I am most used to painting because I originally studied oil painting though I don’t think I had a particularly unique touch, especially when I was young. Now I think that it is more about taking a concept and knowing that I can use video or installation or writing to express it. Actually I see myself more as a writer.
On the subject of scale, in Japan contemporary art museums have huge spaces with high ceilings so we have many opportunities to create large works. Artists have always been tempted to do something monumental, it is like wanting to build a pyramid. I am attracted to the gap between that and individual smaller works.
I have worked with some very big works like my painting of salaryman [Ash Color Mountains, 2009—2011], which was big. Now that I am middle-aged I think this is the time when I can go out and do big things even if they are bad. It is not about bravery but more about energy. Originally I thought you should never work on anything bigger than yourself but now is the time to challenge myself so I want to spend more time on these large-scale works. Later on when I am not so strong or powerful I will come back to my own scale.
Originally the manifesto was of course meant to be a joke. If you follow that advice, you probably will fail as an artist; artists tend to succeed if they continually do ‘about’ the same thing.
I have ADHD, and am very active. I cannot keep on doing the same thing. I have to keep on doing different things.
For me, it is very important that there is an audience to see the work. I am not making art for ‘art’s sake’, or for my own satisfaction. I am creating it for an audience. I always have an audience in my mind when I am creating work, and what I would like to show them.
I bought two pieces of work to Hong Kong, and for two reasons. First, I wanted to show them specifically to a Hong Kong audience. Second, I was thinking of the audience’s experience of this exhibition having regard to the fact that Sophie Calle would be showing also. I didn’t decide on my works until I knew what Sophie would be showing.
Of these two pieces of work, the video work is especially relevant to the Hong Kong audience. Hong Kong is like Japan, insofar as it is part of Asia, but it is also very unlike Japan, in that it is very international and used to be a British colony, and English is the official language here—so this work is perhaps different from what I would show to a Japanese audience.
Japanese people, including the prime minister are not very good at speaking in English. I believe one of the reasons there are so few people in Japan who can speak good English is because Japan has never been a colony. It has never been a European country, and it is interesting because usually if a country hasn’t being colonised, it is a blessing. However, if you have never become a colony, it also means you are not very international. So actually which is better: becoming a colony or not becoming a colony?
Well, my video work on show at Galerie Perrotin is exactly all about Japan being left behind—all alone—in the world. One of the main barriers between Japan and the rest of the world is language. There is also a gap between what people think is domestic Japanese art and international art. I always keep that in mind when I am creating a new work.
That is very true. When you are comfortable with your own world and people of your own nationality you become self-satisfied with your environment and too comfortable with the feeling of being comfortable. It also means artists become too inward-looking and don’t consider what is outside of their comfortable world.
It is probably more likely to be Japanese who find my work most understandable compared to foreigners. It is difficult for them to understand the complex nature of kawaii culture.
Look at Comet-chan, I’d like people coming to the gallery to think of it as a kind of joke—to laugh when they see it. The Gutenberg Bible is considered very important but it didn't have to be a bible for this artwork, it could have been a famous painting like the Mona Lisa by someone like da Vinci. I wanted to show that humans often attach meaning to things that they think are super-important but what would an extra-terrestrial think if they looked at these ‘important’ things from outer space? It is the gap between what humans and aliens think. Of course, I knew this would also be seen in this joint exhibition with Sophie’s work so it is a little bit like water and oil, another gap or contrast. It is always about the space in-between.
I suppose Comet-chan does have the look of a monument. ‘Monument for Nothing’ is a title I have used for both works and also for exhibitions.
I am interested in this idea of ‘monument’. When you look at famous political figures that lose power, so often their loss of power is signified by the toppling or destroying of monuments. For example, Hussein.
Monuments are things that at times have a great deal of value attached to them, but there are also times when their reason for being and the values underpinning them become forgotten. People are similarly revered and then forgotten—Andy Warhol for example: forgotten, and then remembered again. Perhaps there will be a time when people will forget about me, and the things I have made. The value we give to a monument or a piece of art can change over time.
I do often try and use the ‘shocking’ element in my work. But I don’t want simple reactions. I don’t want my audience just to laugh, or get ‘pissed off’. I want to put the audience into a dilemma. They have to think about whether they should laugh or be angry. I like to produce artworks that make it difficult for people to decide on a particular reaction. I don’t like simple reactions.
I want to arouse complicated emotions, not simple reactions. Human beings are interesting when they are showing complicated reactions. I want to focus more on this.
In fact I don't even think of this as a girl. It is a symbolic existence that usually appears in what we call otaku culture in Japan. I wouldn't have love for this girl so there is no sexual or personal feeling.
In Japan there is new legislation to control pornography, especially child pornography. I am a writer and have written recently a series of 12 essays on the topic of child pornography—trying to explain that it is not necessarily a bad thing. I find it hard to convince women in Japan, especially feminists—which is why it took 12 essays to explain my theory.
You see so much disaster in my work because the Japanese mind is always on these issues. Japan is a country where we have always had earthquakes and tsunamis and before I was born it was the nuclear bomb that destroyed a whole city. We have extraordinarily strong images in our mind about destruction and so of course as a Japanese person it is reflected in my work.
We are quite well prepared as a society for earthquakes but in the case of 2011, people were very shocked by the nuclear plant situation. The impact of that on Japanese society has been very strong. As an artist of course everyone thinks about if they should use this element in their work or not. In my case I have not used the subject matter yet but that doesn't mean I haven’t thought about it a lot.
Beauty is a word I try to be careful about. I try not to use that word. It is a very difficult concept and from my own personal experience I know that when I tried to make something beautiful I failed so I try not to think about it. If it happens it must be natural. Beauty is not a word the creator should think about or use, beauty should be in the eye of the beholder so if someone thinks it is beautiful, it is.
I think Japan probably has a dim future. The population is in decline and we have many other serious problems. In Asia, China used to be the strongest country but after the Opium Wars Japan grew powerful but that was a strange situation as it should always have been China. In the 1990s when the 'Bubble Economy' burst it was only natural for Japan to drop from that artificial peak. There is no reason at all to feel sad about the drop. Japan is returning to its original position in Asia. It is in decline but that doesn't mean you don’t get anything of value from it if it can become a more mature society. Unfortunately I am worried this maturity won’t happen.—[O]