Although he has been celebrated as a future cubist and prog artist, when pressed Masato Takasaka will align himself with constructivism and session guitarists. Yet he creates a more non-specific, mass cultural, investigative exhibition-practice study than can quickly (or easily) be identified. Open to discussing his work on these non-specific terms, Masato himself emailed us - just before this interview went live - 'Thanks! I always wanted to know what my work was about, but was afriad to ask myself or my supervisor!'
Oh yeah, on the opening night! A lot of the work is based on improvisation, some pieces are composed here in the studio, but a lot is made insitu. I think my work has become more about an exhibition practice rather than a studio practice. Artworks I have previously made is usually packed up in these boxes, I have pulled some out and put it together to show you. When I have a show it's really more like activating storage, and setting up the exhibition is more like being in the studio except the stuff is already made.
Yeah, Carolyn Barnes. She's really good at being very articulate-something I am not! She's a senior research Fellow in the Design Faculty at Swinburne and used to write for Art + Text magazine in the 90s. Carolyn knows more about my work than I do!
I'm interested in the idea of recycling my own ideas. I mean - a lot of artists revisit old ideas, but I am interested in actually using my old material again. Revisiting your own work, unlike painters or sculptors who transform material, I am using my own material as the material.
A lot of the earlier work appropriates things like Japanese confectionery packaging, and it can be as much about re-using the packaging as well as inscribing my own idea of packaging onto them.
Yes, that's really interesting - when you appropriate something, you are borrowing - I read an article the other day by Jan Verwoert, where he talks about appropriation as something that you never own. I guess it is the idea that true appropriation acknowledges the reference, while you inscribe with your own signature. Which isn't just about the referencing itself. I have things in there like a Bauhaus notepad from the Bauhaus Museum Gift Shop, it was a gift to me in art school, and I like the idea that it is a souvenir from the "Gift Shop of Modernism", an object that is attached to art history itself, I'm so interested in material by-products. Or in other cases, I am repackaging the packaging, where the interest is no longer what is inside, it is exclusively what is on the surface of things.
What was it Walter Benjamin said, about "Collectors collecting themselves"? I like the idea of being a collector of my own work - and the idea of the already-made. I read something the other day about how Duchamp makes - it was something like "Making is choosing, and choosing is making." I'm still don't really know what that means, but I wonder, while I work, how you make something that is already found, re-choosing again what you already chosen before. Very early on, I related art school to method acting - you try out methods and techniques of who you want to be and who you want to be like, because you don't really know. I made a virtue of it, through making in the styles of artists I like, doing cover versions of them, I suppose. Some early works from art school that have been reissued again that were taken in my parent's Japanese supermarket, where I made these plastic, fake abstract paintings in the style of Malevich and John Nixon, and placed them in the shop. I was interested in showing art history as a by-product of itself, or something people just buy or try before they buy the concept of 20th century avant garde practice, which to me is very much about selling the rhetoric of what it means to be above capitalism (?) - I wanted to work with collapsing those two things, like - how to sellout without selling anything. These photos have recently been shown in a show put together by Fiona Connor- she asked for them specifically and she must have found them through a collector - one of the few collectors of my work, who isn't me!
Every time the work shifts in context. I see new things happening through the different spatial dislocations. Something as simple as that is like re-collaging my own work from its original intentions. You literally see a new way of looking at it. It's like cubism - which is a bit of a stretch - like self-cubism. I was actually in a book and exhibition about cubism and Australian art - with this piece, which is based on a fruit bowl from one of those high-end design stores, where I put as many offcuts from my studio, like a still life of my own work. In the catalogue it is described as a 'post-cubist still life', but it's really the idea of 'Almost everything all at once' contained in this frame. A lot of the time I don't make things that are made to last. Just like real-life... maybe my artworks are too human.
Things are reassembled always in a different way, the traveling show idea, that there are different versions of the same thing. Or improvised dress re-rehearsals. Things come back, some things stay the same. Some things change. I have set myself up in this never-ending project, but I also wonder how far I can go before I exhaust it.
It came from the idea of making indoor sculptures, like outdoor pot plants and indoor pot plants. The inside version of outdoor public sculpture, using impermanent material that can be scratched and dented, folded and refolded, it's what is used in architectural models-
For about a year, in 2005, I thought it would be a good idea to be an architect. But it wasn't. One of the longest years of my life. When building models of mini cities, or something to be part of a city, I just realised I would prefer to be doing that with my artwork - or I already was. But it was good as comic relief for the rest of the class. I would make things like upside down pyramids, these anti-gravity buildings, and when the lecturer would say "What's the building made out of?" I would answer with "cardboard"...
It was more about the models. I remember making model after model, the lecturer suggesting "Where do you stop?" I didn't want to - I just wanted to keep going. I liked the process of it, the architectural processes, I think I liked the way their processes looked, but not the idea of actually designing the building itself. Like method acting, I was trying out something, trying to inhabit that space, when you are an architect you find yourself designing these things that are supposed to be real, but they're not, they're a constructed fiction. With my art it doesn't have to work. It's whatever works or more accurately, whatever doesn't work, works for me! Like with my model making now, I like to use whatever is at hand.
I like revealing the 'making of', as well-
Yeah, literally seeing how something is made, I don't have to think about what it is going to look like. It's making do about making do. Like when cutting, you get tears, which other people might find annoying-
Yes! But marks like that acknowledge that you have been there, it's the process of mark-making, and I enjoy seeing that in other artist's work. The material also does what it wants to do.
When you said some of the work fell apart at the Gertrude opening - it's happened a number of times at my exhibitions. Like what you said - the work has it's own will, it's letting the work have it's own existence - letting the laws of gravity prevail. So it's probably good I'm not trying to design buildings anymore. Or what Matt Hinkley said while I was studying - "It would be great to see your buildings, but I would never step inside one". These are the models from Gertrude Contemporary which I constructed to show them what I was going to do, and had to explain that the models were literally what I was going to do! So I like how models can be an idea representing itself. It's the generator for the work, and it also IS the work.
When you are an artist, you can't avoid placing a certain value on a material, whether it is found or salvaged or made, then crumpled or collected. And then of course there is the market value that is placed on work - which can also be ironic value when you look at castings and recasting-
It's like the work is reinserted forward in time - a constant remix or replay or re-sample - I often think of my practice like it is a 2 album iPod Shuffle on endless repeat - where one album is the greatest hits of 20th century avant garde practice, with references to constructivism, dada, pop minimalism, etc. The other album is the greatest hits of my own back catalogue. Architectural references, art history, art design history. And it plays between the two. There is a reason why I don't glue anything down - it is like I wouldn't be able to make the next thing if I actually fixed something down. The idea of what is new work - the mechanism of artists repeating the same things over and over, a trajectory of modernism where the artist makes the same thing, like a signature of the self where the artist has to do one style because it is repeatable, it is marketable and it sells, so I was interested in what happens when you start doing cover versions of your own work...
Like trying re-thinking a different way - re-seeing, re-doing, lots of re-, re-, re-. The original title of this series is what "I Like My Old Stuff Better Than Your New Stuff". I guess it could be a limitation, but I see it as an expanding form of seeing things. There are different ideas generated when looking even further back in my timeline - like the Steve Vai poster where I go back as far as this old poster from a CD insert. Warren Taylor designed it, channeling The Face, it became an assemblage of versions, with text from Damiano Bertoli, I wanted to try to connect back to what I was doing before I knew anything about art - back when I was desperately practicing guitar, wishing I was Steve Vai. It's that method acting thing again. Damiano's text describes the idea of the session guitarist, the idea of playing someone else's song with your own signature inserted. I think that's what artists do, and I wonder how well I can re-sample parts of my own signature, which is already borrowed or based on something else anyway.
I'm not meant to be having another show, I'm supposed to be finishing my NOTORIOUS P.H.D, but I have one coming up in August at The Substation. I have been thinking about making more of my 'masatotems' - column structures like what were seen at Gertrude, they were smaller ones. I want to look at upsizing my own work - literally doing it with larger components. Maybe with a less model-like quality. With my Phd finishing in March - trying to think through the ideas of why you are making or remaking in the first place is very difficult. It's like field work research where I am using my old work as material as the research. Ironically there is a rule in the Phd's fine print that you can't use any old material - it all has to be 'new', so in a way, this whole project is one big loophole!
Photography property of Double Days.
The referrals began with Leah Jackson who referred Stephanie Downey who referred Chris Hill who referred Jonathan Wallace who referred Dominic Hofstede, who referred Paul Fuog, who referred Ben Edwards and Juliet Moore, who referred Ryan Russel and Byron George, who referred Dianna Snape, who finished the stream with Jessica Brent. We also introduced Matt Hinkley who referred Warren Taylor who referred Yanni Florence, who referred Liv Barrett, who referred Fayen d'Evie, who referred Masato Takasaka, who referred Madeline Kidd, who referred Meredith Turnbull, who referred Nella Themelios.
In May 2012, we began a new Melbourne stream with Oslo Davis. He then referred Alexander Stitt, who referred Mimmo Cozzolino, who referred Fysh Rutherford, who referred Simon and Jenna Hipgrave.
In March 2012, we went to Austin for SXSW, where the daily referrals began with Sonnenzimmer who referred Landland and Hometapes who referred Zorch, who referred Brian Maclaskey, who referred Bobby Dixon, who referred Brian Phillips, who, through some auspicious coincidence, turned the SXSW referral interview project into a perfect circle, by referring us back to Sonnenzimmer. Then there was a giveaway to celebrate.