© Kishio Suga, Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo
Mono-ha is a Japanese contemporary art movement that emerged in the 60s, its name can be translated as the “School of Things”, and one of its main characteristics is the use of objects with no or minimum modifications in order to show the viewer the inner qualities of materials, beyond physical aspects of their works, the mono-ha artists, also give importance to the relations between the elements that conform an artwork, those relations activate interactions with the surrounding space. Together with Lee Ufan and Kōji Enokura, as well as others participating members of the aforementioned group; Kishio Suga (b. 1944) has been exhibiting for decades and producing pieces that appart of being beautiful, also contribute redimensioning the spectator´s visual behavior; here, is presented a conversation with him that reveals some of his aesthetic ideas and details of his artistic practice.
1. I have observed that mono-ha is as respectful as possible of the identity of materials, can you tell when the objects you are working with are losing their identity and what do you do when it happens?
Mono (things) do not lose their reality. If one thinks of things as losing their reality, that’s a matter of human thought.
2. As an artist of mono-ha you are respectful to the objects you work with, what is the limit between the nature of the materials and your will as the subject who organizes and transforms the elements that make up a work of art?
“The nature of materials” is the fact of perceiving that mono (things) are there. The artist has no particular will or intent; it’s a matter of finding out what sense of existence belongs to each thing. Thought is developed in accordance with that sense of existence. Things are each specific in and of themselves.
3. Some of the titles in your pieces such as “Soft Concrete” refer to the materials they are made of, some others such as “Diagonal Phase” refer to the relations we observe between the elements that make up the work, what is it that tells you how to elaborate the titles of your pieces?
I think things convey their reality directly. I focus on the structural components of things and the nature of their conditions. I look for ways to maximize the reality of “things.” The artwork titles express the intentionality of the “things.”
4. Human scale is also important in the works you have made, Installations such as “Left-Behind Situation” shows pieces of wood and stone placed on wire ropes at different heights, but in “Law of Multitude” we find cement blocks with a big sheet of clear plastic on them and some stones laying on the blocks, but the reflections of the plastic produce an effect in which the blocks are partially hidden and then the stones seem to be floating on water, in both cases human perspective is necessary to activate the piece, it is completed with gaze of the spectators, what can you tell me about that fact?
What is important for things is the condition of their “being.” Normally there would be no sense of incongruity in thinking about the way things are, such as a tree growing out of the ground. But if you saw something like that taken out of an ordinary situation and put in an unusual situation, you would question how it happened. In other words, an unusual situation becomes a situation in which the essence of “things” is determined.
5. For the exhibition at Pirelli Hangar Bicocca titled “Situations”, some of your best known artworks such as “Left-Behind Situation” were adapted to be installed in the new location, what criteria were followed to tell that the adaptation process and the results were satisfactory?
Most of my works remain the same no matter how big or small they are. Therefore, whether it is a large space or a small space does not affect the essence of the work.
6. The installation titled “Fieldology” (1974), you created an inaccessible corner by placing a tense barrier ropes in a diagonal position between two perpendicular walls and then interventing it with rolls of rope; another installation called “Concealed and Enclosed Surroundings” (1997), you conceived a room made up of wavy transparent plastic with some objects placed inside in diagonal positions. What is the role of inaccessible spaces in your body of work?
Changing the feeling of a space creates a hierarchy of sites. Depending on the differences in the aspects of a site, it may or may not be visible, necessary or irrelevant. I emphasize independent spatiality that is not affected by the outside. If you block off the four sides, you can create a space where the inside and outside are separated and you can’t be disturbed by the outside. It is important for this work to maintain that unimpaired space. It is important that it is a condition that cannot be recognized even if you try to recognize it.
7. How would you describe the role of the audience in relation to your works?
In any case, it is important for the audience to share the same place and time, and to know the physicality and intentionality based on that recognition.
8. You have developed the idea of “abandonment” in your works, that word would imply the act of leaving something as it is, to stop manipulating a material, and to keep some distance as a part of artistic practice, but what characterizes abandonment in the artworks of mono-ha?
Hōchi (“abandonment,” “release,” or a state of “being left”) means “there is something there.” A situation of hōchi is, so to speak, an “in-between situation”. It is neither a beginning nor an ending.
Thank you for answering these questions.
Mario Pérez Rodríguez