Interview with Kasumi: Visual Artist And Guggenheim Fellow

Talk about your philosophy of art.

For me, art is a way to solve a problem, describe a condition, illustrate a concept or ask a question by using whatever means or materials best suited to the situation.
What I try to accomplish is, on one level, to mimic human perception: I try to imagine the complex processes of the human brain, synthesizing different methods of expression into a metaphorical language that not only resembles the stream of messages and subconscious connections making up human perception, but also examines the stream’s causes and effects. I do this by taking apart a subject down to the smallest fragments of ideation and structure  – breaking, whittling, melting, chopping… and then gluing these bits of our common culture back together in new formations, using logic and craziness in roughly equal proportions.

2. When did you first realize you wanted to be a artist?

Shortly after birth.

3. Where do your ideas come from?

Some of my work developed out of a need to try to portray our strange times and the issues that trouble me the most: the greed and fear that continue to keep pace with our species’ questionable advances. Some of the tales my works tell – like BREAKDOWN and FREE SPEECH ZONE  are tall, macro tales, urban/suburban pre-apocalyptic lore figured in the warp of media fiction, advertisement, news coverage, and flat-out propaganda, crossing in the greater weave of politics, science, and suffering.

Other work like SOUNDBOARD and THE DROWNING are more abstract: in The Drowning (inspired by the catastrophe in Eastern Japan) I try to portray the impressions running through a man’s mind in the moments before his death: the sensation of time slowing down, of heightened bodily perceptions, and the simultaneous unreeling of an internal cinema of images that create an unconscious narrative of personal history and emotion.

SOUNDBOARD is even more formal and abstract: a study of the emotional content of gesture – an investigation of the potential for meaning that adheres in increments of physical movement, and like a lot of my other work, as much about the sound as is it the image. For this work I used only the percussive sounds of the dancers’ bodies hitting the floor and each other.

4.  How has your upbringing influenced your art?

My father, himself the child of an inventor, was literally a rocket scientist who was instrumental in putting a man on the moon, My mother was an experimental artist who viewed the world as her studio and supply depot, commandeering otherwise banal household object (toys included) and breaking them up to use in an assemblage works. For both of them, nothing was out-of -bounds, anything could be swept into the process of creation and experimentation. This would explain a lot about how my work evolved.
In addition, I studied music extensively since childhood, so it has a huge influence on my work…from the overall structure of the work to understanding phrasing, timing and articulation to individual rhythmic moments.  Ugoku is a good example of this: a musician myself, a performer, reading music, etc., has made it easier for me to do collaborations like the ones I’ve done with The Cleveland Orchestra, The New York Philharmonic, The American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, etc.  Often these works require reading a score and following a conductor.

5.  What do you find most difficult about working in your medium?

Two things: The long, solitary hours spent into the wee hours in front of a computer; and trying to explain to people what I actually do – it defies categorization.

6. Who will enjoy and benefit from this work and how?

People interested in immersing themselves in the surrealistic hyper-world of my mind.


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