybe. There are so many layers and sounds. It’s very fragmental. You could
make an incredibly large and intense drawing, but maybe these fragments are
what’s nice about this drawing. But it’s not enough to express as an artwork.
Marte: I don’t want to say it in
a bad way. It’s not that I don’t value them. But I think I value them
differently from other people sometimes, because if I’m not so pleased with
them I will usually throw them away. And I know that some people wouldn’t
really do that. I’m also not really good at putting them away, I have some
drawings in my draw, and some in the box in the basement. Maybe because I don’t
do these really dense gigantic drawings. Maybe they always feel like something
I can always reproduce very easily. With some of the video work I do, I back up
with visual work. I always check them to see that they are still there. So
maybe because of the amount of work you put into something. But then on the
other hand, it’s very pleasing doing the drawings, which is why they are here.
Talking about the amount of work, this takes ages and then at the end you just
have a dvd. This flat thing and nothing you can touch. It’s so frustrating
sometimes, because even if you do an installation with a video at the end of
the show you have to take them down….
Utako: I had a chat with an art
collector once in Melbourne. She said actually in her house she has three tv
monitors for video work. Even to appreciate, you have to have something to make
it visual unlike painting or drawing. On the other hand, it has such mobility.
You can show across the world in one second.
Marte: That’s true. But it also
makes it sometimes so fleeting. I do work with this video collection, and we
made an open call with a certain subject. And we got hundreds of videos that
don’t have any relation to the subject, but still you can find some reason to
show them, and then it gets so simple sometimes. I don’t know….
Utako: What about you, Manabu?
How is it using video for you?
Manabu: Video is popular with our
generation. Videos are like movies, because it takes our full attention; clear
story, strong audio. It’s annoying.
Utako: Just in entertainment, or
in animation as well?
Manabu: But I have things I like.
What I don’t like is when they have video projects, they gather a lot of
material, something is just shown and you watch. Like the cinema, but in a
contemporary art context. Some contemporary artists make work like a movie in a
theater. Many many artworks are like this.
Marte: I forgot the name of the
artist. You had to go there in the morning to get a screening time, because
they would show every thirty minutes and there was only a limited amount of
visitors so you had to sign up a couple of minutes in advance to get a seat. So
that was the first thing I did in the morning. But the work was so boring, I
was so angry at the end because you were forced into this situation. You had to
get a ticket time, and its thirty minutes long, and it’s a theater situation,
and you sit down expecting something. At the end it s a work you could show in
a normal situation, and then everyone could decide if they want to watch for
thirty minutes or not because it didn’t even tell a story, it didn’t have a
beginning or an end. It was just a collection of images.
I don’t think that with this it’s
important when you start or how long you watch it. If someone just wants to
take a quick look, it’s fine for me. I understand what you mean, sometimes very
difficult. We tried once to turn this situation around by showing an art piece
which is meant for a show in a cinema as a loop for twenty-four hours where
people could go in there and they could sit down and watch ninety minutes or
three hours. But the funny thing was it didn’t work, people were so used to the
cinema situation that they came at the opening, they sat down and the theater
was full. They watched ninety minutes and then they left, even though we said
you can come and go whenever, and there was even a party in the building next
to it. It is sometimes difficult.
Session Two – Manabu Kanai
On “observation and description”
<About the concept of the work
Jaime: Can you first explain a bit about
what you have tried to do in your work.
important thing I want to convey in this work is not a message conveyed by
using the work itself. When thinking about what the foundation of this message
is, what elements allow people to discover for themselves, how the relations
can be discovered through this situation I have created, how these relationships
and stories be discovered, this is the process on which I am most focused.
My interest in this is perhaps
close to that of a painter. To explain in more detail, painters look at
subjects to paint, and consider how it is possible to represent that subject
within a frame. For example, when they paint a picture, they give consideration
to how they can best represent what they wish to represent. A decision-making
process where the painter decides which elements to preserve and which are
unnecessary is something that I also give consideration. I think making an
exhibition means to be able to use my own skill in achieving this.
Marte: That’s actually a little
bit how I understood your work as well, because for example you told me it’s
about the lines, about the viewpoint, this whole thing is a composition in
itself with single elements that build the image. That’s my impression, so
maybe that’s similar to what you’re saying.
Manabu: It’s an image, but the
use of skill comes in being able to realize something complex. It is not a
clear image but something difficult to understand which leaves you wondering
how you should view it. I want to create a complex environment with different
elements which is not fixed; it looks like this from one perspective, while
from below it looks like something different. I think those who are able to
exhibit in this way effectively have a high level of skill as artists. I don’t
have much skill yet, so I am only capable of what you see, but I want to keep
Marte: Why would you say that
you’re not doing it very well?
Jaime: He might just be being
Manabu: Now I think it’s enough,
but ten or twenty years later, I will have more skill or more knowledge. So in
the future, I want to do better exhibitions. So my process will change. I think
Marte: I think that’s just a
natural artistic process. I hope for every artist that that’s going to happen.
But you know, you do one work, and it’s always getting better or more precise.
Or when you redefine your ideas or whatever that’s always a step.
Utako: Can I ask a question? In
Marte’s work, there are a number of images and they each have their own frame,
where as in your work the room in its totality can be considered as one frame
with the screen becoming an element of this composition. Are we to understand
it in this way?
Manabu: Basically yes.
Manabu: For this reason, the sea
I stood in front of, the sounds I heard, the wind I felt…Seeing myself at
another remove, almost meta-physically… In a physical sense, why does the sea
cause wind to blow, or the situation as if someone else is present. It is a
very complex response… Of course, here right now there are also the same
conditions, the same conditions that were over there, but the question is how
can these elements be ‘packaged’ and brought into the gallery space. The method
of making this package is the thing I most wanted to do in this exhibition.
For this reason, one of the things
I wanted to do here was to use the perspective of the camera as a central rule
in the work to connect the whole. This is a very complicated approach, but I
thought it would be better to use this as a starting point to hook the various
elements together which would thus widen out into a broader image. It makes it
easier for the different elements to gradually form mutual relationships.
Marte: I think this is
interesting because talking about horizon and perspective, tourists point of
view a lot of people take pictures of the ocean. It’s a very ordinary thing,
you go to the ocean and think, oh beautiful and take a picture. Very often the
horizon is not straight it’s a little crooked, so the ocean should actually
disappear to the right and left side of the image.. Its so important to have a
straight line, but very often it doesn’t happen. That’s one of the first things
I thought about when I saw this.
Utako: Where’s the point of
balance between the relationship with the work. For example, the sky is lower….
Manabu: This is important for me.
The reason why I am deliberately using a method difficult to comprehend is
this. The perception of understanding a work easily comes from using the same
rules that we normally use to see the world. However, I think the most
important thing is that we try to change the way we see usually view the world,
and so methods that we use on a daily basis would be of absolutely no use in
this work. I have to find this new method for myself, I have to change the way
I usually look at things or this new method will never be found. Making this
change, or looking in this new way, slightly altering the channels by which we
view the world is the thing I most want to achieve in this work.
Marte: I have another question
which is maybe very technical. The water in the plastic. Is it level to the
horizon of the other two screens. Do you refill it during the show.
Manabu: Sometimes I do.
just had to think did it get less than a couple of days ago? I also thik that
maybe this would be interesting that this disappears. Then maybe that disturbs
the image, I don’ know.
<The background to the methods of
Utako: So you transferred your experiences
of that sea in a package brought to this space. But you used different ways of
seeing, a different channel in your work to express a new worldview. But why
are you trying to do this?
Manabu: The answer will take us
back quite a bit. I was born in 1983, and what I have felt while I have grown
up in the Japan of today is that what is now considered good and bad, right or
wrong, the right way of listening etc. were perhaps what was believed 30 years
ago. For example, the fantasy of finding happiness by becoming clever through
study, entering a good company, and marrying a beautiful girl still existed in
the past, but from the time which I was born this has completely disappeared.
No-one knows what to do, but they observe with cool detachment, and know that
it is a lie..but still do it anyway, living in the same way as it was 30 years
ago. Speaking in an exaggerated way, in order to change the world if you don’t
change the way you view the world even in the most microscopic way, nothing
will change. This is something I have felt since I was small, and this is what
most informs this work from my background.
Utako:This space is for you to reconstruct, to explore, to see
the way of looking by making?
Manabu: That’s right. To change
my own channel, to create my own rules, to look at things, and rethink the
things that we observe.
Utako: How old are you?
Marte: Me? Tomorrow I’m going to
Utako: So about the same
Marte: Culturally completely
Utako: Why different backgrounds?
Marte: Yeah, I thik it’s a very
different background, for example with arranged marriages don’t exist in Europe
in many countries for a long time. I think all these barriers about getting
married at a certain age, they stopped existing a long time before.
Utako: So you’re saying Japanese
values are quite behind the times…? (laughter)
Marte: No, no….I wouldn’t say
they’re behind, I would just say that they are different because if you look at
it nowadays even for our parents’ generation these barriers didn’t much exist
anymore. There was not really a big thought about having to get married. Maybe
more than our generation, but still not anymore. But I think the opposite which
is happening nowadays is that certain kinds of values did get lost in a way,
and I don’t think that everyone can deal with that. Why are there so many
people on the internet, on online dating services, why do they try to get
hooked up with strangers on the internet?
Manabu: Maybe this kind of thing
is similar between Europe and Japan. Maybe common background of internet world.
Maybe the young generation is the same background.
Marte: But I think it’s our
generation is the one where the cultural differences disappear because we all
grew up with MacDonald’s, MTV, computers, the internet. We are not even the
internet generation, internet started when we were already in our twenties. We
grew up with the same thing in the eighties. We all internationally like the
same things, MacDonald’s, MTV, all these things. I think that’s the
international thing that suddenly changed the differences. For example, when my
dad talks about thhisdifferences in Japan, he always refers to the stuff that
he saw in the seventies, the middle of the eighties, he talked about fashion
a-lot and he said there was this particular fashion in Japan. I think that has
disappeared because nowadays its all the same. The differences are disappearing
and I think in a way that that’s really sad. But in general that leads us away
from the point.
<The use of the exhibition space>
Utako: This room itself has many different
elements, the heater, the window. How did you think about that in relation to
Manabu: I could have drawn it,
but there is also a lot to say in not drawing it. As a way of viewing, it is
also possible just to see this room as a room. It is the same sense you have in
a painting when you recognize, for example, something as the silhouette of a
person, while it is also possible to view it simply as a pink mark placed on
the canvas. This may just look like a room, but there may also exist a
different illusion. And so, I don’t really feel any appeal to use a white cube
gallery space. Even if I did use a white-cube space, it can also still be
recognized as a white-cube space even if it contains work inside…
I’m not trying to create an illusion. Perhaps when you put on your shoes and go
home after seeing this work, maybe when you are at home you might think ‘why
did I put my bed like this?”..
Marte: But it’s interesting that
you ask that because I thought about it before as well with the door, the
background and especially with the air conditioner. Because the air conditioner
is always in my head. But I think white cube, I don’t think that would be
Utako: I actually did enjoy your
presentation there. Having other sounds from the street, and disturbing light
from outside. That weirdness of what’s in the film. I’m happy with the idea for
march. Your image looks more weird with these usual rough environment, even
emphasise the strange enough not to be occupied by other elements.
Marte: Do you think that these
elements in the background should not be there?
Utako: No, I was just
Hiroko: I think this becomes an
issue when the work doesn’t have a strong presence. And so, perhaps in Marte’s
case a white cube space would have been better, but rather than that what is
important is whether you can be absorbed in the work. In that sense, I think
both Marte and Manabu have been successful. I personally am satisfied. There
are of course times when I’m not pleased with the use of the space, but that is
because of the work itself.
it does bother me how Manabu has used the space, there is no problem for me
with the tv monitor or air conditioner, the lighting, pencils and other objects
being visible, but in respect to what Manabu just mentioned in terms of it
being seen as a painting, I think a painting doesn’t necessarily mean it has to
be on a canvas…
Hiroko: But drawing paintings in
the first place can be considered strange, can it not?
Manabu: Actually, I used to think
in the same way. In the way that I just said, an artwork has to give a different
dimension, the work itself has to do this, but it also has to have its own
context, and this must happen to a point where it actually changes the
existence of the space. In the same way, an art museum and a white-cube space
are both just boxes, and if the box itself doesn’t have the power to carry the
context of the work then in the opposite way, I don’t think the work will be
successful. Good work must begin with this.
Marte: I don’t even like white
cubes that much. I read an article ‘white cube and black box is dead’. White
cubes needs a big space for the work. If this would be in a white cube, you
would look at it differently because you would only see these elements. I like
ti works in the space. It doesn’t even seem strange that it’s not a white cube.
Hiroko: It is obvious that the
reason for making spaces into white cubes is because it makes it better to view
the work, and that is why everyone strives so hard to create them. I’m not
criticizing this, but I think it is important when showing work to make
conditions where it is possible to concentrate on the work. Speaking simply,
you want viewers to think positively of the work.
This is inevitably a very
important factor. When you show work, it is of course important to work on
ideas before the actual exhibition, but it is also important to give time for
the installation of work when it takes the form of a site-specific work. In the
past I have asked an artist I had high expectations of to do an exhibition
here, but he was too busy and it didn’t turn out the way I had hoped. And so to
allow physical time is essential. Residence artists have plenty of time, so
they can focus on the work and show it successfully. But in the case of the
gallery, there are both successes and failures. For Marte as well, if you were
in Germany there would be many things keeping you from being able to focus on
the work. By doing a residency, you are able to gain this time. Maybe we the
staff need this time as well（laughter）.