Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Conversation with Kanako Sasaki

Backyard and Morning, from Wanderlust, © Kanako Sasaki

My work explore my own imaginative world that is influenced from various connections such as traditional Japanese novels and Ukiyo-e paintings or my childhood memories, which inspire me to composite my own Ukiyo—the floating world. -Kanako Sasaki, from Wanderlust.

Kanako Sasaki was an artist in residence at Light Work during my sophomore year at Syracuse. The child-like dreamy quality of her images immediately drawn me to her photography. Also, the combination of childlike nostalgia with her intense interest in cultural history create surreal photographs. I'm so happy Kanako agreed to participate in this conversation.

Nymphoto: Tell us a little about yourself.

Kanako Sasaki: I grew up in Northern Japan. I decided to study journalism in the US, when I was 17. So, I went to undergraduate in US, upstate NY and received BA in Journalism.
I didn't start photography until the year 2000 or so. I realized that the real way to communicate would be in a free form, not through the mass media.
This is why I started to make images.
I have been lucky enough that I managed to visit different cities to do my project such as Bolivia, Eastern Europe, and so on. I like people and want to understand how people are in any condition of their living. This is why I started to do photography, not to forget how I felt and what I saw.

Uniform and Outcast, from Wanderlust, © Kanako Sasaki

NP: How did you discover photography?

KS: I took my first photo class by curiosity. My teacher showed us some slides including Cindy Sherman. I think her work gave me inspiration and opened up my world to photo.

Yellow Leotard, from Wanderlust, © Kanako Sasaki

As a contemporary Japanese, we hardly talk about the past, because of the generation changes and the swell of the consumerism, which have been fulfilled their desires and having the comfortable lives. I feel urgent to access our own true past so that we can prepare for the future. -Kanako Sasaki, from Walking in the Jungle

NP: Where do you find inspiration?

KS: My memories and imagination are influenced from nature, places, and novels that I've read in the past. One of my favorite authors is Soseki Natsume's novels.

Formally, I look a lot of paintings. I do care to see more than just photography.

I love film and many have inspired me. French, Hong Kong, and Japanese films have taught me the importance of small details, story telling, and how to narrate. Some examples are Jean Luc Godard's "Picnic," Wong Kar Wai's "Chungking Express," and films by Kurosawa Akira.

The act of play and humor is very important in order to reach my audience. I guess this is how I see and how I survive. At the same time, I don't want to forget my memories and sensitivities from my childhood in Japan. After traveling around, this is my defense mechanism in a way... perhaps and the way of communicating people.
I believe we are not so different from each other despite our cultures or any beliefs.

Bathing and Swing Club, from Wanderlust, © Kanako Sasaki

NP: How did your project "Wanderlust" come about?

KS: During "Wanderlust", I was seeking for my origin and also facing the question of "what is reality." Reality became imagination and the two merged. Inspired mainly from traditional Japanese novels and love stories, Ukiyo-e paintings, and my own childhood memories. Also, in order to communicate via images, I want to focus on some universal feelings, such as naiveness and innocence.

I have more been interested in creating a surreal and eccentric mood to express a dream like world than showing the womanhoods. Furthermore, I am interested in the idea of bipolar, such as innocence and aggression, loneliness and playfulness to express the extreme stage of emotion that are on the verge of formation or even explosion. Therefore, there are multiple personalities underneath in girls, which push “self” into the images. It is almost not about the issue of being a girl or living in the different culture, but just as human beings to survive in the reality, which contemplate with the idea such as loss, escape, isolation, and self-distraction in the modern life. -Kanako Sasaki, from Wanderlust

Anne Frank's Signal, Departure, and Site of Russian Army's Departure to Attack Japan 103 Years Ago, from Walking in the Jungle, © Kanako Sasaki

NP: What were some of the ideas in "Walking in the Jungle"?

KS: In 2006 I did a residency in Vienna, Austria. That was my first time living in Europe and was my first time facing so much history in the country. When I was living in London last year, I worked on "Walking in the Jungle." It was my reaction to the history in Europe, especially the history shared with Japan in the Japanese-Russian War in 1904.
I tried to understand the history, especially since my generation can't experience living in the past, and is away from the history. I thought it is very important to understand and remember the history.
In Europe, history surrounds people's lives, especially from buildings. Last year, I was mainly interested in war in history. I thought about the people who had to go through it, for example, Anne Frank.
The project was about my naive interpretation and my link of history so that I don't forget.

Termination and Time Escape, from Walking in the Jungle, © Kanako Sasaki

NP: What's next?

KS: I am working on two different projects, "Bolivia/Okinawa" a project about the immigration of Japanese people to Bolivia after World War II.

I have started the project in Okinawa village (Colonial Okinawa) in Bolivia since last year, connecting the link and gap between the people in Okinawa (Japanese Okinawans) and the people who immigrated to Bolivia after the WWII. I use visual pieces such as video, film and photographs to express their stories.

I'm also working on another project about Iceland, titled "Drifted". In both projects, I began utilizing video and photography. I think it's a good beginning.

NP: Thank you very much!

The Depth, from Walking in the Jungle, © Kanako Sasaki
I struggle, struggle not to forget, what I have felt or saw, etc. In order to do so, I make my own work and create fantastic images or space to remind the viewers to evoke the forgotten emotions and memories. -Kanako Sasaki, from Walking in the Jungle

Currently, Kanako is participating in two solo shows in Japan, both featuring brand new work from her current projects.

Shiseido Gallery
"Okinawan Ark"
Now through March 1, 2009
Ginza Shiseido Building, basement floor
Ginza 8-8-3, Chou-ku, Tokyo

MA2 Gallery
Now through March 14, 2009
3-3-8 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan

Also to see more of her work, head to


nina corvallo said...

thank you Jane & Kanako-- I am enchanted by this work.

sexy said...
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