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Aki Sasamoto, judgmental hopper - click opera — LiveJournal
February 2010
Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 04:00 am
Aki Sasamoto, judgmental hopper

Aki Sasamoto -- a performance artist and dancer, born in Japan but educated at Wesleyan and Columbia -- is the kind of figure I'd probably have to invent if she didn't exist. In her performances she's used potatoes as percussion instruments, supped with the devil with a long spoon (actually, a very long knife), smashed three hundred dishes to powder, collected discarded furniture, divined people's habits from their polythene bag collections, stuffed clothes down her clothes, scrubbed up suds while making conversation with no-one in particular, delivered lectures, cooked pasta in the sky, and made the perfect sauce while wearing a wallpaper apron.

Despite the domestic sound of some of these activities, Aki feels her brain is rather male. "Since I do not own an urge to express my femininity," she says, "and since I feel as though I think more like male (What does this mean?), it surprises me when they talk about femaleness with what I produce... I may appear more feminine than I think. I have masculine purpose in me who wants to converse with my outward femininity. My skin is a line between such sexual divisions. In performing, I balance right on my skin."

Aki only graduated from her MFA degree at Columbia in 2007, but was already selected for the Yokohama Triennale in 2008. Here she is (courtesy Tokyo Art Beat) talking about her performance there:

Sasamoto reminds me of a composite, better-organised version of various Japanese art student and musician friends who ended up in New York. Where some others foundered, Sasamoto seems to be succeeding, winning grants, prizes and prestigious showcases at places like the Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin. One reason she's doing so well is that she's full of good ideas, and personable. Another is that she works very hard -- even while pulling art world performances together, Aki is appearing in, and co-choreographing dance performances with her friend Yvonne Meier. Finally, Aki is very aware of the power of collectives; she's a member of two artists' groups, Lower Lights and Culture Push.

Aki says something very interesting in an interview, something about the relationship between being an expatriate and being judgmental. (Aki wants to encourage judgmentalism.) "More and more expatriates," she explains, "tend to be what I call Hoppers. Those who are aware of crossing borders of any kind seem to be more judgmental."

But if they're inwardly judgmental, these expats master an outward conformity, a kind of Zelig-like quality: "They are also experts in blurring differences, to mask the consequences of their judgments. As a survival technique, Hoppers fool themselves to ignore gaps, or believe in mingling as the most natural, or even embrace characteristics, while positioning themselves out of such horizontal references... Whatever the resulting attitude is, border crossers face the choice of how to locate themselves in relation to sets of plural realities and values. This is the consequence of hopping-around. Being an expatriate is not the only method of hopping-around. But it seems to be an easy category in these days. This is what I mean by Hoppers."

This culture-hopping judgmentalism informs the performance Aki gave at ExitArt in New York in March 2007, which involved "bungee potatoes":


Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 05:13 am (UTC)
A pedestrian question

The long distance slicing of potatoes requires an attenuated blade. Does she use a peening hammer to develop the cutting edge, or waterstones?
I've found that hammering the blade produces an edge that will cut very fine slices in vegetables, but is dull enough to alert you to possible finger dislocation.


Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC)

I've found people have a hard time distinguishing judgemental (postive) from prejudgemental (negative).

Bonsai Human
Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 08:24 am (UTC)

I have masculine purpose in me who wants to converse with my outward femininity. My skin is a line between such sexual divisions. In performing, I balance right on my skin.

Reading this, I feel the need to pinpoint the moment when art ceased to be about creating beautiful things and started to become a competition between artists to see who could emit the greatest number of steaming bollocks from their mouth.



Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 09:01 am (UTC)

When was art about "creating beautiful things"?

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jordan fish
Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 09:59 am (UTC)

A lot of people who went to Wesleyan make good artthings happen. I don't know what it is and I went there. RISD also. And schools with a lot of ideas and looking.

Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 10:02 am (UTC)

They also produce a lot of shmucks. I lived in the region for a large part of my life (within an hour of both places). Of course, I've hated most of the art students I've met. Not all, but most. I hate drama students even more, though. Compared to drama kids, art students are top shelf.

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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 10:44 am (UTC)

Cutting 28 employees to 20 is hardly "the beginning of the end of LiveJournal", what a ridiculous story. If anything, it'll just mean leaving the interface alone, which is what we users want. It works, and it's as likely having too many employees (especially wizard marketers) which will break LJ as having too few (the same way as developers and booms are as likely to ruin cities as neglect and slumps).

ReplyThread Parent Expand

Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 10:40 am (UTC)

I'm not sure I really get the "judgmental" thing. Could you explain it as you understand it?

My take on Aki's point is that expats or "Hoppers" (she's one, and I'm one, and perhaps others here are too) are people whose exposure to multiple cultures makes them stop taking certain arrangements of things for granted. A temptation arises to pick and choose -- to develop a pick-n-mix, supermarket approach: "Okay, I'll retain Western critical thinking, but adopt Japanese gender definitions." This is judgmentalism -- which culture, in my view, gets what things right?

But traveling around the world also makes one adept at finding ways to quickly blend in. One gets good at disguising oneself as a native. So hoppers are also Zeligs, the ultimate conformists, when they need to be (to survive, as Aki puts it).

Thus the dynamic in the expat or Hopper: inward judgmentalism, outward compliance through mimicry.

Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 10:47 am (UTC)

Okay, now it seems more clear. I would say that's pretty accurate, as I've taken on sort of a pick-and-choose mentality with Korea. It's kind of impossible to ever disguise oneself as a native here, though, at least if you're a white American. The best one can probably manage is to appear, to other foreigners, to have been here for a substantial period of time, and to not appear totally green to the natives.

ReplyThread Parent
Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 04:36 pm (UTC)
dynamic in the blended expat

There seems to be some quality about her that takes me back to the story you did on water and an island farming family. It was a BW film with brutal undertones. Do you remember it ?
Aki has an agrarian feel of practicality and brutality regarding the precious natures she explores.

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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand

Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 11:17 am (UTC)

Look now, all you're doing here is making us fall a little bit in love with someone on the other side of the world. I resent this.


Tue, Jan. 6th, 2009 01:36 pm (UTC)


Boy, we could used ya on all the other art-related posts that had comments in the single digits.

Wed, Jan. 7th, 2009 06:30 am (UTC)

I'll try to chime in more often!

ReplyThread Parent
this is not your sawtooth wave
Thu, Jan. 8th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)

On a tangent: there was a rather interesting piece in today's Guardian about endangered British folk dance forms even more peculiar than everybody's favourite, Morris dancing (whose death is again being predicted), with YouTube video of each.