ASM: Tell us, who is Kimiko Yoshida?
KY: I am a visual artist, which includes sculpture, video, photography and site specific installation.
ASM: What got you into photography? What intrigues you about it?
KY: Art is a subtle process of transposition, an assiduous struggle with the state of things. To be there where I think I am not or to disappear where I think I am; that is what matters. It is in fact a variation after the comments by Jacques Lacan on Descartes, cogito ergo sum- "I think, therefore I am." Lacan underlines that "I think where I am not, I am where I do not think", that is to say the being and the thinking are divided, split and disclosed. My work is a reflection upon the division between representation and meaning; representation and disappearance; representation and absence; signifier and signified...
ASM: One thing I notice about your work is the evoking yourself in a piece. Can you explain why you do that?
KY: Actually I do not look at my images as self-portraits. I regard the self-portrait not as a subject but as a disappearance. If I am the model, it is as an easygoing way to do what I have to do. My self-portraits or what goes under that name are nothing but vanities. They refer to the funeral rituals where the mummy is embellished and adorned with make up, painting, jewels and ornaments. What I know about images is that even though they depict the living, they speak of death. They draw their ambiguity from being a reflection only- a thin limit near the emptiness because there is something inflexible and compact in a reflection, the image covers the undefined caput mortuum advances. The imaginary reflection of the living reveals the obscurity of their fate. The image gives up being to its inevitable vanity, which I would call its shadow essence. First there is real presence; then the image comes- that is, the absence of the real thing. The real thing must be made more remote by disappearing to allow itself be grasped anew as a shade or reflection. The thing collapses into its image where the present is absolutely lacking. It reunites with that root powerlessness where everything stops and becomes still life. My art is all about these fundamental meanings: being and nothingness, the vanity of the image, life and death; and most importantly, getting beyond narcissism.
"…The self-portrait is not a reflection of oneself, but a reflection on the representation of oneself…"
ASM: So if your self portraits are not a reflection of oneself. What is it a reflection of?
KY: The self-portrait is not a reflection of oneself, but a reflection on the representation of oneself. I have turned my back on any quest for identity and what goes with it- the narcissistic wound; the ceaseless search for an origin; the furious demand for belonging; and the withdrawal into oneself, boredom and humiliation. All my work rejects the tired stereotypes of communitarianism and its ideology of segregation, which lights the period with a peculiar brown light. My work speaks more of the happiness of being oneself without believing oneself identical to oneself; without identifying oneself with any memory, clan, or family… identity is not the matter. My art is a protest against contemporary clichés of seduction- from voluntary servitude of women to the stereotypes of gender or the determinism of heredity. Self-portrait is the place of transformation and art is what transforms. In my opinion, transformation is the ultimate value of the work. Art for me has become a space of shifting metamorphosis. The only raison d'être of art is to transform what art alone can transform. All that is not me interests me. To be there where I think I am not, to disappear where I think I am--that is what matters. The question is not an insignificant Who am I? My work opens the more pertinent and essential question of identifications- the How many am I? -- which does have quite a different impact. Remember John Lennon's very first words introducing I Am the Walrus- "I am he as you are he as you are me..."
ASM: When you complete a project, do you feel that you have answered the questions that boggled your mind in order to ascend to the next level of creativity or of that which your seek?
KY: To show does not mean giving us everything to see. What the gaze sees in the image is not what it looks at. It is the lack in the image that captivates the gaze. A work of art is a symptom that is successful.
By successful, I mean transformed. An image fascinates when it concentrates within itself the blinding and enchanting allure of what it lacks. This ontological lack that is present in all images provokes fascination. When the gaze is fascinated with what it sees in the image, the fascination in the image is beyond what the image shows. The fascination is fundamentally linked to this neutral and un-contoured presence of an indeterminate and figureless opacity within the figure. My self-portraits are an attempt to show that what is present is the invisible absence at the heart of the image; and that which is absent is the visible. The state of invisibility is not the point where I put myself on display; it is the point that I put on display. The state of invisibility I put on display is connected with the radical demand of art. By giving the immaterial (the immaterial as the unnamed) an image in a series of portraits, the work of art represents what is invisible in a figure (its immateriality) before figuring itself as a figure of disappearance.
"…fashion for me is the field of diversion, détournement, and deflection. My images have no color filter or digital manipulation…"
ASM: I feel there is a spiritual, artistic and creative journey in your work. Does fashion also play a role?
KY: Fashion for me is the field of diversion, détournement, and deflection. My images have no color filter or digital manipulation- just painting (the background) and make-up (my face and body). My new series of photographs entitled Painting Self-Portraits are majestic and indecipherable conceived with the history of art in mind. The symbolic transposition of the chefs-d'oeuvre of the old masters into large archival prints on canvas is based essentially on the diversion of fashion. These new self-portraits could be called détournements because of the way they are organized around the processes of deflection or diversion. This term was redefined by Guy Debord (The Situationist International, 1957–73) in the sense of diversion of preexisting aesthetic elements: "Détournement is thus first of all negation of the value of the previous organization of expression […], the search for a broader construction, at a superior level of reference, as a new monetary unity of creation." In this new series of work, the usual conceptual protocol of my self-portraits (minimalist etiquette for shooting- always the same setting, subject, lighting and framing) is doubled by a new protocol- the diversion of each haute couture garment and accessory. In this series every object is used out of its function.
ASM: I love the fact that your work crosses cultural boundaries. Was that intentional or something that developed over time as you look back at your work thus far?
KY: The representation of myself as a fiction mixing my Asian culture in references to Western art history is yearning for monochromy as a metaphor of effacement and disappearance, a mark of virtuality, intangibility and a symbol of infiniteness. I want to make an image that does not spare or forbid itself trans-cultural references or trans-historical meanings that are unceasingly revisiting tales and legends, deconstructing myths, unfolding all significations in images, allusions, metaphors, metamorphoses, fictions, crossed or reversed transformations and transfigurations of annexations or illuminations. I want an image that tries to rethink in images its own meanings and references. This thinking integrates the analysis of what makes it possible- from epistemology, semiology, mythologies and art history to formalism, minimalism, subtraction, addition, crossbreeding, mixing of genres, polyphony of thought and more. Everything enables me to test art as the most daring, most radical and freest experiment in voicing the lack-in-being, in converting the real, in transforming suffering and unhappiness, in forging past devastation and despair. I expose myself to the disappearance of the self to the disappearance of the persona's mask. I abandon myself to the impersonality of symbolization to the impersonality of death. The image is the presence of an absence. That is what the work makes real-- endlessly seeking what it lacks.
ASM: What is next for you? What are you working on for people to look out for?
KY: I am preparing a series of blown glass mirrors entitled (in Italian) Senza Imagine: they reflect light, not images!