Interview: Aomi Kikuchi
Luca Curci talks with Aomi Kikuchi during THE BODY LANGUAGE 2021 at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
“I make sculptures, wall pieces and garments using textiles and found objects to explore Japanese aesthetics and the philosophy of Buddha. They are “Wabi-Sabi”, the beauty found in imperfections, and “Mono-no-aware”, the feeling of sympathy for changing or perishing phenomena or substances. Closely related to the philosophy of Buddha, these can be summarized in three keywords: impermanence, insubstantiality, and suffering. My work addresses infinity as the succession of fleeting and brittle activities. I create art to inspire dialogue and reflection on these concepts through materials and aesthetic philosophies. With freedom and flexibility, I combine acquired knowledge and experiment. I actively use scraps that come from both my working practice and the environment around me”.
Luca Curci – What are you currently working on?
Aomi Kikuchi – I am currently working on two pieces of work. One is an embroidery work titled “Step Forward”. I stitch in undyed thin silk organza with undyed kid mohair yarn. It depicts a life-sized skeleton with the right foot protruding forward. The skeleton is not a symbol of death for me. It is a symbol of equality for all animals with bones, as the skin color and gender differences associated with prejudice have been removed. My message is to acknowledge the fact that we all have the same bones and the human genome is 99.9% identical to all humans. Considering that it doesn’t make sense to evaluate an individual’s appearance can lead to a “step forward”. Another work is titled “Cage of Life-Crucifixion”. This is one of my “Cage of Life” series works. The shape of the original ball-jointed sculpture “A New Born Baby” is traced by making a net to cover the parts with a 0.15 mm wire. After tracing all the parts, they are finally assembled and fixed to the cross. In this work, the viewer has the opportunity to think about the suffering caused by birth, and the basic questions about punishment: can humans have the authority to punish someone? This question comes from the Buddha’s sermon, “The Mercy of Love”, which I am working on as an artist statement.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
AK – I have loved making things since I was a child. My first career as a creator was as a fashion designer. I was fascinated by the beauty of Itchiku Kubota’s kimono and started making my own works. Having the opportunity to learn Yuzen dyeing under him was a decisive event for becoming an artist.
LC – What is your creative process like?
AK – I learned craft techniques regardless of the genre along with academic art education. Those are various kinds of dyeing, dressmaking, fashion design, spinning/weaving, machine/hand knitting, Japanese embroidery/braiding, lace making, ceramics, glass, porcelain painting, and ball joint doll making. My curiosity towards learning continues and now I am building the foundation of Japanese kimono weaving, and lacquer including ‘Kintsugi’, golden joinery in Kyoto: the center of traditional Japanese craft. There is no fixed creative process in my artwork. Based on the knowledge and skills I have acquired, I find and experiment with different types of materials that apply to the artist’s statement. The main concepts of my artist statement can be summarized in six keywords: impermanence, insubstantiality, suffering, “Wabi-Sabi”, imperfection, “Mono-no-Aware”, mercifulness, and infinity. Material choices include fragility and instability, such as goose down, light silk fabrics, and fine fibers. The goose down is blown away by my breath, and the extra-fine threads are almost invisible, so the work requires delicacy. I treat these materials meticulously and try to find new perspectives beyond the conventional way.
LC – Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it like your medium of expression?
AK – My work is an approach to express my artist statement in different ways. They are “Wabi-Sabi”, the beauty found in imperfections, and ”Mono-no-Aware”, the feeling of sympathy for changing or perishing phenomena or substances. Closely related to the philosophy of Buddha, these can be summarized in three keywords: impermanence, insubstantiality, and suffering. My work addresses infinity as the succession of fleeting and brittle activities.
LC – Did your style change over the years? In which way?
AK – Once, I focused on dyeing silk fabrics based on the traditional Japanese Yuzen kimono method that I have practiced for a long time. Gradually, mixing the knowledge I had acquired, I began to work beyond traditional genres and rules, focusing on the artist’s statement. My choice of materials has also shifted from expensive silk fabrics to fragile and unstable stuff such as goose down and cotton fiber. I actively use scrap from my work and also use the materials I come across.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
AK – When I was in Japan, I rarely considered the race issue because Japan seems to consist of a single ethnicity. While in NYC, I was a person in one of a minority group of ethnicities. There, I consider the equality of human beings including the difference of race and sex. I thought that the difference in skin color would disappear when the skin is peeled. The difference between male and female disappears when the muscles are removed. The size of the skeletons is a little different, but when it comes to skeletons, all humans are equal. Based on this assumption, I made a skull with silk gauze sculpted by using water-soluble adhesive. When I put hair on it, the skull looked like a woman to me. I found a prejudice that long hair is reminiscent of women. Through this practice, I realized that the issue of race and gender are interwoven complexly due to our embedded prejudice and conventional thoughts. I also recognized that Japan is not a single-race nation. I had been ignoring minorities and I myself have been suffering as a female in a male-dominated society.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
AK – Humans have experienced countless wars and pandemics in the past, but I have never dreamed of experiencing a pandemic in my life. People have been successful in getting rid of war and illness from the world. However, despite its small size of 100 nm, facing a new type of virus forces us to remind ourselves of our vulnerabilities. The exhibition, titled “The Body Language”, is the perfect time to ponder our body. For example, if you lie to yourself and say that you are “OK” verbally and laugh, your body will quiver and shake and become unstable, which shows you are not fine. Text can also hide the truth, but the body is the most conscious language that conveys true feelings. Now that the pandemic has made it impossible to read facial expressions with a mask, it is time to reaffirm the importance of listening to the voice of the body trying to tell the truth.
LC – What do you think about ITSLIQUID Platform?
AK – Notably, the platform covers almost all aesthetic creativity, including contemporary art, architecture, design and fashion. It also cares about environmental activism. Classification can clarify professionalism, but it tends to be inflexible and difficult to share ideas and collaborations between professionals. I believe your platform is very important as it can provide liquidity across each genre of creativity.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
AK – I see it as a dynamic and professionally organized event even from remote situations.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
AK – I was not able to come to Venice on this opportunity, however, I can see the show is rich in variety and volume. I think I would suggest your service to artists who I know.