Interview: Nao Sakamoto
Luca Curci talks with Nao Sakamoto during FRAGMENTED IDENTITIES, second appointment of BORDERS Art Fair 2020, at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space and at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
With a background in film-making, interior architecture, and animation, Tokyo-based media artist Nao Sakamoto, also known as NAOWAO, explores hybrid worlds between the physical and the digital. She is intrigued by the way contemporary culture influences us human beings and believes it requires rethinking the relationship between ourselves and the world around us. By combining her animation in the virtual world with the footage shot by her, she creates a story that invites the viewer to explore another perspective of the current world. She questions the meaning of authenticity and how our digital life is affecting it. Predominantly inspired by her experience of living in different cultures and from natural organisms, her works explore perspectives of the world in our current digital nature. Through animation, performances, and installations, NAOWAO crafts a dream-like surreal virtual world as a medium to depict her perspective. She started combining filmmaking and the 3D digital space during her Master’s in Interior Architecture in Rotterdam, Netherlands. She found visual storytelling a necessity to express her point of view, and combining it with spatial design led her to explore the merging of the two subjects, such as projection mapping and installations. Her most recent short film as a cinematographer won the Best Doc Short at the Los Angeles International Underground Film Festival in 2019 and has been the Official Selection New Filmmakers New York, 2019.
Luca Curci – What is art for you?
Nao Sakamoto – Art is a way for an escape; it is an emotional ride, a way to find calmness within myself and the world. Creating art helps me seek answers and organize the threads of thoughts in my mind; it’s like writing a personal diary. It has been and will always be a way to connect to myself and others.
LC – What are you currently working on?
NS – I am currently working on a VR project with the concept of ‘mask’, the same theme from the project I am exhibiting in Fragmented Identities. I want this project to become a more immersive and intimate experience for the spectator and be able to occur beyond the site limitations. At the same time, I am working on site-specific projects, in which I film the qualities and atmosphere of the space and combine them with virtual worlds to tell a story. I recently obtained an underwater camera housing, so that sets the stage for my next adventure where I hope to experiment with the underwater world.
LC – What is your creative process like?
NS – My approach changes dynamically, and it depends on each project. Usually, I start from my own experience and the thoughts and questions I come across in daily life. I sketch the scenes out, make a concept and story, and create a unique world by focusing on specific emotional moments. At other times, I listen to music and visualize the sounds I hear and the world those sounds evoke, which gives rise to a project in itself.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
NS – In the current global situation with COVID-19 and our digital environment, I am focusing more on the topic of ‘mask’. In social, cultural, functional, and psychological aspects, the mask has played an essential role in humans from ancient times. There is also this poetic side to it, hiding layers of one’s persona and story which I am attracted to. Exploring more of this has become a way to reconnect with myself and others. Another aspect I work on is underwater environments and how it evokes emotions, since that is where I escape to during difficult times.
LC – How is being an artist nowadays?
NS – With the COVID-19 situation, I have been able to spend my time and energy further to explore, create, and focus. The way to experience art has changed since several exhibitions and events are now available on a virtual podium. The experience now is very different in terms of connection and interaction with art. Being a digital artist, I am exploring alternative ways to create my projects for those experiences. It’s also been a different experience living in Tokyo; it has been very different from my previous experience in the Netherlands. How the government approaches art is distinct in each country, and I think that has been apparent during this COVID-19 situation.
LC – We were attracted by your last artistic production, has the artwork presented been created for the festival or as a part of preexisting works?
NS – I created “Untold Story” with Mert Gencer, an incredible audio designer from Istanbul, currently based in Amsterdam. We started the project for an exhibition in Taiwan, which, however, got canceled due to COVID-19. It was first selected for the digital magazine of ART CONNECT-Digital Media: Tenderness and Aggression. It was an honor to be selected in the ITSLIQUID Borders Fragmented Identities festival, where the topic fit our project.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think about the theme of the festival?
NS – The theme encompassing invisible borders, human connections, and common spaces is always a crucial topic, and to have this exhibition during these difficult times, I think, was necessary. I appreciated it and am thankful to have been a part of it.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
NS – I enjoyed the interviews with artists at the exhibition that was also available on social media. Seeing different artists from different media from around the world can be quite exciting. Even though we communicated just online through email, it was very smooth and your team was very responsive to providing my needs.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
NS – Yes, it was a great experience, and for aspiring artists, it’s a great way to exhibit in different cities all that ITSLIQUID GROUP provides. You have several connections with regard to venues and galleries in different parts of the world, which is amazing. A possible idea is to also facilitate a virtual gallery. Unfortunately, I couldn’t be in Venice due to COVID-19. It would have been nice to experience the festival virtually.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
NS – I am sure it supports artists who can participate from around the world and have opportunities from exhibitions or online services. It is also a great way to connect with other artists to grow our network.