Kamppi Chapel of Silence in the World Design Capital 2012

Kamppi Chapel of Silence opened in May-June 2012 and immediately became a Helsinki World Design Capital architectural landmark. It has become a huge tourist attraction with thousands of visitors coming to see it on a weekly basis, and the architecture has gained international following. The Chapel is designed by the K2S Architects, and is built by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. It is a collaboration of the City of Helsinki and the Church. Kamppi Chapel of Silence is a unique concept in Finland, being a first of its kind.

The Chapel was nominated for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture Mies van der Rohe Award. Nordic Architecture and Design Magazine FORM chose it as the building of the year within Nordic countries. The architectural shape brings in mind, for some, ideas of Noah’s ark, and for others it reminds them of egg or bowl shapes. What is extraordinary about it, is the element of cutting out the sounds of the city. When you enter the space you have come into contact with silence, and you are isolated from the urban mayhem. The Chapel entrance hall is designed for encountering people, there is a service desk for the staff to meet with the community and visitors. The Church offers prayer services and communion, but it does not offer the usual congregational services like weddings and funerals. Its main focus is to be open for people and to assist the surrounding areas. The professionals in the Chapel encounter and help visitors and even meet the youth hanging out in the shopping mall area. This sometimes means dealing with usual social problems of public spaces.

The building brings in natural light during the daytime. The rest of the lighting is created to keep this natural balance. The lighting is operated by sensors, which adapt to human movement. The Chapel interior is made of alder, with common alder planks cut to shape, the benches are made of ash tree, and the exterior is made of horizontal spruce strips, which are bent at different radiuses. The exterior wood is glazed with a special wax that utilizes nanotechnology, and its frame is prepared of massive glulam beams, which were cut to shape. The exterior consists of 30 kilometers long of the material. The World Design Capital was launching a theme for innovative wood architecture, as it is more ecologically sustainable in the times of the World’s ecological crisis.

The acoustics are fantastic for musical performance, however there is no room for an organ.  It would be ideal space for baroque ensembles to perform, for instance. The most important concept of the Chapel is to be a service desk for both the locals and travelers alike. The doors are open for anybody to enter either to stop by or spend some quiet time there. The Chapel is located in the middle of the Kamppi market square, which incorporates a big shopping mall and a metro station. The area has hotels and museums nearby so it invites tourists and international visitors. Overall, the square is an ideal location for the Chapel, since it is an intersection of the cultural and the leisurely, bringing in people from all parts of the city. The Chapel itself is a small gathering place holding the most 60 people.

The City of Helsinki implemented that the World Design Capital projects come up with ideas of service design. Part of the thinking of the design is that it is embedded in the everyday life of people, and it can be more than just objects, material things and products. Design can be experiences, and it can encourage communities to create, to meet and come together, to influence and serve others. When this idea is brought together with architecture it adds another layer of the human experience. Good architecture is there to serve communities, and create meeting points in the busy city-life. The Kamppi Chapel employs professionals from the City and from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland Helsinki parish, employing twelve people.  A pastor and a deacon, a youth social worker, two ushers, and the manager are employed by the Church. The city employs two social workers, two social instructors, and two cleaning professionals.

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Pastor Nanna Helaakoski

 

December 12, 2012, was a special day for the Kamppi Chapel. 12.12.12. was commemorated there with several weddings in the Chapel. This is an unusual occasions, so I spoke to the Chapel’s pastor Nanna Helaakoski about it.

– The December 12, 2012 was made a theme day of weddings at the Chapel. We had 16 couples to celebrate their wedding ceremonies. For some of them it was more important to get a rare chance to be married in the Chapel, than to emphasize the 12.12.12 as a special wedding day.

Websites: K2S Architects Ltd. www.k2s.fi/

http://www.helsinginkirkot.fi/fi/kirkot/kampin-kappeli

WDC Helsinki 2012 wdchelsinki2012.fi/en

(Update: Mice family living in the Kamppi Chapel moved to nature. Pastor Nanna Helaakoski assisted them. The following video was published on Jan 16, 2013 by Kotimaa24:n production’s Päivikki Koskinen and Katri Saarela, 2013.)

Promoting FLICfest: Independent Choreography Kickstarter

Promoting new Choreography for FLICfest: A Festival of Independent Choreography, in Brooklyn in February 2013
Dancer-Choreographer Sari Nordman is making a new dance work for FLICfest: A Festival of Independent Choreography to be performed in Brooklyn in February, 2013. Sari holds an M.F.A. degree in modern dance from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts, and has worked with prominent choreographers in modern dance, including Douglas Dunn, Naomi Goldberg Haas, Dean Moss, Robin Rapoport, Susan Rethorst and Melinda Ring, and artist Ming Wong, among others. Sari is a recent recipient of American Scandinavian Society’s cultural grant. Sari has worked as a choreographer for several platforms in New York City. In her free time, she is an enthusiastic photographer. 
To be able to fund her new choreographic work A Dadaesque Collage of Chauvinist Wisdom, which will be performed as part of the FLICfest at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn in February, 2013, Sari needs donations. She is part of the Kickstarter fundraiser for the FLICfest, which is open for just another two days. They are less than $1500 away from their goal, and with your support they can make it. Donations will help Sari to fund her project. (This is a US tax-deductible donation).
You can see the project by following this link
 
Photo: Sari Nordman, 2009

The Event of A Thread, a photojourney

Ann Hamilton’s The Event of A thread is commissioned by the Park Avenue Armory in New York City. The work communicates with the building’s architecture, and proposes individual encounters and congregational gatherings. Entering the Armory, I’m amazed by the space itself. The white fabric looks inviting, and the lighting design really emphasizes the beautiful floor. What I personally do not like, are the carrier pigeons in the cages.

 

Then there are paper bags, which are passed around randomly. These bags are talking to us. 

I get to hold a paper bag. All it talks to me is very refined. The tone of the voice is calming. The voice talks about desire, but it is the spiritual desire that encores light. The threads that connect to the fabric from the swings, and the fabric itself create the airy feeling of the space. I want to lie down. I want to get in touch with the magnificent floor. Is the white fabric like the cloud of the digitalized age? Our shared consciousness, which is now transformed by individual threads that are anti- modern. Or are they the same as the virtual world? While listening to the paper bag, I connect the story to the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, whose concept of the virtual now starts occupying my thoughts.  


The paper bags with recorded voices are the ‘impersonalized spirits’ talking in the space. The bag I hold becomes the intimate link between the abstract and the embodied. Next, I get on a swing, and let it move me through the space. Its movements become time. Perhaps this space makes us visit the concept of the non-technological of our lives, like the play and flow would be. Trying to be outside the industrial nonsense. I try to let my body feel the space. We are like in a rock concert, trusting each other collectively, letting ourselves experiment this play together. A collective play.

I have a problem with the pigeons, what are those weird birds in their cages? Are they confirmations of the past, the architectural plans, messages carried in-between? They are silent and obedient, so we observe them.  They are on the table right next to the  ‘ceremonial masters’ who are sitting on their chairs, looking at their dry papers and uttering almost silently. The readers are performing a performance, where the birds are their backdrop, an element to show the human mind. The birds are the messengers waiting for a task to deliver a letter across, a message of a carrier

 We, their audience are worshipers of the mechanics. What is a better place to show it off than in this hall, which is not empty at all. If we thought it was empty, we would claim that false in an instant. The windows themselves, the interior of the hall, and the exterior daylight or nightlight intruding and coloring the space is in a constant motion. Now the light paths are carving the space underneath, front and back of the swings.  


We consider our world as virtual, and this event becomes one like it. My suggestion is that do not try to make your visit only a communal. The white cloud fabric is making a point to be there, to breathe with it, and allow it to stop you or change the patterns of your movements.

I take the stairs up to the balcony. This itself gives me a different meaning, the perspective of randomness of this event. The experience is structured for us to play, and the play has a spiritual or metaphysical dimension. According to the paper bag, it connects us to desire. Desire for life? Movements of the ocean, clouds, vehicles, eternity, the movement of the cells of our bodies?

 

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Anna Zaigraeva rocks her beadwork design


Anna Zaigraeva lives in New York City and works as a Russian to English translator. She designs beadwork jewelry in her spare time.
-Anna, tell us how you started doing these and when? 

– I learned beadwork from my best childhood friend back in Moscow. We were both ten. Since I moved to the States, I’ve mostly just continued to learn by trial and error – I don’t subscribe to magazines or beading clubs or anything like that. So I’m not a hot-shot technique-savvy beader by any stretch of the imagination.
-How long did it take to learn?
– Not very long. They are difficult to make, but not because the stitches are tricky. It just takes a lot of time to pick and choose the right bead. I use high-quality Japanese Miyuki size 15/0 beads, which are pretty uniform compared to other brands, but even they are not uniform enough to simply string them at random and hope the pattern comes out. I have to constantly compare the fringe I’m working on against the previous one, to see if the next bead needs to be thinner or fatter to make the pattern work best. When beads are marketed as being the same size, it just means they have the same width and hole diameter – thickness varies quite a bit. But this is what sets my necklaces apart from others that use patterned fringes: I hand-pick each of the 7000 beads specifically for its place in the necklace, and I also make sure the fringe is not too loose or too taut. So the pattern comes out as close to perfect as possible.
– Are the supplies easy to get?
– There are a lot of bead suppliers out there, so the main problem is price shopping. My best purchases usually come from the discount bins of the Toho Shoji store on 37th street.
– What inspired you to make these necklaces?
– My very first fringe necklace was inspired, as far as I recall, by a coral reef. The design I first chose was symmetric but extremely difficult – the necklace took me probably upwards of forty or fifty hours to finish, and I made a ton of mistakes. I’d like to try making it again at some point – it was different and interesting. Unfortunately, given how long it takes, it’d probably be too expensive to unload afterwards. But that’s all right. I might just end up giving it away to a friend.
 
– So the first one took fifty hours, what about the ones that you made after that?
– After that, I adjusted the pattern slightly, and they now usually take between 20 and 30 hours, depending on how many colors I use. The simplest pattern I make is solid diamonds – four colors and a border. It always takes several hours just to pick out the colors and make a sample. I usually end up trying out several combinations until I find the one that works best.
– Are they heavy?
– No, they’re actually super light. People are always surprised by this, since each necklace has about 7000 beads. But miyuki seed beads are very lightweight. So the necklaces rarely weigh in over 25 grams. And I recently started using even smaller beads – Czech size 15/0 rather than Japanese, so they’ve gotten even lighter. My new House Stark necklace with a direwolf head weighs only 13 grams, and that’s only because it has a rather big toggle clasp.

{ALL the above designs are found inAnna’s Etsy-storehttp://www.etsy.com/shop/AxmxZ. Anna shows here how to make jewelry with cool pictures.}    

Marron Atrium in MoMA shaked with performance

{Artwork hanging on the wall of Marron Atrium during Sarah Michelson’s choreography “Devotion, study #3”}

Atrium is to be violated, says one of the choreographers. There is nothing there, and the museum space with its white walls is so institutional. Does the empty atrium distance the museum’s audience? It is often showing the architectural without art. But it can be the performance space for all kinds of works.

Some sweet day was a three-week (October 15-November 4, 2012) program of dance performances by contemporary choreographers in the MoMA’s Marron Atrium. New York’s Museum of Modern Art was showing works from several mature choreographers, who gained international status, and who experiment with concepts, performance art and contemporary art. American experimental choreographer Dean Moss has worked together with visual artist Laylah Ali. Their work “Voluntaries”, which explores the legacy of John Brown, was performed during the first week. The Judson Theater founding members Steve Paxton and Deborah Hay were invited as pioneers of performance. Presenting for Paxton, who included two of his works from 1960s, in art museums is not a big deal. However, it can be different for contemporary choreographers like Jérôme Bel. The French choreographer described in the October 20 panel discussion how his work “The Show Must Go On(2001) might encounter the museum space. 

The piece has been made for theater so I was very surprised to perform it in the museum. People who come here, come more to see Picasso, and don’t even know that I’m here, so the work is experimental. You have to be generous, as there are people who don’t come to see ‘you’. Then, in the theater the audience is in the darkness, and here you see them.

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{Audience arrives into Marron Atrium half an hour before the performance. The space gets very crowded few minutes after. photos:firstindigo&lifestyle}

Deborah Hay told in the discussion held on November 3rd that for her the audience is the ‘unknown’. With the dancers, she explores the potentiality. The dancers are returning to the body. Hay encourages them to stay with the ‘question’. She finds the language and its linearity fascinating.

– I use the linearity to create non-linearity for the individual who performs my work.

British choreographer Sarah Michelson described in the same conversation, that museum space evoked new ideas. She had to close the main staircase from the audience to keep the space clear. She chose to use security guards, who were used as brief part of the piece. They brought in the dancer into the atrium, as well as escorted her out. This association created humor, and linked the dance performance into other parts of the museum.

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{Dancers Nicole Mannarino and James Tyson performing Sarah Michelson’s “Devotion, Study #3”. The choreographer herself as DJ during the performance, (below)}

http://www.moma.org

 

 

Minna Tervamäki and a new contemporary ballet

Minna Tervamäki, a former principal dancer from the Finnish National Ballet, is heading to a full-fledged freelance career as a choreographer and producer. This dancer étoile discusses about her current work as a multiple entrepreneur in the field of contemporary ballet. Her new premiere together with Compañía Kaari Martin and Kare Länsivuori opens at the Savoy Theatre in Helsinki on October 17, 2012.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: The idea for interviewing you goes back to 2005, when you were rehearsing for your choreographic premiere “Something Else?”. This work was designed for three women dancers yourself including. You received very positive response when you hosted and produced your own evening presenting different choreographers. Would you describe how that influenced your later decisions to pursue your own productions?

Minna: That was a turning moment. I had been sketching to my desk drawer (metaphorically) for years, but I lacked the courage, which was needed to do it. All of a sudden, I just decided to take a full dance evening into production by myself, literally producing it too. Now, after I have more experience I’m only wondering how could I do it then, where did I get the courage after all to take care of the big production without previous experience. Then again, that is what usually happens, we grow together with our task, with the projects. And I had an amazing group of people to work with me who were so helpful. I had also decided that I wanted to express my artistic view to include the lobby of the Opera House. The Alminsali stage cafe and lobby were designed with certain colors and with candles. During intermission there was a saxophone player tuning, and on the walls we had an exhibition of the photography that displayed the performance works. The entire evening was carefully thought through. What I had in mind was to include women dancers and artists, who were strong and charismatic.

I feel that everything I have done; doing choreography, directing and so forth, has so greatly influenced my own dancing, it has been a positive experience. It has helped me to get oriented to other kinds of processes in my life. Right now, I look at the new productions as a whole, not just from my own perspective. Every work has given me ingredients for my own choreography and direction.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: At the moment you are preparing for a new premiere, which opens in Helsinki on October 17. What are you staging for the evening?

Minna: This evening will be my second collaboration with the Finnish flamenco company Compañía Kaari Martin. It is an evening by Tervamäki-Martin. Kaari will be dancing her amazing contemporary flamenco solo “Korppi ja kello” (“The Raven”). I will include first, my solo “SE2”, which is based on the idea that was born in 2005. “SE2” means “Something Else 2”, so the idea has developed further from the piece that I originally created.  What remains the same each time as a main theme of my solo, is that I use my huge and massive skirt structure as part of the dance. The skirt is a design made of an iron and crinoline, and it influences the movement, and how my body appears on the stage.

Janne Mikkilä
{Kaari Martin, Minna Tervamäki and Kare Länsivuori in their new premiere. Photo: Janne Mikkilä}

The main program of our evening is my new duet that I composed for myself and ballet dancer Kare Länsivuori. The duet is called “Koti/Home”. Our three works will premiere together at the Savoy theatre in Helsinki on October 17, 2012. In March 2013, I will premiere a new work called “Yksiö/Studio”, which is a continuation of the theme introduced in “Koti/Home”. It will be performed at the Aleksander Theatre in Helsinki.

The themes in my current projects Koti/Home and Yksiö/Studio are about building structures of our lives.  The works question how can we do this together and alone?  How do we define ourselves in our relationships, and are we alone? What is the role of the community in all of this? The everyday life skips over the sometimes rough and edgy parts.  These issues are also hidden behind the facades. In my mind, our society is too individualistic, and it leaves us alone too often with our struggles and questions.

My colleague Kare Länsivuori and I both want to create works that are touching the lives of our own generation and our age groups. We want to invite new, younger adult audiences to view the contemporary ballet, which has timely and challenging topics, and great storytelling. Then we use diverse venues for these performances.

Koti/Home is investigating an important topic of what it means to be in a relationship, and what constructs the every-day life in it. The duet between Minna Tervamäki and Kare Länsivuori builds up characters, who are mimicking the contemporary life. It also questions how to keep up the facade that we have to built to protect our private lives.  Like each of us today, professionals that have high public pressure lives need to built facades to protect their private life.  When changes happen, what is evident is that one survives when life is not structured around the success only.

“Yksiö/Studio” will handle a theme of modern loneliness, and the division between the private and the public. The work investigates the life in the city, where the neighbors are physically near each other, and yet people are often total strangers to each other. There is an unwritten law that people do not interfere in each others’ lives, and will stay more or less distant. The set-design in the choreography will include two apartments, and the stage will be divided into two spatial areas. There will be a wall between these areas: audience sees this contrast between the two dwellers, two dancers, each in their own apartment. However, the dancers don’t see each other.  Also the dancers will be improvising some of the material, which is adding an comical element for the work.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: I am so thrilled by your collaboration with the Compañía Kaari Martin. Tell me about this collaboration, how do ballet and your dancing meet flamenco and its movements? It sounds truly innovative, and I believe it is not really performed much in the world?

Minna: Yes, Kaari is a representative of a contemporary flamenco. And I am thinking about the contemporary ballet from the similar point of view.  I think that our techniques are based on our traditions very strongly, and we have found our own styles and interpretations inside of these traditions. Personally, I have worked with so many choreographers that their methods have obviously influenced my own movement interpretation. When I started to collaborate with Kaari Martin, I immediately noticed her amazing movement vocabulary that she created with her hands, how she was expressing with her hands. At times, it looked as if she was having the ‘swan hands’; she has a ballet training background, and she is using it. In Spain, for instance, the most well-known flamenco-dancers have a strong ballet training.  When I work together with Kaari, I am probably most impressed by her musicality, the exactness that comes with the musical rhythm, and how she lives in the musical moment. She is definitely as much a musician as she is a dancer.  I wanted to bring this same concept to the ballet world, because we too often focus on the technicality of the dancing. In the end, I believe, that all the dance genres are intermingling and creating fusions in the course of the time, as dancers deploy similar methods and the ways to move.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Since you come from being a well-known principal dancer in a major opera house, the Finnish National Ballet Company, you have a prominent career behind you. Yet, you are facing changes right now, as you are pursuing a free lancer career. I am convinced that the changes you are going through have been coming to you gradually. Where do you see yourself today, and what are the current questions that you have today in your career?

Minna: IT IS EXACTLY HOW YOU SAY IT, THE CHANGE HAS BEEN GRADUAL. IN FACT I AM PROUD OF IT, AS I FEEL I HAVE MYSELF CHOREOGRAPHED THE CHANGE. I STARTED TO CREATE DIFFERENT PRODUCTIONS QUITE EARLY, OR JUST IN TIME. THE EXPERIENCES WITH THE PROJECTS OUTSIDE THE OPERA HOUSE HAVE BEEN SO VALUABLE AND IMPORTANT. ALSO I HAVE COLLABORATED CLOSELY WITH OTHER CHOREOGRAPHERS WITH DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS, WHICH IMMENSELY HELPED ME TO GAIN COURAGE TO WORK WITH MY OWN PROJECTS.

In addition, I started my own firm in 2005, which includes creating dance productions, and lecturing for the business venues, companies and non-profit organizations. I tailor dance performances to these as well, and of course, teach dance courses and workshops. I decided to get training in some relaxation techniques, because I believe that the techniques that work with images and mind are a comprehensive way to take our inner and mental resources into full utilization. Almost by accident, there was suddenly a class called “Minna Tervamäki methods”, which gradually works with our body-placement, making our bodies stronger and more sustainable.

I have tried to be so open as a person that I have basically mixed everything that I have learned during my career. This includes Pilates, ingredients from different yoga traditions, from diverse dance styles,  gyrokinesis and Susan Klein technique. I have learned methods from many physiotherapists, since I have had injuries during my long career. My knowledge includes how to recover from those.  I gained a lot from my training in New York in the past years.

As we all know, the biggest question in our freelancer field is the money. I have so many ideas and creativity, but as everybody in the industry knows, nothing can really happen without thinking seriously how to fund the project. I think that it is more and more the challenge of today; when there are more freelancers and enterpreneurs out there, the money gets tighter too.  What I also reflect sometimes in my mind, is the audience: where does the audience come from? Even when there are so many amazing projects out there, the local audiences here in the greater Helsinki area are still quite limited. We are not a world metropolis like New York.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: What are your plans and dreams for the future?

Minna: I feel that I am living a wonderful time in my life. My body is still in top condition, and I can enjoy dancing. At the same time, I am finally in the phase of my life, when I have a freedom to choose my own working rhythm, meaning when to work, and who should I collaborate with. I can basically structure my own calendar, after 28 years in a big ballet institution, this is absolutely a welcomed change.  At this moment, I am exited to have my first speaking role as well, I will be the narrator in Kenneth Greve’s new ballet “The Snow Queen”.

Esa Kyyrö
{Minna Tervamäki  as Dying Swan, The Finnish National Ballet. Photo: Esa Kyyrö}

Artist webpages:

Minna Tervamäki: (www.minnatervamaki.com/)

Compañía Kaari Martin: (www.companiakaarimartin.fi)

White and Blue Art

 Henrietta Lehtonen’s Coffee Cups, an installation made in 1994 (now collection of Amos Anderson Art Museum), was on view  this summer at Wäinö Aaltonen Museum of Art in Turku, Finland. The idea of creating an installation with ordinary vintage-inspired objects like coffee cups, and mixing delicate cups and plates in different style is smart and beautiful connecting art to peoples’ everyday life.

 

Artist Nozomi Rose: Dai Dai

Nozomi Rose is a rocking Japanese woman artist, who has a lot to say about the women’s role in the fine arts. From traditional Japanese Nihonga to Western artistic techniques, she uses fingernails to add dimension to the paintings. She was trained in painting at Cornell University and earned an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The focus for our discussion is on diversity of artistic practices. We listen to her plans from organizing a conference in New York City, where artists and scholars who have more than one practice get to present their work and share knowledge on how one discipline informs the other. She is publishing an e-book in Japanese on hybrid art teaching and learning for Tatsu-zine Publishing. Her exhibition ‘Dai Dai’ will open in New York at Japanese Embassy on October 2nd. This exhibition will feature her latest paintings of multiple techniques, along with her other works.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: We had a discussion about patriarchal Japanese art-institution, could you explain that a bit?

NR: Haha. Are we really starting out our interview with this question? I was talking about the wife of Ikuo Hirayama, one of the most important Nihonga painters in Japan. Ikuo Hirayama is a Hiroshima-A bomb survivor, served as the President of Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music (a.k.a Geidai) twice, and a synonym for Nihonga, so I would say he is a Japanese version of Jackson Pollock. Well, sort of…Hirayama paints landscape and is known for Silk Road paintings. Everyone in Japanese art knows his name. His wife Michiko Hirayama entered the same university with Ikuo and was the top of their class. Ikuo was the second. Michiko, however, gave up on her painting career when they got married because their best man told her that having two painters in one household would not work. Michiko took the advice and stopped painting, and then, Ikuo truly climbed to the top of the field. It sounds similar to Lee Krasner now I think about it. There is a Japanese idiom “breaking one’s brush,” which typically means “stop writing stories,” but Japanese painters see that the words symbolize a female painter’s marriage with a male painter in Nihonga. Michiko’s episode is an urban folklore among Japanese painters worldwide. I heard this story for the first time when I was studying painting in Paris, France!

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You are using both western means of creating art and Japanese traditional Nihonga in your art, how naturally this came about to you as an artist and when?

NR: Oh, you mean, I use Nihonga paints with acrylic medium on canvas and you see it as unusual? That is a very good point. The fact is that, though, many Japanese painters trained in Nihonga use this method in New York. Also, Nihonga pigments are heavy because their particles are much larger than western pigments, so I can’t really use gum arabic for this, like you do in watercolor. I can’t mix it with oil painting medium because oil paints cure through oxidation, and oxidation changes the colors in Nihonga pigments. These are scientific sides of why and how it came to me. The technical diversity creates the differences in visual effects in western and Japanese paintings. I am curious to see how Nihonga paints react to various western painting mediums in my work. I might try it with oil paints at a later time. I have increasingly been attracted to casual ways of making paintings, so the color change may be okay for certain types of work that I will create in the near future.

You may be asking me about the conceptual side of the work. For me, using Nihonga paints is one way of “citing” Japan in my work, but this is not the main theme I promote in art. Personally, making art has more to do with erasing my own identity as Japanese rather than emphasizing it. I was told at an early stage of my artistic career that I should stay away from quoting Japanese art materials or Japanese visual languages for my own work because they can never make my art original. For example, I can never be unique by copying Ukiyo-e patterns as art because many people have seen those. I have never trained in Nihonga; learning Japanese traditional painting never attracted me. When I was still in Japan, I was studying oil painting; I liked Japanese oil painters such as Ryuzaburo Umehara who studied with Pierre-Auguste Renoir. I enjoyed seeing the world through the lens of Japanese artists influenced by the western aesthetics.

I also liked the works by westerners influenced by the Japanese aesthetics. This included Impressionists and conceptual artists like Daniel Buren, so I went to Paris in 1999. I even went to Monet’s house in Giverny, but you know…he had a strong collection of Japanese woodcut prints and that was the secret! It was a bit unfair that I had to travel all the way from Japan to France only to witness that Claude Monet was a big fan of Japanese art. Daniel Buren, on the other hand, might not be familiar with Japan although his work looks very Japanese, especially the installations with color stripes.

Do you know there was no art in Japan until Ernest Fenollosa came and made it happen with Okakura Tenshin, who established Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and was a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston? Okakura Tenshin was Fenollosa’s assistant and both of them worked for the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. People who say that the Japanese Constitution was written by the United States would probably claim that Americans created Japanese art, but I am not a historian.

So my short answer is that it has always been on my mind. However, inserting something very Japanese directly into my own artwork, which I have long been resisted, came to me only when the Japan Tsunami Earthquake Disaster happened.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: The collaboration between Fenollosa and Tenshin is very moving, and kind of tells us how the world of artists has always been connected.  Do you feel you are mediating between East and West with your art, or do you think that it is stereotypical to make this opposition?

NR: As a visual artist, color is my “language.” I would like color to mediate between east and west in my work, so my answer is yes and I feel there is no way for me to escape this. I am certainly interested in mediating between Japanese and American visual effects and aesthetics. Japanese art has borrowed elements from Indian and Chinese art, so it is the idea of East. I think the question is more about “how” I am doing it. I am watching how my art can mediate both east and west.

(Courtesy of A. Sortie, Inc. Nozomi Rose, ‘Happening’, 2012. oil on canvas. 8″ x 10″)

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: You participated in the Japan’s Earthquake and TsunamI 2011 art-project, could you tell me more about it?

NR: I was an organizer for Silent Art Auction and a curator for Charity Art Exhibition, but they were both student-driven projects. Our students learned a lot by carrying out those charity art events. I was just a tool for them to communicate with the College and Japan. Students who wanted to show and sell their art for their fundraisers, first on campus and then in a Chelsea art gallery, got together, and through myself, they were able to even have a commercial gallery owner donate his space for one day, for free.

We see those activities as our students’ educational experiences as well as healing processes. As a result, affected students successfully survived the crisis and graduated. I just presented on this theme with two other Professors, Kyoko Toyama in College Discovery/Counseling and Tomonori Nagano in Education and Language Acquisition, at the Opening Session at LaGuardia Community College: (For more details, look the website: http://www.lagcc.cuny.edu/Opening-Sessions/Workshops-II/)

Our College President Dr. Gail O. Mellow has been sympathetic about what Japanese students went through due to the unfortunate disaster, so she briefly came to our presentation. I felt her attendance symbolized a kind gesture by the College to the affected population in Japan.

The title of our paper is “Respecting Tradition and Creating a Community: Culturally Appropriate Response to the needs of Japanese Students and the College in the aftermath of Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami.” We previously presented the same research in a session under the same title at the 2011 Asian American Psychological Association Conference in Washington D. C.

Firstindigo&Lifestyle: Then, I am always curious what an artist like you holds for their future. I guess it is about the dreams, what are your dreams and future plans?

NR: Wow, this is an interesting question. My dreams:

1) Sending 1000 young women from the disaster areas of Japan to New York City to study visual arts at LaGuardia Community College. This can be for three months or longer like two years. They do not need to be all Japanese citizens and I believe this is the right way for us to start spending more money on women’s education. This art project is after “Fairytale” by Ai Weiwei. Please let me know if you know anyone who would be interested in funding this project!

2) Creating a visiting East Asia artists and curators’ lecture series where people from various East Asia countries peacefully collaborate. After 3/11, my school suggested me to create an East Asia art course, so I wrote and proposed HUA191: the Art of Eastern Asia. It is now part of the College’s official course offerings. We are currently developing a new East Asia/ Japanese major, in collaboration with Queens College, so the new East Asia art course is becoming a permanent addition to the major. This is a bold step for diversity in the arts of Long Island City, Queens/ NYC. The next logical step would be an art lecture series with the same theme.

Future plans

1) To film “Dai Dai.” The title of my exhibition came from a film project that I started in 2010 entitled, “Orange.” Daidai is a Japanese word for one specific shade of orange, whose sound also connotes the concept of genealogy. The film content was mainly about my personal experience with the color orange, the largest earthquake in Japan, which was the Kobe earthquake before 3/11, and the sarin gas attack on Tokyo Subway system. I think production of a contemporary Japanese folklore was my initial purpose of this project. The tsunami earthquake was literally a life altering experience for me as an artist in part because it forced me to stop writing this script, but I recently decided to re-start it by re-structuring the entire work.

2) Swan Hill Art Biennale. I am helping the Swan Hill Museum of Contemporary Art in Himeji, Japan, to create an art biennale. Himeji literally means “Princess Road.” It currently promotes art made by women and I want to eventually include transgender women. For that, I think the conservative region needs a good woman’s medical center. We want a feminist art “museum-medical center,” so I will start talking to artists and doctors who may be interested in this type of project. This can sound very different from what I have done in the past, but I think the fundraisers for Japan last year were really about helping to raise funds for medical treatments.

3) Interdisciplinary Art Practices Conference in NYC. I am planning to organize a conference where artists and scholars who have more than one practice present their work and discuss how one discipline informs another one in their own practice.

4) E-Publication. I am writing an e-book for Tatsu-zine Publishing (http://tatsu-zine.com/) in Tokyo, Japan. This will probably be about Art-in-NY for non-majors and online art learning tools because this Japanese publisher specializes in e-books for computer programmers.

(Courtesy of A. Sortie, Inc. Nozomi Rose, ‘One Summer Dream’, 2012. oil on unstretched linen)

The artist’s website: http://nozomirose.com/

Information about the upcoming ‘Dai Dai’ -exhibition: Opening Reception: Thursday, Oct. 4th, 2012. 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m, Discussion with the artist: Friday, October 5th, 2012, at 1:00 p.m.

http://www.ny.us.emb-japan.go.jp/en/i2/special_2012-10-02–31_DaiDaiExibition.html Opening

  • (Daidai is a fruit)

Art deco flavor

Art deco movement was much of an international phenomenon, also in Asia. An exhibition of Japanese art deco from 1920 until 1945 was recently in Japan Society, New York City. In this show, it became apparent that in Asia, the cultural influences were often taken from abroad. This tells us that we are all curious about how other cultures’ decorate, eat, live their lives, and even do sports. Japanese got interested in skiing, for example.  Many Japanese have been inspired by the Scandinavian ‘slow life’ and design. This vintage poster from the exhibition Deco Japan, is very inspirational both in color scheme and design.