Wesley Grover, Visiting Lecture 2: Aki Sasamoto

To say that Aki Sasamoto’s lecture was not what I had anticipated would be a great understatement. Although, in hindsight, I suppose I should not have been so surprised given that she is an installation and performance artist. It seemed as if Aki was unable to turn off her creative and artistic mentality and she treated the lecture like its own performance. Aki’s energy was contagious and it quickly became apparent why she is a performance artist as she thrived before the audience. The lecture began in a rather unorthodox manner in order to engage the crowd. Rather than speaking directly to us, Aki introduced herself by typing on to the screen. This was indicative of her desire to break conventions and deviate from the norm. Aki then provided a list of topics and invited the audience to shout out which ones we wished to hear her discuss. This was an interesting technique to involve the audience in her presentation, which reflected the general disposition of her work. Though the lecture appeared discombobulated and unorganized at first, it became clear that this was a reflection of Aki’s artistic process; by the end she had created order out of chaos in a less than conventional manner. As she spoke Aki would bounce around, seemingly off topic, unable to control her energy but ultimately constructed the lecture into a cohesive performance that demonstrated her artistic ability.

Aki began by sharing one of her more ambitious projects, titled “remembering/modifying/developing”.  She worked on this project, which can be considered both installation and performance art, from 2007-2008. As she worked Aki setup three cameras that recorded her sporadic movements from different angles over time. The cameras were not in fixed positions, as they would move if bumped into, and demonstrated how her work changes when viewed from different perspectives. As the process documented Aki at work, we were able to observe her break society down into four categories. The cameras recorded Aki using a chalkboard to outline what she calls “The Judge Mental and the Purpose of Life”. Here Aki explained that she has divided society into four types of people: the norms, the odds, the tinks, and the rest, which she refers to as “Professor K”. The “norms” are defined as the vast majority of people that are unable to break free from society’s restrictions. The “odds” are described as the oppressed or people who are bullied by society. The “tinks” represent those who succeed in overcoming the norms. The rest, or Professor K’s, are the few who are able to occupy the space between the tinks and the odds. As she worked on the board, Aki illustrated how all of these groups are connected and relate to each other. Furthermore, by creating a visual diagram for us to see Aki was able to articulate how these four groups perpetuate the system. Though her manner of presentation made it feel quite unorganized at first, Aki was able to explain how order exists within the project.

“remembering/modifying/developing” exhibited Aki’s unique ability to turn her artistic process into a performance. The process alone became its own work of art that is indicative of the piece as a whole. By recording her movements from different angles, we are able to observe how the piece, and more importantly the meaning, evolves.  In doing so Aki illustrated that our experiences are constantly changing who we are. As she remembers and draws on her past experiences, Aki then evolves and modifies her approach as she continues to develop. This project shows that we are in an ever-changing state as a result of our experiences and adapt to fit in to our environment.

Another memorable project that Aki discussed was “Skewed Lies”, which was inspired by her aversion toward mosquitoes. Like her other work, this project was largely concerned with the different types of people in society. Mosquitoes, she explained, are much like the undesirable members of society and during this project she attempted to “become” one in order to understand their thought process. Aki shared several photos of her performance, where she was dressed and acted like a mosquito, clinging to the walls as she tried to get closer to the light (a bug zapper). I believe it was meant to convey how one’s position in society deeply affects his or her actions. By adopting a different perspective, Aki illustrated how her disposition evolved as a result. Though it would be more powerful to see the actual piece being performed, Aki’s pictures were able to convey the overall message quite effectively. From what I observed of the project and the audience’s reaction to it, “Skewed Lies” was able to successfully reach the viewer and provoke a response.

I found Aki’s presentation to be incredibly informative on a number of levels. Her work is representative of the evolution of contemporary art and incorporates elements of the past, present, and future. Through her performance and installation projects, Aki pushes the envelope to challenge her audience. The lecture itself was a performance that illustrated there is no right or wrong way of doing things; it is more important to express one’s true emotions no matter how he or she goes about doing it.

2 Responses

  1. After reading your review of Aki performance I wish I would have been able to attend. I feel as though mixing up the structure content and presentation while giving a lecture are very important and many instructors, professors and presenters fall into the obvious trap of designing a power point and talking through the slides. I think that involving a audience of art admires was a great way to nab everyones attention and make them feel a part of an experience instead of just listening through it.

  2. This lecture sounds awesome! Out of the “boundary lines” of the normal lecture restrictions is always fun and interesting! She sounds like one of the more interesting artists of today. Confronting the issues of society and how most of us try to fit into a so-called “norm” if there is one. Going to school on a campus in a city like Boulder it feels like there really isn’t a “norm” anymore. I wish I would’ve have been able to attend her lecture. It sounds very interesting for the audience.

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