Episode 170 features a rare interview with Japanese artist Motoi Yamamoto, whose work has been exhibited around the world, but has not been seen widely in the United States. Building large scale installations by hand and out of salt, Motoi transforms salt into intricate and laborious installations, which are eventually swept up and returned to the sea. Although the creation of Yamamoto’s work is quite solitary, the dismantling is communal and collaborative, even celebratory. On the day of dismantling, members of the community are invited to scoop up the salt and carry it in small bags to pour it back into the sea. We had a chance to catch up with him and ask him about the creative process behind his saltworks. Read below for the full interview…
You last exhibition, Return to the Sea: Saltworks, just wrapped up last month. What were your overall feelings of the exhibit? Was it a high-pressured showcase of your work, or were you quite prepared this time around?
Motoi: This time, I wanted to draw the form of a dynamic whirlpool. I think that it succeeded. I made complete preparations, however, while I produced work, I always felt the pressure.
Your work is largely inspired by your sister who passed away. What emotions/memories are you able to explore through your work?
Motoi: I can have some dream of my sister making the salt installation. The frequency is extremely high.
Salt has a special place in the death rituals of Japan. For those not accustomed to this, could you describe why there is such importance on salt?
Motoi: Salt seems to possess a close relation with human life beyond time and space. Moreover, especially in Japan, it is indispensable in the death culture. After my sister’s death, what I began to do in order to accept this reality was examine how death was dealt with in the present social realm. I posed several related themes for myself such as brain death or terminal medical care and picked related materials accordingly. I then came to choose salt as a material for my work. This was when I started to focus on death customs in Japan. In the beginning, I was interested in the fact that salt is used in funerals or in its subtle transparency. But gradually I came to a point where the salt in my work might have been a part of some creature and supported their lives. Now I believe that salt enfolds the ﾒmemory of livesﾓ. I have thus had a special feeling since I started using it as a material.
Many artists in Kanazawa use gold leaf in their art. Using only ordinary table salt in your work, do you ever see yourself branching out using different mediums?
Motoi: I use the salt with an installation work. However, I use various material for a painthing.
What has been your largest project thus far. How long did it take you to complete?
Motoi: It is “Solo exhibition in Hakone Open-Air Museum” in Japan, 2011-2012. I worked three weeks.
What is the biggest component to creating the type of art you do? Is it more about patience, or skill level?
Motoi: It is a strong thought for the deceased, and continuing to always remember the deceased.
Having had exhibits all over the world, from Korea, France, Japan, Germany, U.S., etc. Have you found different countries to interpret your art in different ways?
Motoi: I felt [more of] a similarity than a difference in these many countries.
Lastly, what can we expect to see from you in terms of future projects or exhibitions?
Motoi: See detail of the show(s), when an exhibition approached.
Galerie Aube, Kyoto Univerisyt of Art and Design Kyoto, Japan
January 18, – Feburary 2, 2013
Setouchi City Museum of Art Okayama, Japan
February 5 – April 7, 2013
Mint Museum Charlotte, NC, U.S.A.
March 3, 2013 -
The Monterey Museum of Art Monterey, CA, U.S.A.
June 14, 2013 -
Hiroshima Prefectural Museum Hiroshima, Japan
July 20 – October 14, 2013
To learn even more about Yamamoto’s work, please visit his official website below: