Georgescu-Lecture Review 3

Dora Georgescu

Lecture Review 3-Extra Credit

Visiting Artist Lecture: Aki Sasomoto

When I went to the February 21st Artist Lecture by Aki Sasamoto, I spent the whole time trying to understand at least a fraction of what she was energetically saying. Clearly passionate about her work, Sasamoto jumped from one idea to the next with often unclear or nonexistent transitions. Despite my difficulty in always following her train of thought, her energy and humor made for an interesting lecture.

A Japanese artist working in New York, Sasamoto works in a wide variety of mediums including performance, sculpture, and installations. She started her lecture by asking members of the audience to pick questions that they wanted her to answer from a list that she had prepared. The first question asked was “Am I a liar?” to which she answered, “Yes”. The reason that she considers herself a liar is because she performs structured improvisation shows, in which she repeats her actions over and over. They are not actually spontaneous, as the audience might believe, but rather the result of deliberate planning. Interestingly, Sasamoto said that her answer to this question changes every time she presents because her performances are always changing, thereby giving her a different impression of her own work.

After answering several more questions, Sasamoto moved on to a wildly elaborate and rather confusing explanation of the purpose of life and the four kinds of people that exist in the world. Using a white board to illustrate her ideas, she drew four circles, which represent the 4 types of people, labeled “Professor Kaufner” “Tink” “Odds” and “Norm”, all of which were connected by multi-directional arrows.  Her explanation of these types and the relationships between them was overly elaborate and complicated but the gist was as follows: “Professor Kaufner” is the wise and down to earth type who grounds “Tink”, the celebrity type who is admired by “Norm”, the normal type which constitutes the majority of the population. Meanwhile, “Odds” remains underground as someone who belongs neither to the normal population nor to the extraordinary population. He is limited in his ability to emerge from the ground because he is bullied by the “Norm” and ignored by the “Tink” (whom he ignores in return). I found this summarization of humanity rather accurate and was amused by Sasamoto’s story-telling style as she made keen observations of the world in which we live.

In no way connected to this explanation of life, followed a video of Sasamoto’s performance art. Laying on the ground in a green jumpsuit, Sasamoto pulled and released bungee cords with potatoes attached at each end against a small wall. She didn’t really discuss the meaning of this piece (or if she did, her explanation escaped me), yet I found it to make sense in relation to who she is as an artist. Like the bouncing potatoes, Sasamoto too is a small bundle of energy constantly bouncing from place to place. To me, this performance art perfectly captures her spirit and it is with this outlook that I was able to enjoy it. When I tried to find deeper meaning in her works, I found myself getting frustrated because it didn’t seem to exist. I have no doubt that there is more meaning than I could grasp in her works, but it was just difficult to understand it without clear explanations.

Jumping once again to a seemingly unrelated topic, Sasamoto passionately explained her deep hatred of mosquitoes. As “petty criminals” mosquitoes look to satisfy themselves right away, sneaking about and harming others in order to do so. She made a comparison between the mosquito and the comedian, but it was rather unclear to me. However, her monologue on comedians made it clear to me that she sees herself as not just an artist, but as an entertainer as well. This self-image is appropriate as she is a very captivating performer that had her audience laughing both with her and at her throughout her lecture.

Although I was not able to follow all of Sasamoto’s imaginative and disconnected ideas, I did enjoy her lecture. There was never a dull moment and even days after the lecture, I was trying to wrap my mind around everything that she had said. I find her use of various mediums creative and a manifestation of her own free spirit. Rather than confining herself to one form of art, she allows herself the freedom to express her many ideas in whichever medium best captures each idea.

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