Yokohama Triennale 2014 Emiko Kasahara Interview

ヨコハマトリエンナーレ2014 笠原 恵実子インタビュー

Interview: Haruo Kobayashi (blanClass)
Text: Akiko Inoue
Photo: Masamasa Nishino

In early July, just before Yokohama Triennale 2014 (hereinafter referred to as Yokotori 2014) was about to begin, I interviewed exhibiting artist Emiko Kasahara at the alternative space blanClass in Idogaya, Minami Ward, Yokohama. The interviewer was blanClass director and artist Haruo Kobayashi. From the late 1990s to the early 2000s, Mr. Kasahara served as a lecturer at B Seminar (a contemporary art learning system), the predecessor of blanClass, and is an old friend of Mr. Kobayashi. We spoke to Mr. Kasahara, who couldn't hide his nostalgia during an interview at his old home, about the work he's exhibiting this time, OFFERING. This project ``OFFERING'', which took a huge amount of time to create (and is still not completed), is a journey to explore a certain issue that is important to Mr. Kasahara (and by extension, to us as well). It may be said that it is established by continuing. Coincidentally, the theme of Yokohama Triennale 2014 is also ``An adventure into the sea of oblivion.'' I would like to move on to the main story, hoping that through this interview, I will learn about the process of many years of exploration that a single aesthetic experience led to, and that it will be an opportunity for me to encounter his work at the Yokotori 2014 venue.

How 《OFFERING》 was born

Kobayashi: Since it will be exhibited at Yokohama Triennale 2014, I would like to ask you a lot about your work ``OFFERING.''

Kasahara : This work is part of a series of projects called OFFERING, which consists of photographic works and three-dimensional works. In terms of media, they are photographs and three-dimensional objects, but in other words, they are photographic works that capture things that actually exist in the world as documents, and sculptures that I have created as art. For me, it was very important to combine documentary elements and elements that I created myself. Another characteristic of this work is that it took a very long time to create, about 10 years. I started this project out of an interest in something that has a huge amount of material, so it took me a very long time to record it through photography. I think that this timeline is also unique among my previous works.

Kobayashi: What kind of work is it specifically?

Kasahara : First, to explain the background, there was a time in the late 1990s when I went to Italy frequently, and since it was in the Tuscany region, I had the opportunity to go to Pisa, which is nearby, several times. In the plaza where the famous Leaning Tower is located, there are the Baptistery (a Christian building attached to a church for baptism) and the Duomo, which I went to see. Then one rainy day, I went to Baptismo. It is a cylindrical-shaped building, and inside there are all decorative paintings and busts along the walls, and the octagonal baptismal font is in the center like a recess in the building, leaving the whole building completely open. It gave the impression that there was something there, but in that empty space, there was a three-dimensional object about waist high, sitting alone. The moment I saw it, I felt like it had some kind of important meaning. I wonder what? When I looked closer, I realized that it was a beautiful wooden box that had been carefully made in a minimalistic manner, and that box was the prototype for this work. This is a work of art that I made, but I made it faithfully to the box I saw at the time.


《OFFERING - Monica》

Kobayashi: It was made of wood.

Kasahara : Yes. I use wood of similar colors in my works. When I got closer and looked at the top of the box, I noticed that there was a slit in the middle. Just then, an old lady came up from behind and dropped some money into the slit. That's when I realized for the first time that this was an offering box. There was an offering box in the center of the building, and it had a feminine shape and was an object of complete beauty. Furthermore, an old woman happened to come by and put some money into it... All of that remained in my mind as an aesthetic experience. When I had a chance to go back to the spot after some time had passed, I took a photo and measured the size without worrying about other people watching. I decided to find out what this feeling was. This is the beginning of this project.

Kobayashi: When was the first time you visited?

Kasahara : I think it was around 1998.

Kobayashi: What about the second time?

Kasahara : Around 2001.

Ideology underlying Western-centric values: A journey to follow the footsteps of the spread of Christianity

Kasahara : We live in a non-Western country, and for example, how currency is used, how political conversations are held, and even the museum system and school education are Western-style. We are having a conversation within society about how much value we should incorporate. I think that can be said whether consciously or unconsciously. I believe that the fundamental ideology that creates these Western values is Christianity. If you think about the underlying ideology of Christianity, it is "Devotion". Devotion originally means that I will give everything to you without asking for anything in return, but the system of ``Offering'' was born from the idea of how to symbolize this Devotion. The idea of Devotion, which was initially a noble ideology, has been transformed into money and things that are considered to be very secular. In other words, it is a system in which the sacred and the profane can coexist and exist at the same time, and I interpret this as an offering.

Christianity, which started out as a small event in the remote areas of the Middle East, was persecuted, divided, moved to Europe, and spread throughout the world along with colonialism. I think it was a process of universalizing a certain system that went beyond religious evangelism. I thought it was necessary for me to go through this process myself and recognize it as an experience. The act of discovering and recording the things actually used in the offering, such as donation boxes, took time, but it was the process of carefully thinking about and developing the project, and it was an extremely important and effective process. I think that's how it was.

Kobayashi: I see. There are other symbolic things that are spreading along with Christianity. It's an idol or a sculpture.

Kasahara : That's right.

Putting something into a box or receiving something into a plate is also very symbolic. Passive shapes like boxes and plates are also feminine shapes. In fact, all of OFFERING's sculptures have the names of saints. When I think about it, although I wasn't consciously aware of it, it may have something to do with the feminine-shaped sculptures I was making previously.

Kobayashi: What I find interesting is that the vessel is also the system itself. It's a little more superficial and majestic, and it's completely different from the sublimely presented paintings and sculptures, and it's the default in the so-called system, focusing on what you can't see even though you can actually see it. ,I feel that it will.

Kasahara : That's right.

Kobayashi: Is it different from the (Japanese) offering box?

Kasahara : The system is the same. However, in this work I wanted to limit myself to the Christian offering and its context. Because it clearly looked at an overwhelmingly Western-centric worldview. I wanted to get a clear perspective by focusing on one thing, so I didn't get into other religions.

Kobayashi: It may be a very conceptual thing, but the system of offering boxes is designed so that the give -and-receive (giving and receiving) that is part of Christianity is not obvious.

Kasahara : Well, that's hypocrisy. As is the case with other religions and systems, when I consider that there is a Western-centric society whose backbone ideology is Christianity, it makes a lot of sense to me to look at the hypocrisy of the offering. There was.

Emiko Kasahara

Kobayashi: What about the research that took 10 years? How did it go?

Kasahara : Christianity began in the Middle East, dispersed and fled to Egypt, Syria, Europe, and then spread to America, Africa, Asia, and Oceania as a Western religion. It travels around the world, changing its shape throughout history. That was my guideline for production, so I definitely wanted to travel to all five continents! I had decided. Of course it took time.

Kobayashi: Even though I didn't know what it was at first, what convinced me that I should start watching it?

Kasahara : I didn't become convinced at the beginning, but around the second year. I thought I should see more of this, it's not going to end easily. Actually, I thought that I was dealing with something that would never end, and I thought that if I kept at it, I would be able to do it until I die.

Things continue, so it's just a question of where to cut them off. When I want to see things that are definitely connected in some way, even though they vary in terms of time and region, I feel like I don't want to talk about just one local point. I try to follow as many results as possible and look at various aspects. But in the end, these many points clearly lead to the same value. This is proof of the truth of how homogeneous the world is in terms of ideology. There is a saying that pop culture makes the world homogeneous, but I think this is not limited to pop culture, but the nature of culture. I think this has always happened when people communicate something. There is a catharsis at that moment when unknown things are conveyed, but at the moment when things are conveyed, far from being cathartic, a very mediocre world appears, and as a result of these things happening one after another, the final In other words, a sense of value with a flat horizon is born... I think that's what it means. However, there are various reasons and circumstances behind that seemingly flat and uniform horizon. I think it's a matter of how we look at it properly.

One thing I would like to say is that this project is not about religion itself. I'm often asked this question, but I'm not a Christian and I'm an atheist.

Kobayashi: This is also reflected in the form. It's hard to see the cut out part that way.

“Document” and “creative work” – incorporating two elements into your work

Kobayashi: Why do you not only create documents but actually create them yourself?

Kasahara : Hmm... I think the act of turning that into a work is the courage of art. Real-life donation boxes have an overwhelming strength that is different from those made in a studio, and I always feel guilty about documenting them. After all, I dislike the idea of separating the context of art from the political, historical, and economic issues that are actually happening, and just talking about the beauty and quality of the work. Based on my own feelings, I approach my work with reality, and my work also approaches reality. I think that by using this kind of production method, it becomes clear that it is no longer just a document, and it no longer becomes an art piece that only has an aesthetic sense.

Kobayashi: Until now, Mr. Kasahara's works have always involved things that have been cut into pieces very simply, but by arranging two pieces, or rather, connecting them, what is in the middle becomes highlighted. I think you have a feeling, but at that time will it be necessary to "make it into a work" like you just said?

Kasahara : That's right. After all, when talking about things, it is easy to question whether things are black or white. However, when there is both white and black, how do we talk about what is neither white nor black? That is something that is not often talked about. However, I believe that this is actually the essence of things. That's why I think I want to do something like that in art.

Kobayashi: Dichotomizing things like that is biased somewhere, and it's easy, but it's also unreasonable.

Kasahara : Yes. Dualism also stems from Christian values. That's a very Western way of thinking.

About "forgetting" - What can only be shown through artistic values

Kobayashi: Next, I would like to talk about "forgetting", which is also the keyword of Yokotori 2014. I think that the story you were talking about is connected in some way, but when you participate in Yokotori 2014, what kind of relationship do you think this has with Kasahara-san's work?

Kasahara : Regarding this work, it is overwhelmingly created by an anonymous person (anonymous, anonymous) , and it is so obvious that even though it is there, no one consciously looks at it. Mr. Morimura may have interpreted it as something that has been forgotten, in the sense that he handled something. In my mind, forgetting is a kind of strategy, and I empathize with the value of staying hidden and not belonging to any place as Anonymous. I have a strong feeling that I am going.

Regarding the interpretation of forgetting, I would like to mention one case law that is often misunderstood. I was attending the first Yokohama Triennale in 2001, the year of the World Trade Center terrorist attack. On my way back to New York after the exhibition, I happened to stop by Los Angeles, and the next day, an incident occurred. A few days later, I was finally able to return to New York, and I was extremely nervous on the domestic flight. The plane was just circling over the Twin Towers as it entered New York, and I'll never forget the sight. Manhattan is very beautiful at night, with lots of flashing lights from cars and street lights, but the area where the Twin Towers were was the only one that was completely still and completely dark.

It was a powerful aesthetic experience, highlighting death as a silent stagnation in contrast to the light and movement that impresses life. At that time, I thought that ``not having'' or ``losing something'' could more clearly express what happened before it disappeared or was lost. Let me give you another example. Although I lost my father, I sometimes feel and think about him closer than when he was alive. I clearly feel his presence, which was not there when he was alive.

In other words, I think that forgetting, paradoxically, makes the state of not being forgotten stand out. I am convinced of this distorted human thought system. That's why I think the value system of ``talking about what isn't'' rather than ``talking about what is'' emerges as an aesthetic sense in my work. And I believe that this kind of intellectual refraction can only be expressed through a certain kind of visual or artistic sense of value.

Kobayashi: I see. I don't think this work has been forgotten. You mentioned that it's the root of ideology, but I feel like it's being unearthed as something quite core. So, there are actually things here and there, but they are intentionally not shown...?

Kasahara : I feel like it's something so obvious that we forget it. something invisible.

Kobayashi: In that case, there may be a slight deviation from the forgetting that Mr. Morimura is talking about.

Kasahara : I think there are many different interpretations. However, I create works based on this way of thinking, not just this work, so I think (Mr. Morimura) was able to think of my work with the theme of forgetting.

Kobayashi: In addition to OFFERING, you have other sound works, right?

Kasahara : That's right, it's a work called "Sheer." This is also just forgetting.
Actually, this work was created at the same time as OFFERING. When I interview various people, I ask them, ``Tell me about the time in your life when you felt the greatest sense of loss,'' and the conditions are that you speak your mother tongue , and first speak your own language. Have them speak in the language they spoke. I lived in New York for a long time, so I had many opportunities to meet immigrants, and although I used English every day, it was common for people to speak Swahili or Kechan as their native language. I also knew that it was an important part of their identity. That's probably why I came up with the idea of having children use the first language they spoke, even if they couldn't speak it very well.

So far, I have recorded interviews with 600 to 700 people, in about 70 languages, and I have also asked people I met in New York, Tokyo, places I visited for exhibitions, and on my travels for OFFERING. . This is a project to play these sounds as sound, and in the previous presentation, we created a space the size of a tea room by creating a wall made of stocking material that had the shapes of women's breasts connected to it.

The voices of people speaking in various languages can be heard at low volumes from various parts of the wall, and I created it based on the idea that people would approach the wall (a woman's chest) and try to hear the sounds. Of course, if your own language is spoken, you can understand it, and for example, if you are Japanese, you may be able to guess what the content is in English or French. But if it's Tamil, Bengali, or Persian, not many people will understand it, right? I purposely create works that include language that is not understood.In other words, the purpose of this work is not to understand the words and have them understand the content, but to learn that they cannot be understood, and listen to the words not as meanings but as sounds. Get it. I thought that by doing so, we could visualize what is essentially communication and relationships between people, even though we do not share a language with each other.

We often don't tell people about very important things, and we don't even mention them ourselves. I don't share my most disappointing memories with people I've never met. In this way, there is a reality in which we are separated. I believe that dis-communication is not only caused by language differences, but is a result of the boundaries that we each draw.

Kobayashi: Do you think of your mother tongue as an identity, something that cannot be changed? Or are you just treating it as a sound?

Kasahara : Infants do not have language skills, but their communication skills are primitive, such as through skin-to-skin contact and seeing and feeling facial expressions. The first words you learn are not in words, but by imitating the sounds of words spoken by someone close to you. In that sense, I wanted to use our mother tongue to express our past memories, when language was just sounds. The shape used in this work, the size of a woman's breasts, is derived from the size ratio when an infant stands in front of her mother's breasts, and when an adult stands in front of her, the size of her breasts as an infant. I thought about the size of the item. Hearing the sounds of a language you don't understand is the same situation as an infant listening to a voice speak to it while being held on its mother's chest.

The title "Sheer" refers to the semi-transparent state in which the other side can be seen through, but there is a film in between that separates the two. Even if it is transparent and you can see the other side, the two are separated. We can only recall infants' communication abilities as forgotten memories.

I think this project also deals with endless problems. It may have some similarities with 《OFFERING》.


What it means to “create”

Kobayashi: Earlier, Mr. Kasahara said that you start without knowing anything, but when you actually experience reality, you don't really understand reality. I don't really know the beginning or the end. That's why I sometimes think that Mr. Kasahara's works are close to that feeling, but on the other hand, they are also clear-cut.

Kasahara : The methodology is clear. But when you try to show that things are not clear-cut, you have to at least make the methodology clear, otherwise you won't be able to convey that lack of clarity... (lol) It's a contradiction.

Emiko Kasahara

Kobayashi: But I think that's typical of Kasahara-san. I think texture and how to choose materials are very important to Mr. Kasahara. On the one hand, there are clear aspects that have been pursued thoroughly, but what emerges in form is often abstract.

Kasahara : The sculptures in OFFERING are made with classical materials, but none of them were actually made by my own hands, but I think that's a clear answer.

Kobayashi: Does that mean Mr. Kasahara is located in that area?

Kasahara : I wonder... However, if I were to put any more of my own creativity into it, I would be lying, and I believe that this work is the result of me trying my best to express my voice.

Kobayashi: I guess it means that things need to be established in a fair manner with a variety of people.

Kasahara : Yes. I think I have a sense of balance.

Kobayashi: I'm also part of blanClass, and I'm taking various actions against people who don't hesitate to let their work stand alone, or who easily separate different genres. After all, there are systems in art as well.

Kasahara : There is certainly a problem in that when my name appears as the author's name, it becomes like a single tag that binds the work itself, and I have always felt uncomfortable with that. Even though I came up with the idea for the sculpture ``OFFERING'', the people at the metal workshop and the woodworkers worked hard to make it, and the offering box and name shown in the photo as a document are the same. It's made by someone I don't know or have never met. In that sense, I think you have a strong sense of how far you can equate the circumstances surrounding yourself and the work.

Kobayashi: There are some things that you won't understand until you actually see them, but the cases where they emerge as documents for various reasons and the ways in which they are realized in the field of art coexist, and it is important to make a statement. I imagine that it is connected to. So there's a bit more complexity in the shapes, like erotic shapes...

Kasahara : That's right. I think it's erotic even in its very minimal form.


《OFFERING - Marna》

About the exhibition at Yokohama Triennale 2014

Kasahara : The main venue for Yokotori 2014 will be Shinko Pier (Shinko Pier exhibition facility) , but my work is also on display at the Yokohama Museum of Art. For example, it is placed behind Michael Landy's "Art Bin", next to Warhol's "Capital Painting", in front of Agnes Martin's work, and in front of Felix Gonzalez-Torres' work, but it is also placed in front of the space. The exhibition is intended to be like a collaboration with other works, and the meaning of the exhibition will emerge from how these are connected. The structure is such that people who have seen the exhibition at the Yokohama Museum of Art will come to Shinko Pier to view the photographic works in the documentary section and other sculptures.

Kobayashi: Your sculptures will be exhibited mainly at the Yokohama Museum of Art.

Kasahara : There is also one at Shinko Pier, but the photo works are only available at Shinko Pier. Actually, there are 60 photos in total, but due to space constraints, only 40 will be exhibited this time.

Kobayashi: The actual work will be seen at the Yokohama Triennale 2014, which will be held soon, so let's leave it at that for now. Thank you for your time today.

Emiko Kasahara Homepage: http://www.emikokasahara.com

Edition WorksHP: http://urx.nu/aAiG

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