Xⁿ Talk | 曾根裕 Yutaka Sone



 

The interview was conducted in Antwerp in June 2017 and was originally written for the publication of the exhibition “Yutaka Sone: Obsidian” at the Sifang Art Museum, Nanjing, China. The full text about the artist and this exhibition will be published and distributed by the Sifang Art Museum.


"The creation of art is always based on very personal experiences. Once the artwork is placed in a special context, it will cause reflections among viewers, become a personal experience for others, and eventually, form a chain. This is the case with Yutaka Sone's projects, as he continues to create "Perfect Moment" around the world, spreading out like ripples from small to large and touching more people."


-- From Hiromi Ohashi, “Yutaka Sone-Perfect Moment”



Yutaka Sone's work at Sifang Art Museum, photo by Xⁿ Office




| Yutaka Sone, Antwerp


Xⁿ: You describe yourself as one of the few true "wanderers" of our time. Why do you think so?


Sone: Yes, it’s because I don’t just travel from one place to another, but I also immerse myself in the local culture and life. My world has boundless borders.

I have studios in four places, one in California, United States, where my home is. In Michoacán, Mexico, I found that people there make straw objects in a very traditional way, so I started working with them to make straw palm trees with local materials and old crafts. A decade ago, I started working with a sculpture workshop in Chongwu, Fujian, to make marble sculptures. And in the last year, I set up a new studio in Antwerp, Belgium. So again, It's a new collaboration, a new way of working.



Yutaka Sone's Michoacán Studio in Mexico ©Yutaka Sone

Xⁿ: Did travel, differences and miscommunications give you the most important source of inspiration?


Sone: Oh, absolutely! I often travel around while I'm thinking hard, and I often feel liberated! My thoughts, my creations are free!

I love " miscommunications ". This is how I have been living for so many years. I am always facing new cultures, new places, and new differences. I don't speak their languages. When Chongwu's workshop was first set up, I didn't know a word of Chinese, but I would ask them to touch my model, to feel its shape, and they could understand. Touch conveys so much more than words can and so much deeper!

(Many years later, somehow, I suddenly can speak Chinese one day! But just a little bit!)



Yutaka Sone working with his Mexican and Chinese teams ©Yutaka Sone



Xⁿ: Is that why you brought together two teams from Mexico and China who don't speak the same language to work together in your solo show in Antwerp earlier this year? To allow them to deepen their connection through misunderstanding?


Sone: Yeah! It was the first time I brought them together. The Mexicans were in one room making straw palm trees, and the Chinese were in the next room, polishing a piece of marble modelled on my Mexican studio. The Mexican people were familiar with the house they were working in and often went there to give pointers. Once, the Mexicans tried to tell the Chinese that there were windows on this wall, but the Chinese could not understand. Therefore, the Mexicans pointed anxiously to the floor-to-ceiling windows of the gallery space and shouted, “windows, windows.” However, the Chinese people thought they were referring to something outside of the window, so the Chinese rushed to the window altogether, shaded their eyes with their hands, and gazed out the window.

So this is my "international studio", a large, impossible-to-communicate international team.



Yutaka Sone's exhibition in Belgium / Working in process ©Yutaka Sone



Sculptures made by the Chinese workers with the help of the Mexican worker ©Yutaka Sone



Yutaka Sone: Obsidian, Exhibition View at the Sifang Art Museum, photo by Xⁿ Office



Xⁿ: This time, the exhibition at Sifang Art Museum focuses on "Obsidian". Why is that?


Sone: The material, obsidian, is a crystal produced by a volcanic eruption where the magma cools down rapidly. It can be found all over the world, some with shallow veins and some with deep ones. The Imperio Azteca became the number one empire in Mexico because of its rich obsidian deposits. The material is sharp and easy to mutate and was made into mirrors, knives, ceremonial objects, etc. Claude Lévi-Strauss said that obsidian was the first tool of the Stone Age. Imagine prehistoric people examining a natural stone, understanding its peculiarities and its inner logic, and then utilising it. This is exactly the same way that mankind is developing technology to this day.

Turning a material into endless possibilities, prehistoric humans’ relationship with obsidian is our relationship with iPhone today. Isn’t obsidian the origin of industry and technology?



Yutaka Sone: Obsidian, Exhibition View at the Sifang Art Museum, photo by Xⁿ Office



Xⁿ: You have mentioned an important book, “The Obsidian Skull” by Andre Marleaux. In the book, the author points out that obsidian is also a major source of inspiration for Picasso.


Sone: I had a hunch since a while ago. Obsidian, Obsidian. But I put the thought aside. One day, they all came back to my mind! Ah! Obsidian! Malraux! Picasso! It's so important!

Malraux was the former French Minister of Culture who was invited to write a biography of Picasso. He found an obsidian skull in Picasso's collection. Why is there an obsidian skull in Picasso’s collection? Before reaching Cubism, the first thing Picasso must have done was to think back in time. He studied African wood carving and primitive art, going back hundreds of thousands of years. He relied on obsidian to go back millions of years. Most importantly, artists from a hundred years ago, artists from decades ago, and artists today are all looking back toward the same point in time. Art museum is the space that helps me to contemplate across time, where all my thoughts are gathered.




Yutaka Sone: Obsidian, Exhibition View at the Sifang Art Museum, photo by Xⁿ Office







Xⁿ: In addition to the Obsidian series, you also created, for this exhibition, the Wood Logs series, the Snowballs series, the large palm tree works and so on. However, there is no picture of any of these works on the exhibition poster, but only a cute monkey playing with a snowball. How does it relate to obsidian?


Sone: We keep saying that art started with the murals in the Grotte de Lascaux, but what if art wasn't born out of ritual or function but purposeless play? Like making snowballs? What if monkeys learned to squeeze snow into balls before humans did? Would that mean that art originated before humans were there? Or, is the nature of art very purposeless for animals other than humans? Just simply make a cold round ball with the accessible material and play around with it. The ball didn’t even last long before it melted. The state of not seeking any result is even earlier than what Strauss called “bricolage”.

“Obsidian” and “Snowball” are both in search of the origin of origins. Obsidian is the origin of industry, and snowball is the origin of art.



Yutaka Sone, Snowball, photo by Xⁿ Office



Yutaka Sone, Pyramid Before Discovery, photo by Xⁿ Office



Xⁿ: It takes you a long time to polish each of your sculptures. Some of them even took ten years, but they are not created in a random combination like “bricolage”. However, the “Pyramid Before Discovery” seems to be an assemblage of found objects.


Sone: Ah yes! I put stuff that I collected from various places in this box, and make it into the shape of a mountain. The lid was painted with a starry night. This is the night before the Maya pyramids were discovered. The pyramids were still covered by greens, nothing had changed, and everything remained tranquil.

The right way to view this work should be to open the box in a slit, stealthily take a look at the night scene, then close the lid and sleep right next to it.

(Sone said so and closed the case, then lay down contentedly on the floor.)


 

Yutaka Sone

Born in Shizuoka, Japan in 1965

Currently working and living in Los Angeles, U.S.A.



 


这篇对谈采访于2017年6月安特卫普,原是为四方当代美术馆《曾根裕:黑曜石》展览出版物撰写的文章收集材料。关于艺术家及本次展览的阐述全文将由四方当代美术馆刊登、发布。


"艺术创作总是基于非常私人的经历....一旦被置于特殊的场景,就会引起观看者的反应,成为他人的个人体验,形成链条。曾根裕的项目就是如此,他不断在世界各地创造“美好的事件“,牵动更多的人,如同涟漪一般由小及大的扩散开去。"

——摘自Hiromi Ohashi,《曾根裕-Perfect Moment》



| 曾根裕,安特卫普



Xⁿ:你说自己是当代少有的真正的“流浪者”。


Sone: 是的,因为我不仅仅从一地到另一地旅行,我还让自己浸入本地的文化和生活。我的世界有无边的疆界。

我在四个地方有工作室,美国加州,我的家在那里;在墨西哥米乔坎,我发现那里的人用一种非常传统的方式制作草编物,所以我开始和他们一起用本地材料、老手艺做草编棕榈树;十多年前我开始和福建崇武的一家雕塑工坊合作,做大理石雕塑;最近一年我在比利时安特卫普建立了新的工作室,又是新的合作,新的工作方式。




Xⁿ:旅行、差异和误解是否给予了你最重要的养分?


Sone:噢,当然!我一面使劲地思考一面到处旅行,这时候我常觉得,啊!我是自由的!我的思想,我的创作都是自由的!

我太热爱“误解”了!这是我这么多年来赖以生存的方式,我永远都在面对新的文化,新的地域,新的不同。我不会说他们的语言——崇武的工坊刚刚建立的时候,我一句中文也不会,但是我会让他们来摸摸看我的模型,感受它的形状,他们就明白了。触摸比语言所能传达的信息丰富多了!深入多了!

(许多年过去后,不知道为什么我有一天突然就会说中文了!不过只是一点点!)




Xⁿ:这也是为什么你在今年年初的安特卫普个展中,将墨西哥和中国两个语言完全不通的团队聚集在一起工作吗?让他们通过误解,加深联结?


Sone:对啊!这是我第一次将他们聚在一起。墨西哥人们在一个房间做草编棕榈树,中国人们在隔壁房间,以墨西哥工作室的房子为原型,打磨一块大理石。墨西哥人们熟悉自己工作的屋子,时常跑过去指点。有一次,墨西哥人想告诉中国人这面墙上有窗户,中国人不明白,于是墨西哥人焦急地指向展厅的落地窗,大喊“窗户、窗户”。结果,中国人们以为他指的是窗户外边,呼啦一下全跑到窗前,手搭凉棚认真的遥望窗外。

这就是我的“国际工作室”,一个超大的、无法交流的国际团队。




Xⁿ:这次在四方当代美术馆的展览,是以“黑曜石”为核心,为什么?


Sone:黑曜石这种材料是火山喷发,岩浆快速冷却后产生的晶体。全世界各地都有,有的矿脉浅,有的深。阿兹台克王国成为墨西哥的头号帝国就是因为他们有丰富的黑曜石脉藏。这种材料锋利又便于改造,被做成了镜子、刀、礼器等等。列维·施特劳斯说,黑曜石是石器时代的第一件工具。想想看,史前人类端详一块自然石,理解它的特殊性,它的内在逻辑,然后延展它,这就是人类到今天还在沿用的科技研发方式啊!

把一种材料变成许多种可能性,史前人类与黑曜石的关系就是今天我们和Iphone的关系!黑曜石难道不就是工业、科技的最初起源吗!




Xⁿ:你曾说起一本重要的书,马尔罗(Andre Marleaux)的《黑曜石头骨》,书中提到黑曜石也是启发毕加索的重要来源。


Sone:我早就有了一种直觉,黑曜石、黑曜石,但是我把这个念头搁在了一边。突然有一天我想起来了!啊!黑曜石!马尔罗!毕加索!太重要了!

马尔罗是曾经的法国文化部长,他受邀给毕加索写传记,发现毕加索的收藏里有一件黑曜石头骨,为什么呢?毕加索在思考立体主义之前,首先做的一定是往前想,往回想。他研究非洲木雕,研究原始艺术,往几万年,几十万年前追溯,他也依靠黑曜石往几百万年前追溯。最重要的是,一百年前的艺术家,几十年前的艺术家和今天的艺术家都在向同一个时间点回望。

美术馆,就是帮助我跨越时间进行深思的空间,我的思考都汇集在这里。




Xⁿ:这次展览除了黑曜石系列,你还创作了圆木系列,雪球系列,大型的棕榈树作品等等。而展览的海报上却没有作品图片,只有一只可爱的猴子玩着雪球,这与黑曜石有什么关联?


Sone:我们一直说艺术是从拉斯科洞穴里的壁画开始的,但是万一艺术不是从仪式,不是从功能开始,而是从无意义的玩乐开始的呢?比如捏雪球?那会不会猴子比人先学会捏雪球呢?艺术岂不是起源自人以前,或者人以外,艺术的本质岂不是极其无目的?只是随意的,就手边能碰到的材料,捏一个冰冷的圆球,丢着玩玩的,没一会儿也就化了。这种不求任何结果的意识状态,甚至早于施特劳斯所说的“bricolage”。

黑曜石和雪球都是在寻找起源之起源(origin of origins),黑曜石是工业的起源,雪球是艺术的起源。

Xⁿ:你的每一件雕塑都花费了很长时间精心打磨,有的甚至花费了十年,并没有采用bricolage这种随机组合的方式创作,不过,“被发现前的金字塔”这件作品似乎是用四处捡来的杂物组合成的。


Sone:啊!是的!我把从各种地方捡来的,找来的东西放在箱子里,做成山的样子,盖子上画的是夜晚的星空。这是玛雅金字塔被发现的前一夜,金字塔还被植被覆盖着,什么都没有改变,一切都还很宁静。

这件作品正确的观看方式,应是把箱子打开一条缝,悄悄的看看夜晚的景象,然后合上盖子,在旁边睡去…..

(曾根裕说完,合上箱子,在地板上心满意足的躺下了)



Yutaka Sone: Obsidian, Exhibition Poster, Sifang Art Museum


 

曾根裕

1965年生于日本静冈县

现工作生活于美国洛杉矶