Aki Sasamoto writes in about her gravity-defying performance at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale
A SMALL sentence emerges from my repetitive life activities, and I spit it out into the world in the form of art.
From there, it is not my daily life, but the artwork that interacts with the world’s occurrences, to inherit its own significance. Sometimes, the work can absorb a meaning far from what I imagined. I welcome those moments, when it aligns with the unknown that I seem to have been seeking.
In the case of the work I proposed for the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, my initial idea was embedded in my situation in New York City.
I live in a basement apartment, work in a basement studio, and make installations with negative spaces that I fit my body into. When I proposed the work random memo random, my inspiration was close to my environment.
In the form of a sentence, it was still small, without specificity: Make a hole and fluctuate my head around the horizon to examine whether the perspectives differ above ground and underground.
Hole wide world
The site visit was in June last year. The Biennale staff was ahead of me, and they seemed to know the chemical reactions necessary between my small head and the land! I ate beautiful fruits from the earth, saw unfamiliar culinary activities on the streets, and felt the land by the vast body of water.
Sensory experiences were converging in me, while learning about how people and cultures have passed through this place in history.
Then I visited the TKM Warehouse, Mattancherry. This space can accommodate an abstract headspace, perhaps because it has stored transient objects, or its character is such to begin with. Suddenly, the small sentence blew up to a floating graph that belongs to neither my home, or in Kochi. This is how I ended up with a 7-foot deep hole with a trampoline at its bottom.
The kick, for me, is how then this abstract graph started to inspire me as a jumping-off point (no joke). A few weeks after the demonetisation drive, I returned to Kochi to install the work. I witnessed how calm people were in the midst of all the chaos.
A woman I met went way out of her way to explain to me how I may get certain tasks done without cash. On-site staff members, enthusiastic and hardworking, would engage in geeky conversations with me to exchange each other’s foreign logic of construction.
People can deal with unusual situations. It felt coincidental that I had the trampoline, as all my human interactions pointed me to think about how resilient people are.
I may appear absurd to be surprised by my own work, but it is true that the word ‘elasticity’ landed on my mind only after I jumped into the hole at TKM Warehouse. I was uttering words and thoughts when I started to talk during the improvised performances.
The more I jumped on the trampoline in the hole, the more connections were made between the graph of elasticity and my experience in the land of Kerala.
Discoveries on the spur of the moment can turn corny, but I did not care. All I had to do was methodically pull out these new points of significance through my performance. Extraordinary news such as of demonetisation may break out any day, while people may be constant in the end.
The news and people’s lives have constant negotiations. This friction between the world and people, and the world and artwork as its extension, is the type of coincidence that makes cultural interactions worthwhile. It is surprising and refreshing to insert, observe, and react to the reactions between cultures (you and me), and between history and graph (world and artwork).
Ultimately, I jotted down the chain of thoughts about elasticity as a drawing on the wall.