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Interview with Yuhei SAITO (page 2/3)
Written by Kae ISHII   
Published: December 24 2010

Year of Encounters 1 "Night TV"

Saito: The year 2007 was a year of encounters for me. First of all, I met Takahiro Hirama in March.

Takahiro Hirama is the exhibiter of " The 1st Retrospective exhibition of Takahiro Hirama" which was organized by Saito. Although Hirama's activities are mainly centered around music, he also creates conceptual cross genre works of art such as pictures and photographs.

Saito: Hirama held a solo exhibition titled "Sore-wo-oou jizoku (Continuation that covers it)" at Kaoriza cafe (a cafe where you can listen to classical music) in Okubo. I talked with him for the first time when I went there to see his exhibition. We talked about "zen-kei" exhibition as Hirama-san also liked Otake-san. Also I had my works with me that time so I showed them to him. He told me he sensed that he and I had something in common, and said he wanted to do something together. So we formed a unit called "Night TV" by the two of us next month.

-- That is fast. "Night TV" sounds very curious to me. Does it have any origins?

Saito: We gathered together at Hirama house and talked about our group name. We kind of plucked whatever words out of thin air, and we chose "night" and "TV" out of those and put them together.

-- I understand that "Night TV" has a female member called Asa-san?

Saito: Asa-chan wasn't a member at that time. We did an exhibition on a wall behind coin operated lockers in Koenji right after we decided on our group name. She happened to be there so we included her. Asa-chan is an editor but she also creates some works of art. She and I were talking about a possibility of using the wall behind the coin operated lockers. From the beginning, Hirama and I were exchanging each other's works. We had an agreement to allow modifying and exhibiting each other's works, any way we wanted. So I thought I would do an exhibition using the materials I got from Hirata. And then I put the works on the wall behind the coin operated lockers, and called Hirama on the phone and told him, "Hey, Night TV is having its first exhibition right now!" He came later. He was very impressed with what he saw and said, "Hey, this is pretty awesome, isn't it?" (laugh) Night TV's activities started like that in April 2007. We mainly did pretty guerilla-ish exhibitions on streets. We took some Purikura (tiny photo stickers made by a Purikura photo machine) with the three of us after a meeting. The photos inspired Hirama to create his Purikura works later(*4).

fig. 4  View from the exhibition "Dump Site Action" (2007)

fig. 5  View from the exhibition "Dump Site Action" (2007)

fig. 6  Flier of "BOOKMARKS" (2009)

-- I got to know the Night TV activities from Hirama-san's private exhibition in August. I was interested in the exhibits at a dump.

Saito: The Dump exhibition (officially called "Dump Site Action" held in June 2007) is Night TV's representative work so far. People often ask me, "Are you the one who did the Dump exhibition?" A Dump exhibition was like we exhibited (left) our works at dumps on street corners, and eventually they were taken away as garbage (see figure 4 and 5). We announced the exhibit (dump) locations by flyers before the exhibition.

-- What are the other activities?

Saito: We did an Artist In Residence(*5) at a comic cafe.

-- Do you mean at a comic cafe?

Saito: It is self-proclaimed though ("Urban Camp Program" March 2008). Comic cafes usually have a 6 hour pack right? So we experimented to see how many works we could make in that 6 hours using whatever material we could find there. I photo copied comics and collaged them. Asa-chan was doing pretty much the same. Hirama registered to all kinds of free mail providers in one night, printed out the registration confirmation mails and made them into his work. We exhibited the works we created in coin operated lockers near there the next day.

We also exhibited at a BOOK OFF (used book store) ("BOOKMARKS" December 2009). We exhibited by slipping our collages in books in the store. We gave some advance notices by flyers (see figure 6). We announced like "The 30th of Osama Bunko" or "The 50th of Kyotaro Nishimura". Although we were supposed to announce 5 locations each, Hirama announced only one after all. He assumed the BOOK OFF itself as one book and slipped his work between the automatic door.

-- It only falls, doesn't it?

Saito: It does.

-- The store staff never imagined that there was an exhibition going at their store. Did you have many visitors?

Saito: We handed out many flyers on the day so we could not follow the third party at all (laugh). Takeshi Naojima, Satoshi Kanda and Yusuke Asai came to see the exhibition. They gave us nice compliments. The once-a-month experiences I had in 2006 really helped me for Night TV activities.

-- It is interesting that Hirama-san's style is different from Saito-san's.

Saito: You are right. He was making a lot of works when I met Hirama-san. As a creator myself, I was very impressed at first when I found the volume of works he created was so huge. But then I realized that the characteristics of his expression was not in volume. For instance, talking about drawing, I draw pretty fast but Hirama draws like 200 while I draw 10. His motivation of creation and mine are totally different. He is not thinking of drawing good drawings. I was very surprised when I discovered his attitude.

-- His motto of never trying to paint good pictures is an important element found in all of Hirama's works. As to drawings, I heard from him one time, "Drawing too many pictures can be problematic. If I get too used to drawing, I can easily draw natural lines." So I thought he was making a unique effort.

Saito: He is only moving his hand. It can't be more than that. Hirama doesn't care about the quality of his works. He is a kind of artist who is driven to create when he works based on a unique algorithm he set up. He can create a lot once he finds a method. Opportunities to find methods are lurking everywhere so he can express through whatever mediums (he chooses). It can be music, pictures, or writing. He gets more passionate when there is a constraint, like the properties of a medium, or something that can be done only in certain places. For example, Purikura was Asa-chan's idea at first but Hirama got so amused in using its stamp features and decoration tools. That's how we started creating our Purikura works.

-- I found it very interesting that even people's faces were covered by decorations in Hirama-san's Purikura works. His interest is centered around the decoration tools.

Saito: Hirama is good at ignoring ordinary view points, and is good at turning it on and off based on his own setup. I was startled by him several times myself after I met him.

Year of Encounters 2 "Kikimimi"

-- You organized "Kikimimi" with Yusuke Asai in the same year you organized "Night TV" in 2007.

Saito: I met Yusuke Asai once in the next month after I met Hirama. I think he didn't have much interest in me at that time. I met him again in July that year in Sakurajima, and then we got to know each other well.

After the Dump exhibition, I participated in "SA・KURA・JIMA Project 2007" which was a project to economically develop the area run by an incorporated nonprofit organization. I stayed at a place formerly used as an inn called "Yamashita ke" in Sakurajima for a month and a half and made my works there. Convenient stores are located way far from the place. The kind of grasses grow there are totally different. The working environment there was totally different from my usual working environment. One time, somebody went to a convenience store and got some pocky chocolates. We were so excited and said, "Hey man that's pocky!", or "Man, This is so good!" We would have screamed, "Meats!!" when there were some meats. As I was in that environment, I could focus on creating works everyday. They let me use a large space in the kitchen. It was good as I wanted to make large works. I created three diminutional works using a broken refrigerator and dishes as well as pictures.

Asai-san came after I created much of my works. He saw them and told me I did a good job. They must have given him some good impressions. I met Ichiro Endo while I was in Sakurajima. Ichiro-san frequently asks me to participate in his group exhibitions and other stuff now. We formed a group "NATURAL HI!" with a central focus on Ichiro-san.

Yusuke Asai paints people and animals as his main motif. He is making presentations at museums and public spaces both domestically and abroad. Ichiro Endo is known by the handle "A Future Artist". He is very active in working on performance arts and large scale art projects. This acquaintance made Saito further broaden his area of activities.

Saito: I did not talk with Asai-san about each others' works when we were there (in Sakurajima). He came to me to see my works, but he is not a very talkative person so….. Environmentally there was nothing else to do but create works, so we could easily see who was the hardest worker. I watched Asai-san painting from the morning ‘til dawn. That made me push more. We kind of visited each other some times and checked each others' progress. That way our relationship was deepened without much talk.

fig. 7  View from the live-painting event "GEISAI MUSEUM 2" (2008); (left) Asai, (right) Saito.

fig. 8  View from the exhibition "Let This Flower Bloom" (2008)

After the Sakurajima stay, Asai-san and I started to have live-paint events together when we both were available. So we thought we should have a group name for us. We came up with the name "Kikimimi" when I participated in "全員展!!!!!!!!". It was organized by Ichiro-san, and was held at "MAGIC ROOM?" in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa in June 2008. It has no meaning. I just made it ours of my feeling. I had a live-paint event in a related event to my private exhibition "23:59". I also had a live-paint when I participated in "GEISAI MUSEUM 2" as the group "NATURAL HI!" (see figure 7).

-- You have had a live-paint "Paperphone・Live" at ARATANIURANO in Ginza this summer, haven't you?

Yes I have. That was a related event to Asai-san's private exhibition " Plant and Banquet". I have participated in a stay-and-create project called "Let This Flower Bloom" in Osaka. Asai-san invited me to the project (see figure 8). They used a former factory site to exhibit. I think there I might have been most productive of all of my stay-and-create experiences ever. We had "Kikimimi Picnic" at Zenpukuji Park in April this year. We mixed the event with our cherry blossom viewing. Asai-san and I drew pictures on the vinyl sheets wriggling through people. It was a cold day, so we painted pictures on disposable body warmers and gave them away.

Asai-san paints pictures using mud and masking tapes. He erases everything after the exhibition. He removes the masking tapes too. He paints on paper for some exhibitions when it is more appropriate, but his works usually won't remain most of the time. His style is very unique in that sense, I think. I want my works to remain after exhibits. I am interested in archiving my works, so I think I am the exact opposite to Asai-san. You know, Asai-san's mural paintings he drew for "Aichi Triennale 2010" were so great. He passionately drew on walls, ceilings and all over rooms. But they were simply cleaned up and gone after the exhibition. But he is content about how his paintings end up. I tend to think it is very wasteful so I will not be able to act like him.

I am thinking of archiving my works and editing them while I am making them. But Asai-san finds a value in somewhere else rather than in archiving his works. The interesting point of "Kikimimi" is that these two guys having totally opposite approaches to the completed works, work head-on with each other with momentum or a primitive urge to paint something.

Two private exhibitions and a concert at a park

fig. 9  Flier of "23:59" (2008)

fig. 10  View from the exhibition "Yamabiko (2LP)" (2010)

fig. 11  "Roretsu (articulation)" (2008-2010)
Poster paint, jesso, and cassette tape and others

-- You mentioned a little about it in your talk about "Kikimimi". You have had a private exhibition "23:59" in January 2008.

Saito: I wanted to show the works I created by then at "23:59", with a bang. I titled it to mean it was just before zero.

-- I liked the exhibition flyer (see figure 9).

Saito: Thank you. I rented an open property in Koenji shopping promenade. I could do something unique there which I could not do at usual galleries,. Like having a drinking session over a kotatsu (small table with an electric heater underneath and covered by a quilt). I met Yuu Ito and Kayoko Yuuki of island that time. Many people came and I met a lot of people. Seems like people found it interesting to have an exhibition at an open property. It is important to enrich exhibits but also selecting a good location and interesting packaging will make exhibition projects more rewarding. I would like to continue to work as hard as I can to create good works of art while I would also think of the total packaging.

-- Your next private exhibition was "Yamabiko (2LP)" at 20202 in Shibuya in February this year (see figure 10 and 11).

Saito: The size of the exhibition space in 20202 was about the size of two apartment rooms. Although they don't have a partition now, they used to have a partition in the room. So it was like two separate spaces. The place was owned by Juka Izusawa and Yukari Fujimoto. Izusawa-san used to run a gallery named appeal, and Fujimoto-san used to run another named OFF SITE. I imaged music in both galleries so I decided to do it in the motif of music. I regarded each partition panel as a vinyl LP. I created all of my works in the motif of music. And each work represented a piece of music. I put a door to enter the LP as I likened the door to a record jacket. So viewers can come into the LP space through the door. Opening the door pulls a string attached to it, and that pull brings up a small picture which hits the tambourine on the ceiling and clatters. That sound is the introduction. Kids liked this gismo a lot. I also made a silent part. Like, there is a silent part before the bonus track in records. It represents that. That is the zone where I exhibited the works made in non-music motif.

-- It is very thematic.

Saito: My presentations are getting sophisticated. I didn't have any concepts before. I used to stuff my works just to give out my energy anyway. "23:59" was like that. I think I have changed after my participation to the group exhibition "UNLIMITED" held at APLUS in Minami-senju in March 2009. The more I stuff my works, the more they swell up. But then I started to think I wanted to switch the way I see it. I wanted to think from the viewers' view point, while I still give out my energy. Since it wasn't easy for viewers to understand the concept of the exhibition like "Yamabiko (2LP)", I wrote a commentary on flyers and hung them from the ceiling as liner notes. If they don't want to read it, they don't have to.

-- In the context of sound, you participated in "The 16th Park Concert" during this exhibition.

Saito: I participated in "Park Concert"(*6) several times from the first one. It is a concert held in a park somewhere. It is staged by Takeshi Naojima. I got to talk with Naojima-san for the first time through the relationship with Hirama in March 2008. He invited me to the first "Park Concert" in December that year. That was held in Heiwa-no-mori Park in Nakano. I can't play any instruments so I was kind of baffled when he told me do something live. Anyway, I did an improvised recitation by flipping my sketchbook at that time.

From the experiences at Park Concert, I found that I could use pictures as an instrument. I have done several exhibitions but I hardly had a chance to show my sketchbooks. So they pile up. I don't like to break them up and pin separate pages. I like a sketchbook bunched and I feel uncomfortable tearing it down. It is valuable as I get to see the irregularities of the states (of the paintings) from the page order. I know some people publish a book of their good works by printing and bounding them. But I wanted to use it differently. I finally found that I could use it live. At "The 16th Park Concert", I played a live painting. I hooked a line from a tree, tied a brush to the line, and I drew on a paper underneath by moving the line with my foot.

-- There are more art performance-ish plays in "Park Concert" rather than musical performances, aren't there? I liked Saito-san's performance titled "Delivery" at the 8th concert that I saw on YouTube. You regarded vending machines as front doors, knocked on each and said, "Hello, delivery service!"(*7)

Saito: That was the one I did in Chiba. There are performances having no relationship with pictures. After I started participating at "Park Concert", I have more chances to do live art performances. For instance, I created a paper sumo (children's game played with paper cutouts) and moved the paper sumo wrestlers by live bass sounds, or I created a collage using the flyers and used it for my performance at the concert advertised in the flyers.

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You can see Hirama's Purikura works at http://d.hatena.ne.jp/recorded/20101121.

"Artist In Residence" is a public project to invite artists to a certain location for a definite period and help them to create their works.

Please refer to http://parkconcert.blogspot.com/ for the record of Park Concerts.

You can view Yuhei Saito's live "Delivery" at The 8th Park Concert is available at YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzN7LONWQKc.

Last Updated on October 13 2015

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