Reflections from Almanac 2016
Translated by Ashley Rawlings
Recently I’ve noticed that when I meet people who know my work, they say, “Oh you must be so busy!” I usually reply with something like, “Well, I’m getting by,” which probably gives people the impression that I’m quite reserved. Certainly, in these past three years, I’ve been doing exhibitions unlike any that came before, and they have taken me all over the world. This is probably what these people have in mind when they express their concern for me, and yet I don’t feel in the slightest bit busy.
Perhaps I seem overstretched, but in fact, even now, I spend most of my time at home or in the studio. In commuting back and forth between home and the studio, from morning till night, it’s as if I’m leading the life of a regular white-collar worker. Even I am astonished by it. But to look at it another way, at my age, to be constantly coming and going from galleries and museums is also a burden of sorts. I am glad that I live away from the cultural hub of Tokyo, on the Izu Peninsula. Without a doubt, I’m fortunate to work all day, uninterrupted, in an environment where I don’t have to meet anyone.
These recent exhibitions have given me new opportunities to show my works from the 1970s. I have been reflecting on what that means. I don’t at all mind presenting my early mono (“things” or “works”), but I wonder why they are getting so much attention now when, in spite of all my efforts, they barely saw the light of day back then. One reason might be to do with the way in which society and culture have progressed; perhaps things that had not been appreciated back then are being appreciated now, and those older works “match” the present state of the world. Alternatively, maybe they don’t “match,” per se, and in fact their material presence and structure are at odds with the contemporary condition. Part of me thinks it’s similar to the feeling one would get from looking at a rare and unusual creature that has never existed before. It is said that society does not advance in a linear way; it goes in cycles. In that sense, perhaps we have come full circle and those artworks must now fulfill a role as an element of the contemporary age.
I still enjoy going for walks in nature, during which I become preoccupied with thoughts about what I should make. From another person’s point of view, it might look like I’m just absent-mindedly walking down country lanes, but in fact my consciousness and perception are in a heightened, sharpened state. I’m inspired by all kinds of things—trees, stones, rocks, grasslands, wastelands, the sky or the movement of the wind. When I look at them I think about the interconnected spaces between them, their conditions and the nature of their existence.
The opportunity to show my work to the international art scene effectively began with the exhibitions I did at Blum & Poe in 2012. Until then I was living under a completely different sky, but now I feel we are basking in the same sun and moonlight. Perhaps these exhibitions have uncovered hidden aspects of my own nature. While it all seems like a coincidence, there’s no doubt that this experience has awakened in me a necessary sense of purpose—and for that I am grateful.
Certainly, I make works in order to show them to people, even though they are rooted in my own specific ideas, which are not typically shared by others. Achieving resonance with other people’s outlook and ideas is profoundly difficult. Yet if one does not, one’s own worldview cannot expand. People are creatures of insatiable desire. Whether they realize it or not, they devour what lies before them. I want to show things that are not so easily devoured.
Perhaps I’m being asked to present my early works because these days there are more people who want to study them in depth. Morning, noon and night, I spend my waking hours thinking about the nature of mono, site and space. My works have stood the test of time—now more than ever they exist in the present.