|Jade Doskow: I wanted to talk about the fact that you just got your MFA from SVA, and I’m guessing that the show at the Broadway Gallery was the first solo project you’ve done in New York. I wanted to discuss what your plans are for this summer.
Yusuke Nishimura: Since that program was geared toward the thesis show, after three years, I was really focusing on that show. It was great to put the work on the show and have a group show, and that was the end. It was also great to have the opportunity to have a solo show that was going at the same time as my thesis show so I could have two different shows at the same time. But it’s really scary the day after the installations.
Yusuke Nishimura, interviewed by curator Jade Doskow
Earlier in June, the conceptual/minimalist artist Yusuke Nishimura exhibited his work in the project room at the Broadway Gallery in SoHo, curated by Jade Doskow.
Jade Doskow: I wanted to talk about the fact that you just got your MFA from SVA, and I’m guessing that the show at the Broadway Gallery was the first solo project you’ve done in New York. I wanted to discuss what your plans are for this summer.
Yusuke Nishimura: Since that program was geared toward the thesis show, after three years, I was really focusing on that show. It was great to put the work on the show and have a group show, and that was the end. It was also great to have the opportunity to have a solo show that was going at the same time as my thesis show so I could have two different shows at the same time. But it’s really scary the day after the installations. There’s nothing left but my prints, and I felt that having a show (outside of the thesis show) so people can take a look at my work and what I do is really important.
JD: Did you experience different reactions from the two different spaces, or what was the feedback that you received at either show?
YN: The difference… I got to talk to people I didn’t know at my solo show, and I was kind of talking about the process of my work and all that, and it’s good to have other kind of fresh opinions. And with the thesis show, I guess the viewers have certain expectations for the show because it’s a graduate program group show. But having a solo show, it’s like having no background, just the work. I guess the people don’t care so much about the background.
JD: Right, they just care more about what is in front of them on the wall. I’d like to talk about your artistic practice before and after receiving your degree. You went to School of Visual Arts, which is a very intense program. How would you say it affected the way you make and view art?
YN: Before I came to the SVA program, I went to NYU where I majored in film and TV. That was…NYU film and television was heavily geared toward the production side of filmmaking rather than the artistic side of creating a story or finding your own way of telling the story. It was more production, how to set the lights, how to make a shot, and all that. So I guess I didn’t have any (fine art) artistic practice before I came to the SVA program.
JD: Obviously, as a post-graduate, there are a lot of expectations, as to how all of these young artists, including yourself, are going to sink or swim in the real world. What are your feelings about this? It’s very competitive out there, with everyone competing for the same galleries and opportunities, so how are you approaching this mentally?
YN: Mentally? Well, I just try to be really—how do you say—tough? Not giving up, so I’ll try to submit work until I get a response, apply to a bunch of open calls, or site-specific installations. And I’m sure I might not get the chance to put my work out there but it is a good way for the jurors to know about my work. It has to be really slow, step by step…
JD: (laughs) That’s definitely the way to do it. Let’s talk about your work a little bit. Obviously your practice is very conceptual. Do you see it rooted very specifically in the traditions of the 60s and 70s, and if so, which artists’ lineage do you see your own work as falling into?
YN: I am influenced by those minimalist artists. Before I made those dayscape works, I was experimenting a lot of different ways to address the ideas I had, in many different ways. I wasn’t using any specific model as a way to make my work. I would just (try to) find what’s best to communicate the idea. So I don’t think I can say there was a specific artist who had an influence on me, but I was reading a general history of Minimalism and also John Cage, and I also like reading scientific writings. And when I get to the point that I know what I’m doing, well, I guess people whose work I feel close to would be On Kawara, Hiroshi Sugimoto’s seascapes and Spencer Finch, who also uses daylight as a material for his works.
JD: In the Broadway Gallery and in the thesis show, you made your work into these objects (prints on the wall), which were very beautiful and ethereal, and the book of dayscapes. Do you see exploration of these ideas taking other forms? What do you see as possibly happening in the future with these ideas?
YN: I have two other projects that are related to my dayscapes. They are all based on the same process of capturing the color of daylight, but they have different output. One is video projection in which each day is represented in rectangular. I morph the colors of daylight from one color to another really slowly and I juxtapose those colors represented in the rectangles. There is a time code counting up from 00:00:00 to 23:59:59 on each rectangle, so the color visually corresponds to the time it was captured. I’m trying to juxtapose the colors and the place it was recorded on the same space, and projecting on the wall. I have an idea of putting that image on the window on the inside so you can see the color change from the outside—it has to be at night.
JD: So it would be kind of like a reverse of your dayscapes…
YN: And the other idea is where I use the actual slide on which I recorded the color of daylight, and use that on the existing windows and cover other parts of the windows so when direct sunlight shines through the transparency it changes the daylight of the present to the color that was captured in the past. Since the color of the daylight changes over the course of the day, the circles of light also change. And that’s the work I am trying to actualize and finalize. I guess I’m working toward creating in actual space.
JD: Very interesting, kind of like a light-color time machine. Do you write to supplement your work?
YN: It definitely helps, and at SVA we had to write about our work and its relationship to other artists or philosophies. I was reading about Japanese philosopher Keiji Nishitani, and he talks about “mu,” an idea directly translated into “empty space” in English, and the idea was really important for me in thinking about time and how we differentiate…. He was saying what distinguishes objects is the empty space between the objects. His famous observation is something like water does not wash water, or fire does not burn fire. So that empty space is actually something that is constituting the object itself. And relating that to the idea of time, you see the present time at the present moment, and that realization is also of the separation from the present from the past, so that distinction, in an empty space, between the present and the past and this perception of time…. Something like that, which was very important to me to realize this is what I wanted to say, this exploration of the idea of time.
JD: When you explore these light installations, it is not the present moment but actually the past. Are there any other elements you think you will bring into your work besides light, color, and time? Are these the strict parameters you are going to stick with right now?
YN: Also at the Broadway Gallery—just a little thing—but I kind of liked that I was forced to make the project for the actual space. There was the actual window in the gallery space and I had to have my work really high up so that the bottom of the prints are at the same height as the bottom of the windows so my work doesn’t distract the actual space. It was really subtle and little things, but I liked the idea of working with the actual environment, and I think it’s more interesting to think about the exhibition space not as a default space but the actual space having…
JD: Activating the actual space…
YN: Yeah, yeah, so it heightens the presence of the actual space rather than de-emphasizing the actual space. So I guess I would like to work that way to incorporate the actual environment.
JD: Basically make it a real site-specific project… So along those lines, let’s say you had the opportunity to make an installation in any public space. What would your fantasy public space be to work in and make a light installation out of?
YN: I would like to have a space where there is a flat ceiling, where I could turn it into a huge window. And that space has to be higher than any other buildings. It could be a second floor building or whatever but there cannot be any taller buildings that cast a shadow onto the ceiling. I would use my actual transparency film on the window.
JD: That would be a big transparency!
YN: The transparency could be really small, but the distance between the transparency and the floor or the wall, if it’s long, the light circle is going to be bigger, because there would be more distance.
JD: The whole window is covered with transparency…
YN: I would block parts of the window so this transparency is the only way light enters the space.
JD: A giant live projection, basically.
YN: Yeah, but there would be many transparencies on the ceiling so the (space would be) full of colored circles.
JD: I can picture it, like the installation you made a couple of years ago. The transparencies would be square or round or…
JD: How does that shape come into this?
YN: I don’t know why it becomes a circle but last time I tried it was circle (laughing). I can talk about this more precisely if you want me to.
JD: Okay, I was there to witness your live installation last year (in SVA’s graduate master critique with Liz Deschene). It was really kind of a magical moment…. Could you talk about this specifically?
YN: It was installation work using the real window at the installation site, and I was using the dimensions of the window to represent all the entire moments of time between sunrise and sunset on the day I took the transparencies. I’m kind of creating the invisible grid where each cell represents one seconds of that day, and I was placing the transparencies on the cells that represents the time when the transparencies were taken …does that make sense?
JD: Yes, so you’re matching the past day with the present day…
YN: I’m talking about the placement of the transparencies to the windows. Let’s say this is the window, and all of the window’s dimensions represent from sunrise to sunset, and it goes from top left, like that… and let’s say I took the picture at 07:15:59, and put transparency onto the invisible grid, and then I have another picture that was taken at 12:00:01, and I placed in onto another cell in the gird, and I put that sheet onto the window, in order to cover the daylight, but also to let the daylight go through the transparency. And when the actual daylight goes through those transparencies, the color of the daylight changes because it is being filtered to the colors of the past.
JD: You’re matching the actual coordinates of the past daylight with the current daylight coming through. Could you have predicted the shapes which happened?
YN: No, it was just an experiment. It was a good surprise.
JD: You’ve been working in this grad school environment, which is very intimate. Have you met other artists working in a similarly conceptual, minimalistic vein as you? Were there colleagues who specifically helped you formulate your work?
YN: Yes, some people’s work was also conceptual, and although we had totally different ideas and aesthetics, it was helpful to know how they build their own process in creating their work. Someone like Oliver (Nowak) was very specific. He designed his own programs, and (in his work) would collapse the entire duration of a film into one frame. I’m sure his ideas and motivation were very different, but I felt it was similar to what I was making. I haven’t met many people from the fine arts department, so don’t know if that is similar to what I am making. I also don’t have any connection to the Japanese art world. I read a few magazines, and they feature emerging artists in Japan, and I feel I am not really similar to what they do.
JD: I was going to ask that, if you identify at all with anything happening in Japan. I’m not sure exactly what young Japanese artists are doing right now.
YN: I’m not really sure, either…
JD: At SVA is a very impressive faculty. Who helped foster your investigations?
YN: Randy West, Shimone Attie, Sylvia Wolf.
JD: As a child in Japan, were you creative, or did your parents influence you at all in the direction of becoming an artist? Or was this a late development for you?
YN: It’s really really really late development because I had an older brother. He was really good in paintings, and he went to an art university. And as a child, in your class you paint, and submit the works for a competition. And if you do well, you get a prize, but when I did it, I was really bad at it, and didn’t get a prize. I stayed away from art and played sports. And the reason I picked up the camera the first time is because I was a bad painter. And so my interest in making art really came later.