Photo by Takuya Shima
With the English-speaking public’s view of Japan still stuck on underdressed schoolgirls and oversized robots, it’s been easy to miss the new generation of Japanese creatives reshaping art and design. We recently caught up with three leading Tokyoites working between design and fine art.
Sputniko! is deliberately hard to place: one moment she’s a highbrow artist and the next she’s a pop star. When she shows work at galleries, her physical creations—lately she’s been making techno-futurist devices—are displayed opposite JPop music videos. New Yorkers can catch her US debut at the MoMA’s Talk To Me exhibition, on display until November.
You’ve got a pretty wide mix of fans here in Tokyo. What sort of audience do you usually envision for your work? My audience currently is contemporary art people, but then there are a lot of other people. If the work is intriguing enough, it’s going to attract people who don’t know art too. I like the fact that people outside of contemporary art like my work. Whenever I do an event, I get a lot of college girls showing up and cheering, which is nice because I didn’t start making art just to show it to art people. I want to change people’s ideas, so I want people to see what I make.
Does anything interesting come out of sticking the high art crowd and the pop music crowd in the same room together? All the time. Sometimes people in the arts – only a few of them, not all – can say things like, “because she has mass appeal, her art is not good,” which I find ridiculous. It’s worth doing something that’s different. I really like it when people love my work, and I really like it when they hate it. I like to encourage discussion. At the MoMA opening, I heard a lot of people talking about menstruation. You don’t often get to talk about menstruation at an art opening!
I’m thinking of moving to New York sometime in the future. I’ve been based in Japan for the past year, but it’s tough being a woman in Japan in your twenties. I’m 26 and I’ve just started my life, but people have started asking me if I’ll get married soon. There’s an old saying here: “Women are Christmas cakes: you have to get married by your 25th.” After that you’re just old. But then people say I’m too young to be a “proper” artist, since I’m in my 20’s. Some people even think I’m not making my own work! I met a journalist who was surprised I could talk about my work, because she thought I was just a model with someone behind me actually making it. It’s like I’m too young to be an artist but too old to be a woman. So, New York.