Aki Sasamoto (Visiting Artist Lecture)

Rocio Ramirez

ARTH 3539

Visiting Artist Review

Aki Sasamoto is known in the art world as a sculptor, performance artist, installation artist, and many more appellations that are both diverse and somehow coalescent with one another. Sasamoto’s presentation for the CU Visiting Artist Program was threaded with humor, anecdotes, explications, and an underlying message of simplicity within complicated universal messages.

Her multi-modal presentation was intriguing and prompted me to do some further research in order to fully understand the context behind her work, and how she came to be the artist that she is today. Aki Sasamoto is a Japanese artist that is now based in New York. She came to the United States to further her education and attended the Ivy League school, Columbia University, as a math major. The math field proved to hold little interest for Sasamoto and thus she turned to the polar of math and perused a career in dance. Once Aki Sasamoto was immersed in the world of dance she also began to explore the other arts, but nevertheless used dance as her source material. Her dance background and education helped her in developing a unique approach to the process of making art, the art work itself, as well as the way that she decides to present her pieces. She later combined dance with other mediums like sculpture and installation. Sasamoto has said that what sparks her curiosity are the idiosyncrasies of everyday life, and therefore uses this as both subtle and overt themes in her work. Through this exploration of the mundane and the randomness of life it creates art that is as accessible as it is personal. This integrative process helps to envelop the audience. It draws the viewer in and then overwhelms them in a complete experience.
Aki Sasamoto started her presentation off by doing something that I’d never seen before in a an artist lecture. She quietly began to type (what is usually said as an introduction) and this text was projected onto the screen of the lecture hall. She then had people in the audience choose, according to lettered subjects, what specific topics to address and in what order. This quickly drew the audience in and turned the presentation into a more intimate exhibition type of atmosphere. This unpretentious format and humble ambience continued throughout the whole lecture. This style let the audience in to her work and her revealing explications made the pieces that much more intriguing.
She started off by explaining her background, and essentially explained her life up until she got involved and then delved into the art world. Again stating how she somehow tumbled into this field and then experimented with the possibilities of combining different mediums she was interested in.
Her first piece was titled, “Secrets of My Mother’s Child,” which centered around three scheduled performances within an installation. This piece perhaps encapsulates her technique the best, in the way she combined exhibition and dance. Sasamoto stated that when she first created this work she was able to use it in an art gallery as a performance art/ installation piece. And was conversely also able to use it in a theater setting as a dance piece. Expanding more on the work, she explained the way it was reviewed in the same newspaper on the same day but, were mutually exclusive. Meaning that the dance reviewer only attended the theater piece and the art reviewer only attended the art gallery showing. This she said something about the way we sort of close ourselves off and construct boundaries for ourselves which I thought was an interesting and unexpected result from her piece. This random lesson, for lack of a better word, demonstrates the way a unique approach to something can lead to an equally unique result.
Her next piece, that I think people found the most interesting was titled, “Judge Mentals and Purpose of Life.” This was presented in a sort of humble and seemingly improvisational way, but of course much thought did go into the piece. But this method of presenting something in a simplistic and spur of the moment way is something that Sasamoto has honed and refined through her work as an artist, so much so, that’s almost become a trademark of hers. This particular piece centered around the separation and categorization of people in terms of their personality. This was then taken further by explaining and basically diagramming the way we interact with each other and why. She separated people by labeling them: Norms, Tinks, and Odds. This as aforementioned was then divided into interactions, such as bullying and admiration. Aki Sasamoto analyzed this abstract theme and then converted it into a simplistic and humorous presentation.
Aki Sasamoto’s hybridization of mediums helps to elevate and differentiate her work from others and in doing so she is able to reach unique and unexpected results. Her visiting artist lecture weaved humor, anecdotes, lessons, as well as explanations of her work. These interrelated themes and techniques created a cohesive and interesting display of her methods and the artwork that results from it.

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