I started frottage method in 1977. I was teaching at the time and I had this chance to travel and visit Paris.
In a way, I started frottage as a means of keeping a type of diary. I also felt very limited by working inside a studio, and only from my memory and imagination. I wanted to get out of the studio and go somewhere where I could connect with society, history and people.
What I do now, I suppose it is a very primitive method—a physical experience.
In 1979, I was resident in the South of France at Ivry-sur-Seine, and I started taking rubbings of the street. People were watching and were curious. They asked me: “What are you doing?” and I responded: “I am memorising, and keeping a record of the history of the city.” Frottage is originally from France, so they understood the process I was undertaking.
Taking rubbings of city streets means you have to sit on the ground, and this physical closeness to the city means you come to know it so well—you become aware of all of its details.
One thing I noticed in Ivry-sur-Seine is there is always a hole at the entrance of each apartment, and always a flower in that hole. I also noticed that between the road and the pedestrian pavement there is very often a brass circle, which is inscribed with names and dates. I came to understand that the dates related to a person’s lifespan, and I noticed how many of the end dates were 1942, or 1944, or 1945. It made me aware that the peaceful city I was living in had once been the site of warfare; which involved people fighting to protect their city. I realised how the history of the city is embedded in its streets. The city holds its memory in a physical way—as though its history is imprinted on its surface. I wanted to bring out those histories by using the frottage technique.
Red is a colour that draws peoples’ attention. I work in public, and I want to engage with people passing by. Ten people completed this particular work, but sometimes there can be 30 people who become involved, or sometimes even 100 people. But red is also important, because for both people involved in actually making the work, and also for those people not involved, I want the work and the experience to be memorable. Red has a strong impact and makes people remember the project and I hope it inspires them to remember the past. This colour can connect people with the past and the project.
Art in my opinion is about how to interact with community. That is arts most important purpose.
You probably know that Noosa is such a small city, but it was such an honour to be able to engage with contemporary art and the community there. The oldest street in that city is also at its cultural, social and commercial centre. The work in Noosa took about a week to create, and when we finished it, it was 150 metres long.
As you know Australia has a very complicated history, particularly with respect to the indigenous people. To understand a site’s history, it is a matter of going through that history step-by-step together— a similar process to creating the work.
I was born in Hokkaido and I have witnessed Hokkaido’s modernization and development. Yokohama Port was opened to the world over 150 years ago: in 1854. Around this time, Hokkaido’s also became the centre for development in Japan, and thereafter a site of swift modernisation. In 1869, certain buildings were built to act as the centre for development, and this is now where the government of Sapporo City now exists. So that was the beginning of modernization for Hokkaido and also for Japan. Hokkaido was the experimental ground for Japan.
The central theme for the Sapporo International Art Festival is ‘City and Nature’, and related to this is the idea of modernisation. The goldmines were central to the modernisation of this region, and they reflect and hold a great deal of the history of the city. I started the project of working and recording the mines by using frottage in 1990. There are many goldmines in this region, and many entrances to these mines. It was a huge industry. But I witnessed the end of this industry, and then the gradual decline of the industry, which is symbolized most obviously in the gradual decline of the mine entrances—these huge facilities now are represented by piles of rubble.
Yes. Before this project I worked on Hiroshima and before that Paris—all of these cities have been hugely impacted by modernisation.
My work relates to a consideration of history, and its continuing impact. As part of this, I am interested in how people are affected by modernisation. History and its impact—this is what my work is about.
I felt it was a good idea to put the work on the floor. People are able to actually walk on it and in this way they can experience it in a more physical way. I hope that for the audience to actually physically experience the artwork, they will gain a better idea of how the work is made, and importantly what the work is about—which is about evoking the history of the site and a consideration of the impact of that history on the city and people.
I combined many frottages to create YUBARI MATRIX, and it actually represents the size of the particular site. But sometimes, I only take a rubbing of a detail of a site, but I nevertheless want that detail to evoke a consideration of the site in its entirety – just as a detail from history, can evoke a period of history.
Yes, exactly. And then by compiling the fragments altogether, I want to give the work some impact.
Yes, I noticed their work too. I think I may have influenced them, and it feels good.
But I always use my hands. That is my rule, and they use a slightly different approach.
It is nice to see younger artists perhaps influenced by me, but taking my ideas in different directions too. I am happy to hear that. —[O]