Naho Kawabe: My focus is on the materials used in artwork. Especially after Fluxus and Arte Povera, the applied material became a significant issue for visual artists. In the process of production, understanding, the social context of the materials was very important and the choice had to be careful and precise.
I am using charcoal dust for many of my artworks. Charcoal (carbon) is a “primary matter” (cf. Monika Wagner: The material of the arts, Das Material der Kunst, München 2001) and is akin to the energy of coal generated and stored over hundreds of thousands of years in the depth of the earth. Charcoal is made by cooking wood in a low oxygen environment, while coal derives from compressed trees and plants, each finding their source in sunlight. I employ charcoal powder, scattering it through permeable templates, in order to visualize the shapes of borderlines (silhouettes) and large images of black plants, flowers and ornaments. My charcoal installations are meant to be temporary.
By creating flower fields with deep black charcoal powder, disassembling letters into balls in space, in making paper-cut silhouettes from borderlines, cutting out all the letters ‘I’ from books and joining them together, transferring conversation to music, or pulling out the blue from a video, my art creations take in principal the character of "material-transformation". The latter approach may well be related to the circumstance that I started my carrier as a video-artist. Video could be viewed in general as the media for "transformation", its structure oscillating between fiction and fact. In recent years I have tried to add applicability to my video-works in a more physical way: taking a small camera in my mouth, holding the camera in my hand as if carrying a heavy suitcase, (mimicking the philosopher Walter Benjamin who always carried a black briefcase in his hand), setting the projector on a motor-driven panel to let the projection move, etc. The ultimate goal is to seek out an answer to the question: Where is the actual boundary between fiction and reality?
When I moved from Tokyo to Germany in 2001, I was faced with the reality that in Europe lots of boundaries still exist. I was fascinated by the emotions related to relevant historical and political meanings. It seemed that the borderline situations of nations are really "transformation boundaries". Japan, where I was born, is a nation surrounded by water. For most Japanese people, other countries and cultures are far away, hidden beyond the horizon. In contrast the borderlines within a united Europe are near invisible. When crossing a border, you get a short mail notification by the roaming service from your mobile phone company. Nevertheless, even today certain borderlines within and around Europe are facing very serious threats. In order to understand this strange phenomenon, the "borderline", I have explored the subject on different levels and with different media, including video, photography and installations. My involvement is focused on persons who have crossed the borders for seeking asylum and I take great interest in the stories of individuals who moved across several borders and ending up in unexpected places. Looking at borderlines over time, one cannot help but notice that they have been drawn and redrawn many times over the centuries so that the shapes of nations that are defined by them appear also fluid. The phenomenon “borderline” is a reflection of the various boundaries in our society. In a way they represent the outline of an era. From this perspective, a boundary is a chaotic and oscillating space where dynamic ‘transformation’ happens all the time. I see my work in trying to grasp the contour to this fluid space with adequate materials.
Rikako Kawauchi: I am interested in the human body, mind, and the relationship between them, and this is the theme for all of my works. In relation to this theme, I have also created works that has something to do with communication between two people, such as dining together, having a conversation, and having sex.
I became interested in the relationship between body and mind because from time to time, l had felt that my body is detached from my mind, like a different human being. I think we have all experienced this feeling when we are sick –when we cannot make our bodies do what it can usually do without a problem. We think we have control over our bodies but when this happens, we feel trapped inside them. The same can be said for our mind and conscious. We do not know to what extent they are ours. This is because as Sigmund Freud said, the area of unconsciousness takes up a large part of us humans. But still, I can sense the existence of this unknown field that we cannot control in out thoughts and minds.
I believe my works are made in reaction to this otherness of myself. I feel that I am always under the threat of intervention by this otherness not just from within myself but also from everything I touch in this world. The hope for making this otherness my own, or being able to accept the fact that I do not have complete control of my surroundings, is what drives me to create. Also, through this process, I may be asking myself the fundamental question of how these conflicting ambiguous elements, such as the physical body and the invisible mind, work together.
Saori Miyake creates photographic print using unique method of photogram which explores intimate relationship among images, materials and process. Moreover, her work reveals the alternative dialogue between painting, photography and printmaking in the digital age. Her ideas are inspired by a metaphor from the origin of the image which is the “shadow / trace”.
Her body of work is created from pre-existing images, mainly snapshots, with ethics of private everyday life and journey as a way of signifying life. It seems familiar, yet somehow disoriented. She is fascinated by the enigmatic circulation of desire and reality, lurking in the images such as snapshots. She first makes monochromatic negative version of pre-existing images onto polyester sheets by painting them by hand, and then creates a contact print in the darkroom. The negative inverts the positive so that the initial image is transposed before appearing again as trace of light. Hence, the image is transformed into an object with a symbolic gesture from the origin of the image.
Through the repetition of these artistic practices, she envisions an abstract framework of life beyond the contents of the original image. Tracing the boundaries between mediums, old and new, light and shadow, she attempts to innovate a new painterly techniques, interacted with the early photogram method. With the layers of images and shadows, she goes deeper into the landscape of each image and opens up a possibility of new narratives. Therefore, her work offers us multiple perspectives in viewing images and gives us a deep question of where the images come from in the contemporary age.