Utako Shindo November, 2015, Melbourne
Youkobo Studio Residency artist (2010)
Youkobo Staff member (2011-13)
1. Breathing ‘Meshwork’_ woven together by artists and microresidencies
The depth of outer space is immeasurable. The intricate constellations woven by planets (originally meaning wondering starts in Greek) should be forming rather Meshwork than Network, as they are three (or even four)_dimensional and not merely connecting points on a sheet of paper. The constellations of ʻmicroresidenceʼ stars(*1) should also be considered to be Meshwork(*2) . It is a kind of ʻworkʼ which organically evolves through encompassing different times, spaces and lives, just like celestial bodies. The motive of this work is a passion for Art that both artists and people who join or run microresidencies maintain. As a result of corporative works between them, micro-planets will be tied in the name of Art, and opening the layers of meshes towards various directions.
The word, Network, does make me cautious, as it implies a relationship to be formed according to interests (the advantages and disadvantages). For the world of politics and businesses, the main focus is on the exchange between parties. Yet, this context always generate perspectives that are conflicting and divnisioning, such as win/lost and give/take. In the context of art, it feels far more important for one to pay attention and creatively think what kind of passage can be drawn, what kind of events can be happening, and what kind of possibilities to be opened between us, and in-between micro-residencies. The word, Meshwork, on the contrary, makes me imagine a kind of living sculpture, which is woven and formed with tracks that people trace, sometime instinctively, over a certain period of time. Like a silk road or an animal trail, it is a airy space which breathes by accompanying air and water that circulate slowly within.
Return to the story about cosmos, we shall be also reminded that starts are born out of cosmic dust numerously but most planets near us does not shine by itself but in the light of the sun. It is, again, like an artwork which is usually seen only by being lit. To receive and reflect the light beautifully, a micro-planet polishes itself everyday, some time playfully and other time desperately, even if it only appears as small and delicate twinkles. This sustained effort speaks to us that there is something valuable, which should not be forgotten in this capitalized world where humans repeat the same dreadful mistakes. Hence, I also consider that each microresidence is a work of art. Its blink carves something precious on our heart, which will be unforgettable even if we close our eyes or the world is covered with harsher and stronger light.
2. Microresidency as a work of art & ‘Kokoro no Furusato’ (home for one’s heart)
People around a micro-planet are pulled toward it. (Like a black hole!) it is filled with attractive and unknown energy. We also feel nostalgic, which makes microresidence mysteriously fascinating. When people talk about microresidence, it is often said that you feel as if being at home. That is perhaps because we rediscover whatʼs forgotten in the macro stream, such as the feeling of love and being loved. We do so through building micro (which I understand as private and intimate) relationships with ourselves as well as people and places around us. What is pictured here is not quite a community expressed in English, but rather ʻKokoro no Furusato (meaning ʻa home for oneʼs heartʼ) in Japanese, which each of us will find differently.
It is, therefore, natural and makes a total sense that these discoveries are expressed by means of art, which I considered to be “genuinely universal language ”(*3). In studios at microresidences, we can closely see the moments of expression in various manners. They can be also seen as an evidence that art maintains its life in the everyday domain.
What I have written so far is based on my experience of joining the residency program at Youkobo Art Space and helping to run the space afterwards for a couple of years. Hence, my knowledge on microresidence is limited and only partial among the whole of its diverse meshwork. Yet, as time goes by, this ʻmicroʼ experience of mine becomes so vivid that I would like to write about it, particularly for those who are tired of surfing on invisible (or not existing) waves of globalization and/or are sick of political and economic games.
3. Tracing and creating the ‘meshwork’_to experience and express differences
And also for young people! They might not get it, if I say ʻa home for oneʼs heartʼ. But I believe that the sensitivity to understand such sentiment is quite important for artists, including those who are about to go out to the world as new graduates or self-taught young artists. I mean by ʻa homeʼ being different from ʻthe localʼ from which you donʼt leave to explore other places. It is rather a kind of place that you long for from the distance once you learnt that the others hold their homes, which are never the same.
In this regard, I highly recommend young artists to trace the tracks of meshwork that preceding artists have marked. It is not fixed tracks, as I wrote perviously that the microresidence ʻmeshworkʼ is like a living sculpture. One is allowed to follow the trail freely with a sense of fun, or sometime with a great effort or struggle. In turn, it can add a new track and also inscribe precious knowledge on her/ his heart, which will ensure oneʼs artistic endeavor to last long.
The co-director of Youkobo Art Space, Mr. Murata is a formerly engineer, but has been living his entire life being surrounded by many artists including his beloved partner, Hiroko Murata. Therefore, from various points of views, he has observed and considered how artists could or should live as a member of society. Recently, on my short return from Melbourne to Tokyo, Tatsuhiko kindly welcomed me back and shared his view. He said, “To play (as in music) the expression of the differences. Artists are the kind of people who take actions and lead the society where different cultures can co-exist and embrace the diversity. The artists are, indeed, the guides for such a society that which should naturally be. However, an artist is not really credited as an occupation in the society.(*4)”
4. Nurturing a spirit of freedom_micro-scale art practice in macro-socio geography
Tatsuhiko perhaps expressed his concern about the society in Japan. As I have been back and forwards between Japan (mainly Tokyo) and Australia (mainly Melbourne, known for its multiculturalism thought it is not always the case), I also see that artists in Japan face up with the challenging reality to find ways to survive by meeting with the external expectations. It could be partly due to the size and population of the country: in little islands there are still too many people to care about diversities, generosities and such. However it is crucial that the time and space are extremely tight to consider why and how one can live a life by art in the society. In this context, microresidence appear to be embodying quietly but defiantly how it is possible to have a space that is small but never cramped.
For instance, Y-AIR, which is a new exploration that Youkobo Art Space initiated, shall provide a good opportunity for young artists to experience practicing art in micro-scale. It started after I left Youkobo so I could not comment great deal her but I would imagine that its atmosphere would be like a seminar rather than a large lecture at Universities: less about being taught and more about learning to be free. Of course, it will be a challenging experience as one should throw oneself into unfamiliar situations with different languages and cultures. However, oneʼs body will naturally absorb various sensations. Perhaps something uncomfortable, strange, hence foreign would interest oneʼs system most in the end. So I hope that there will be no pressure to plan ʻoutcomeʼ, because unexpected experiences should be waiting.
By tracing and creating the meshwork, it would be highly valuable to situate oneself in such an environment at either timing: towards the end of your studies or after the graduation. It will enable one to pursuit her/his own path without loosing a spirit of freedom, even at the time of difficulties and when one faces with her/his own social reality back home. I cannot know if such a spirit would promote the transformation of societies that surround artists into a kind of condition that Mr. Murata talks about. Yet, I think that Y-AIR can be one of prompts for the mature and mutual relationship to be formed between Art and Society (not the one kind of art and society), in other words, Micro and Macro. What can be born out of such relationships will be as immeasurable as outer space.
(*1):The independent curator, Machiko Harada, called, in a figurative sense, Microresidence Network as a constellation of new stars. @ the first microresidence public meeting during the ResArtist General Meeting in 2012 held at Tokyo Wonder Site, Tokyo.
(*2):Tim Ingld discusses ʻmeshworkʼ in his paper, “Bringing Things to Life: Creative Entanglements in a World of Materials”, published in 2010 for online resource by ʻRealitiesʼ, which is a project as a part of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods.
(*3):I discuss this notion in the Chapter 2, in my PhD thesis (working in progress), entitled ʻThe Untranslatable, thinking in making and seeingʼ.
(*4):Based on my notes, which I took during my unofficial conversation with Mr. Murata. @ lounge space, Youkobo Art Space, Tokyo. (30/10/2015)