Aki Sasamoto

07.08.09

Left: Aki Sasamoto and Momus, Love is the End of Art, 2009. Performance view. Zach Feuer Gallery, New York. Right: Aki Sasamoto, Secrets of my Mother’s Child, 2009. Performance view. Living Room Festival, Auckland. (Photo: Rob Garrett.)


Aki Sasamoto is a New York–based Japanese artist who often draws on performance, sculpture, and dance for her works. Here she describes her sense of dislocation after performing and also talks about her role as a founder of Culture Push, the collaborative artists’ group. She recently performed at Zach Feuer Gallery (with Momus) and in the 2008 Yokohama Triennial.

THROUGHOUT JUNE, I experienced a sense of the unreal and constant self-doubt. A friend pointed out that I always take my time to return to real life after a performance and that I had spent the previous two months performing almost every day in four different shows. I thought I had bored her with my disorientation stories. (Is it like having an easily dislocated shoulder: no longer surprising, though the pain is acute each time?) To some extent, I enjoy the struggle to reconstruct reality after a performance, testing preexisting notions of how the post office and laundry machines operate, or whether people in my address book actually exist. It feels like a type of jet lag, and when I’m in this state, I don’t feel like I belong in a single location. The clocks inside and outside me do not match. Jet lag symbolizes the void, the space of disillusion, and the space of re-creation.

There are two ways of being for me. One is thiis world (the everyday, banal relationships, and talking). The other is thaat world (productions, improvisation, and introspective thinking). There is also a void that occupies the lapse between thiis and thaat. The void sometimes consumes an entire month, and I find it’s interesting enough to pass through many times. In this liminal period I navigate using my smell-like sense, which triggers instant reminders of distant memories and knowledge from other spaces. After enough sniffing of clues, thiis and thaat start to crystallize and inspire curiosity again.

For instance, cofounding Culture Push separated thiis and thaat within my art practice. All my egoistic work goes to thaat world, and when I work for other creative minds, through this nonprofit art organization, I’m in thiis world. Last year, I was interested in running a symposium for Culture Push that brought together a diverse group of people. I wondered what would happen when a mathematician, a sculptor, a dancer, a chef, and a doctor spent a day or month in workshops together. I wanted to find the void among expert minds, and compartmentalized knowledge. So Doing was a one-day event with ten specialists, each sharing an activity that is essential to their personal or professional practice. Culture Push is also running a month-long residency called Genesis Project with different types of artists at Basekamp in Philadelphia this August.

Nonetheless, to organize these events for others is a job that helps me to see the shape of thaat world. Learning step-by-step about founding an organization, fund-raising, and networking was very different from my self-indulgent artistic productions. However, working for Culture Push frees me to go further in the direction of the solitary, internal self-absorption of my performance and installation work in thaat world. In my own art, I use judgments, generalizations, and fictions, all crafted as close as possible to my experiences, to draw out personalized opinions and theories on nothing and everything. I want to create something that seems borderline real or general but simultaneously completely introverted and sealed up in my dreams.

The foremost judgment about my work should always come from me. The reception of the work is secondary. And when I perform, I direct my voice toward the void, pushing thiis world off into the distance. But I would be satisfied if I could find one person who connects with what I do. I look forward to meeting that person and talking with them about the void.

— As told to Lauren O’Neill-Butler