• Maria Dolfini

An interview with Aiko Yamamoto

Updated: Apr 10


Artist Leading the Way | Taipei Artist Village: Exclusive Interviews with Artists-In-Residence

This interview was carried out by Maria Dolfini (M)and Chung Ying Ying (Y) in conversation with the artist Aiko Yamamoto (A)

Scroll down for the Chinese version.

M+ Y: The title of your exhibition ‘Mono No Aware’ or ‘The Pathos of Things’ is an ancient Japanese philosophy, can you tell us more about this concept and how does it relate to your past and present works?

A: The term ‘Mono No Aware’ – ‘Pathos of Things’ in English– originates from the Tale of Genji, a renowned novel from eleventh-century Japan. It refers to the feelings triggered by touching, seeing, hearing and interacting with things. When people are separated from these everyday things, their heart will sigh and breed ineffable affection. To the Japanese, ‘Mono No Aware’ is a familiar concept, however this time I wanted to convey through my artistic practice my own personal understanding and feeling around this notion, hoping to communicate ‘Mono No Aware’ to viewers from different cultural backgrounds.

In today’s consumerist society, led by the frenzy of information and mass production, many things are as rapidly produced as discarded in a chaotic process. What I refer to in the title of the exhibition as ‘Mono’ 物 is not only the material thing we can touch and physically sense, but also the abstract ‘Koto’ 事 which involves impalpable phenomenons, feelings and memories around the thing. The conflictual sensations generated by rapidly produced commodities in our society are an inspiration for my practice. The concept of my art, in fact, slowly came into being when reflecting on the ways people should approach and treat ‘Mono’ and ‘Koto’ in such consumerist societies. Moreover, I lived in Hangzhou, China for a period of time, and every day I was confronted with the reality of a huge amount of waste derived by fast production and construction projects. This abusive environment had a strong impact on me and made me irremediably feel guilty, but at the same time powerless in opposing the rise of these great powers. Although this is not an issue happening only in China, the size of this country makes its effects difficult to ignore. This moment of awareness can be regarded as the starting point of ‘Mono No Aware’ or the ‘Pathos of Things’ in my own artistic practice; in this sense the environment is inextricable from the meaning of my art.

Aiko Yamamoto, Boro - Blues, 2019. Courtesy of Taipei Artist Village.

M+ Y: You studied textile at university and, although you engage with different materials, textile seems to always be present somehow. Why do you think that textile and, by extension, clothes are the best means to express the ‘Pathos of Things’? A: The word ‘textile’ originates from the Latin word texere, meaning ‘to weave’. Words such as ‘texture’ and ‘text’ also have the same etymology. Therefore, the concept behind textile has multiple meanings. In this sense, I have never regarded textile merely as a material but more as a comprehensive concept. Every object has a texture. For example, as a piece of fabric woven with threads is considered a textile, in the same way a text – which also comes from the Latin word texere– can be woven into poetry, novels or other literary forms. In my work TEXERE (2014), I intertwined text, textile and threads, sewing them together to convey these ideas. This kind of material and conceptual ‘weaving’ is what I believe lies behind the word ‘textile’. In this exhibition I have also used the concept of weaving to intertwine my thoughts and the materials.

Aiko Yamamoto, TEXERE, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.

M+ Y:As you explained, the Pathos of Things is a three way relationship between the Object (Mono), Memory (Koto) and Pathos (Aware). During your residency in Treasure Hill Taipei Artist Village, what objects did you use and what memories and emotions did they trigger? Can you give us an overview? A: During my stay in the village, I collected several articles from the street or dump. Looking at these abandoned and nameless things, I often like to imagine what happened when they were still in use, and how they triggered people’s happiness, anger, grief and joy. For example, in Taipei I collected many pieces of traditional flower clothes which triggered strong memories in me: evocation of the post-war baby boom in Japan, of new life after the war and personal memories of childhood. Looking at these things (Mono), I would feel melancholic (Aware) towards those fading memories (Koto). Moreover, this flower cloth makes me visualise the vibrant energy in Taiwan at the time and the happiness brought by new babies being born, I can almost hear their crying voices! At the same time it also speaks about the anger and sorrow of those who lost the war. In this sense, I think ‘Mono No Aware’ has the potential to embody collective experience.

M+ Y: Do the materials you worked with trigger personal memories or more collective, historical and spatial memories? Can they relate to both? For example, in ‘Phantom tiger’, you used iron, old clothes, ornaments and weed in order to address a Taiwanese mythological animal. How do the materials relate to your personal memories and how do they address the specific Taiwanese cultural backgroud?

A: Phantom Tiger is an experimental art piece. In fact, I did not plan to create the figure of a tiger at the beginning, I was just playing with the materials instinctively with my hands. As the iron started to rust slowly and create phantom forms, it naturally began to take the shape of an injured animal, then it became more and more similar to the skin of a tiger; and this is how the theme of the ghost tiger finally emerged!

The frontal surface of this artwork is made of natural materials, while the back is created with artificial materials - metal and threads-, resulting in a contrast between nature and man-made objects. The red threads on the surfaces stands for injuries and cuts, suggesting the damage that humans inflicted onto nature and the animal world. Obviously, the harm to nature is not only happening in Taiwan, the world is facing an environmental crisis with disastrous consequences; so this artwork can also be seen as a collective experience, a complaint against humanity.

Aiko Yamamoto, Phantom Tiger, 2019. Courtesy of Taipei Artist Village.

M+ Y: In your own artist statement, you mentioned that in contemporary society, old things are consumed and discarded by mass production. In today’s consumerist society, what is the difference between the value and meaning of ‘oldness’ and ‘newness’?

A: As I mentioned before, I lived in Hangzhou for a period of time. The development of contemporary China is astonishing, old things are constantly being reconstructed, and there is a strong consumerist atmosphere. I've always thought that if you try to achieve something too quickly, the working process gets easily forgotten. Once the process is forgotten, the essence vanishes and eventually only the outer shape or a hint of this shape are left. I always feel that there is some kind of hidden tragedy within these objects, because they only imitate the outer shape or style leaving the nucleus empty, while the essence of old things lies in its intrinsic meaning. Today, with the development of AI, this phenomenon has become more severe. Since simplified object without real texture are increasing, people now started to yearn for the good old times, to treasure the beauty of the process, and to think about the value of the oldness. I think this is universal. Being in the process of fast development, China is experiencing these issues as other big developing countries. Japan, like other developed countries, has faced these issues before, and is now turning back and re-thinking this value system.

In sum, I don’t think value is an individual nor independent concept. The ‘old’ and the ‘new’ can look exactly the same on the surface, but the intrinsic meaning and value within them are invisible, they need time and energy to be explored.

Aiko Yamamoto, Boro - Blues, 2019. Courtesy of Taipei Artist Village.

M+ Y: I am very interested in your series ‘Boro-Blues’, can you explain to us the process? What is the role of nature and the interaction of objects in these works?

The series ‘Boro-Blues’ obviously has to do with the fact that I love the colour blue; blue is the colour of the sky and the ocean. However, I mainly wanted to do an artwork that could not be easily judged from its surface. The indigo colour in “Boro-Blues” at first glance could merely appear as an indigo dye, but I have actually used many different kinds of blue. Although they all look blue, these indigo hues come from different materials and processes, such as the chemical reaction derived from the interaction between acid and copper Buddha statues in water, cyanotypes I made, and also the mix of black wolfberry with water to produce different tones of blue. Moreover I used the art techniques of cyanotypes and indigo dye. Everything is made by my hands, including the copper-solved water. I want to follow the process of the material closely.

‘Boro’ is a traditional Japanese folk textile made of patches of indigo-dyed cotton or linen which are mended or patched together. So these hues of blue coming from different sources and carrying different memories are gathered together here. Thus the creation process itself is an experiment! As this ‘Boro-Blues’ series is an experiment, I have also maintained the size quite small. I hope I will be able to expand the project in the future and make it into a larger, more complete piece of art.

Aiko Yamamoto, Boro - Blues, 2019. Courtesy of the artist.

M+ Y: In “Boro- Blues” you used old Buddha statues that you found and made different materials interact with each other. The result of the work is thus an unexpected conversation between natural materials, one which you cannot always control. This reminds me of Japanese Mono-ha (‘School of Things’), an avant-garde art movement that emerged in Tokyo in the mid-1960s. Mono-ha artists promoted the ‘refusal of making’: denying that the artist makes the work, they suggest instead that the work is led by natural processes and materials. In this sense they believed that the artist was not a maker but an enabler of encounters’. How do you relate to Mono-ha movement? Could you define yourself as an ‘enabler of encounters’ ?

A: Yes I love Mono-ha and it has a strong influence on my work, especially their idea of ‘not being able to control the whole process of making’. Although I liked Mono-ha artists and was affected by their art, for what regards my relation to objects I do not think of myself as an ‘enabler of encounters’, but more of a close friend to objects, who plays and interacts with the materials. Nature and I are in the same and equal position. Mono-ha movement advocates that human hands play the role of assistants, while all natural materials are the masters. While I believe I want to open more of a dialogue between me and nature, as if writing an exchange diary. I think human will and hands are also part of nature, so I don't want to cut off that link in my creative process and practice.

My relationship with nature, since it feels like a friendship, is even freer. Sometimes I let the object to transform naturally, without imposing any process on it, sometimes I use my hands to intervene. I do my part, and the material does its part: we meet halfway. I think this feeling of controlling half of the process is an interaction between my inner self and nature outside, the inner and the outer.

Aiko Yamamoto, The Pathos of Things, 2019. Courtesy of Taipei Artist Village.

M+ Y: So we largely discussed the relationship between the artist and the artwork; now I would like to ask you, what do you hope to transmit to the audience in this exhibition? What conversations you hope to encourage between the ‘Object’ (Mono) and the viewer?

A:It would be great if the artworks in the exhibition could trigger the memories of the audience! For example the same flower cloth can engender diverse thoughts and awareness in the viewers, according to their different backgrounds and personal experiences. Some people might be thinking of their grandma’s sofa, others of the quilts they slept in when they were kids. These memories of the past might be gradually revived through my exhibition. I hope everyone can experience a vast range of landscapes and feelings beyond the strict spatio-temporal framework of the ‘here’ and ‘now’.

Moreover, I curated this exhibition in a slightly different way. In the past, I always exhibit to the audience only the art objects (‘mono’), that is, only the material thing in itself. However this time, in order to conform with the main theme, I added the experience of the abstract phenomenon(‘koto’), so that a video of my artistic process in Treasure Hill and an installation of the materials I used, were able to convey those invisible memories. Thus, the first half of the exhibition is ‘mono’ (object) and half is ‘koto’ (phenomenon). I hope that the audience after seeing the exhibition will naturally interweave and re-unite the three aspects of ‘mono’, ‘koto’ and the emotions rooted in their heart, experiencing the Pathos of Things in its entire process.

M+ Y: Last question, what are your future plans? Are you interested in continuing to research the “Pathos of Things”?

A: This exhibition was actually a big turning point for me. Treating it as an experiment, I have used things that I intuitively found to create art; in the future I would like to take a more specific scope in my practice, using materials from a certain period or limited to a definite status and kind of people. I would also like to concentrate more on collecting materials in a specific time and space. In this way, the process of collecting materials can also be investigated; I want to develop creative processes that integrate with society. Therefore, I will continue to explore the theme of ‘Pathos of Things’ or ‘Mono-no Aware’ in the future, but the form and aesthetics of my oeuvre will transform, it is an unpredictable journey!

As for my next step, I can give you a clue.. I met a great professor in China, so I am considering going down the PhD path.


藝術家帶路 | 台北國際藝術村: 駐地藝術家專訪

採訪人: Maria Dolfini( 以下簡稱M )、鍾盈盈(以下簡稱Y)

藝術家: 山本愛子( 以下簡稱A )

M+Y: 你這次的展覽題目“物哀”一詞其實是起源於古老的日本哲學,來自源氏物語。你可以多跟我們分享一點為什麼以此為展覽命名,還有這個概念如何與你的作品連結嗎?

A: 物哀一詞起源於源氏物語,指的是人們通過觸摸、目見、耳聞時因物所產生的感觸。當人們遠離這些日常事物時,內心會產生一種深刻的感嘆,一種難以言喻的感情。在日本,大家對於這個概念普遍非常熟悉,但我在這次的創作中又加入了自己的個人觀點及情感,希望藉此可以把物哀的概念傳遞給更多不同文化背景的觀眾。在這個資訊爆炸、大量生產的社會裡,有許多事物每天都在令人眼花撩亂的過程裡被快速生產接著又被快速拋棄。這裡我所指的“事物”其實不只是可觸摸到的“物”(mono),另外也包括了抽象的“事”(koto),牽涉那些不可觸摸的、抽象的事件或者記憶。對於這些被快速生產的事物所產生牴觸感是我這次創作的契機,邊想著在這樣的社會裡人們該如何面對“物”(mono)與“事”(koto)時,這次的作品概念就慢慢誕生了。另外,我曾經在中國杭州居住過一段時間,快速發展中的中國每天都因為工程的興建造成大量的剩餘及浪費,這樣的事情讓我感到非常罪惡,同時也很有那種面對大國崛起的無力之感。雖然這樣的事不只發生在中國,但中國之大讓這些事情變得難以忽視,所以這個經驗也可以算是我創作物哀這個主題最一開始的起始點。這樣說來,環境與我的創作其實是不可分開的。

M+Y: 我閱讀了你的資料,發現你大學時讀的是織品,在你過往的作品中雖然你也曾結合了許多多元素材,但織品的概念及運用好像還是都貫穿在你的作品之中,這次的展覽也不例外。因此想請問你為什麼認為織品、布料是展現你這次展覽主題“物哀”最適切的方式呢?

A: 織品這個詞起源於拉丁語,相似的字元包括了織品(textile) 、紋理質地(texture)還有文字(text),因此,織品這個概念其實是具有多元意義的。對我來說,我從來沒有把織品單單看作是創作時的一種素材而已,而是一種全方位的概念。例如今天有一個具有紋理質地(texture)的東西被織出來了,大家會認為那是一件織品(textile),對吧?同樣的,每個物品都有它獨特的質地。而從這個拉丁字源出來的文字(text),也可以被編織成詩、或者是小說之類的東西,這樣的“編織”才是我心目中最接近織品的概念。我在2014年曾做過一個展覽,叫做《TEXERE》,我將線、文字和織品織在一起呈現了這樣的想法。在這次的展覽中,我也利用了這樣的概念,將我心中所想的與素材結合,交織成這次的展覽。

M+Y: 在你的展覽論述中,你形容“物哀”是介於“物”(mono)、“事”(koto)、“哀愁”(aware)三者之間的一種關係。在你駐村於寶藏巖藝國際術村的這段期間,什麼樣的物、事觸發了什麼樣的情感,因而促成這次的展覽,你可以為我們簡單概述一下嗎?

A: 在我於寶藏巖駐村的這段時間,我搜集了很多的廢棄物品。看著這些被遺棄的無名之物,我常會想像當他們還被使用時所發生的事情,以及他們如何引發了人們的喜怒哀樂。例如我在台灣時搜集了很多傳統花布,看著他們時我便會產生一種想像,像是戰後嬰兒潮,戰後的新生命呀、幼年時期的記憶等等,看著這樣的物品(mono),我便會為那些逐漸褪色的記憶(koto)感到惆悵(aware)。我能想像當時充滿活力的台灣,嬰兒誕生時的喜悅,甚至是出生的聲音,另外也能想像戰敗時人們的憤怒與悲傷,因此我認為物哀這個概念其實是具有很大的承載力並牽涉許多集體經驗的。

《褪色和染色的音調》 2019年 圖片來源:台北國際藝術村

M+Y: 在你創作時你常常使用大量的素材,比如在你這次的展覽中,以作品《幽靈虎》為例,你就以鐵、舊布料、裝飾品和雜草為材料去連結台灣神話中的動物。想請問這些材料是如何與你的個人經驗相關亦或是他們更關乎集體、歷史和空間記憶?這些材料又如何去處理特定的台灣文化背景?


M+Y: 在你關於自己的陳述裡,你提到在當代社會中,舊東西被大量生產及大量丟棄,在當今消費主義盛行的社會裡,你認為“舊”與“新”的價值和意義在哪裡?兩者之間又有什麼不同?

A: 在剛剛的問題中我提到去年我曾經在中國杭州生活了一段時間,當代中國的發展非常驚人,舊的東西不斷地被新建,非常具有消費主義的氣氛。但是我一直認為如果過分追求速成的話,過程很容易被遺忘。一旦忘卻了過程,本質就會消失,最後只會剩下形式或者是形狀的繼承。對於這樣的事情我總感覺有某種危機隱藏其中,因為舊事物的本質在於內涵,只模仿形狀或是形式的話,核心仍然是空虛的。AI發達的今日,這樣的事情演變的更加劇烈。簡略化、沒有質感的東西每天都在大量增加,於是人們又開始嚮往舊的美好時代,回頭重視過程之美,並思考“舊”的價值。我認為這是普世性的。發展中的中國正在經歷這個過程,其他發展中的大國也是,另外像是已開發的日本也曾經面對過這樣的議題,而現在正處於回過頭思考一切的階段。總而言之,我認為價值不是一個可單獨存在的東西,“舊”與“新”可以在表面上看起來完全一樣,但隱藏在其中的內容與價值是不可見的,需要花費時間與精神去探索。

M+Y: 我對你的 “藍之襤褸”(BORO - BLUES)系列非常感興趣,可以為我們簡單說明一下創作過程嗎?另外,在這件件作品裡,自然與物體是如何相互作用的呢?

A: 做這件作品當然跟我本身非常喜歡藍色有關,我喜歡天空、喜歡海,另外我也喜歡做帶有“無法從外觀上一眼就看出價值的”作品。“藍之襤褸”這系列作品看上去,一般人可能會認為就只是普通的藍染作品而已,但事實上我運用了許多不同的藍,雖然他們看上去都是藍色,但其實每個藍都出自於不同的材質以及製作工藝,例如我利用酸液使銅質佛像產生化學反應、我製作藍色的照片、甚至使用黑枸杞與水去產生不同階調的藍。另外,在技法上我也運用了藍曬及藍染的技術。一切都是透過我的雙手,包括溶解銅的水,我想緊緊跟著材料變化的過程。而BORO,是日本一種民間傳統拼接編織物,是由多塊藍染棉麻布拼接修補而成,這些來自不同時空的藍攜帶著各自的記憶聚集於此,所以基本上,這次的創作過程本身就是一場實驗。而這次的“藍之襤褸”系列作為嘗試,尺寸也都維持在小尺寸,未來我希望能夠延伸做出更大件、更完整的作品。

《藍之襤褸》 2019年 圖片來源:藝術家本人

M+Y: 在 “藍之襤褸”系列中,你提到你使用酸液使銅質佛像發生化學反應,這樣的結果其實是源自於自然,一種你無法完全預測也無法完全控制的相互作用。這讓我想起了日本“物派”,在1960年代中期左右興起於東京的一股前衛藝術運動。物派藝術家們提倡“拒絕創作”,否認藝術作品是由藝術家創作,提倡作品其實是由自然與材料所引導的。因此,物派提倡者認為藝術家不是創作者,而比較像是“促進藝術邂逅”的角色。因此想請問你自己如何看待自己與物派之間的關係?或是你認爲自己也像是這樣一種促進藝術邂逅的角色嗎?

A: 是的,我喜歡物派(Mono-ha),尤其是他們主張“不能控制整個製作過程”這點。但我自己雖然因為喜歡物派而有受到影響,但比起“促進藝術邂逅者”的這種角色,我覺得我與物派之間的關係更接近和朋友一起玩的感覺。就是“大自然”與“我”,是處在相同並且對等的立場上。物派是提倡把人的手作為輔,自然現象的一切作為主的感覺。而我的話,比較接近像是和大自然進行對話、寫交換日記的那種感覺。我認為人的意志和手也是來自大自然的一部分,所以我並不想切斷這樣的連結去進行創作。與大自然因為是朋友的關係,所以更自由了,有時候我任由物體自然發生變化,有時候我仍然藉由雙手去介入它。我負責我的部分,大自然也負責了他的部分。我認為這種控制一半的感覺也像是外在與內在的一場交互作用,來自我內在與大自然的外在。

M+Y: 在以上的問題中,我們花了一些篇幅討論了你和藝術品之間的關係,那想請問你在這次的展覽中,你希望向觀眾傳達什麼樣的訊息呢?或者你希望觀眾在你的作品:物(mono)與事(koto)的脈絡中,產生怎麼樣的對話呢?

A: 如果我的作品與展覽能觸發觀眾各自的記憶就最好了!比如,就算只是一件相同的花布,根據觀眾自己的經驗、背景的不同,對事物的想法或意識也都會有些許的落差及變化。有人可能會想起奶奶家的沙發,有人可能會想起和家人小時候一起睡覺的被子,這些關於過去的點滴記憶或許能藉由我的展覽漸漸甦醒過來,我希望大家都能體會到各式各樣的景色,體驗到能超越時間和空間的情感。另外,我這次的展覽裡其實也運用了與過去不同的展示方式。過去,我一直對觀眾展示的都只有作品(mono),也就是物的本體而已。但這次,為了呼應主題,我把抽象的事(koto)加入,那些不可見的回憶透過影片和概念裝置的方式展現出來。展場的一半是“物”(mono),一半是“事”(koto),希望觀眾們在看完整個展覽之後能將mono、koto與自己心中的感覺三者交織起來,並感受物哀的完整過程。

M+Y: 最後一個問題,請問你未來的計畫是什麼?你會繼續探索有關“物哀”的主題嗎?