Interview with Aoi Yamaguchi

June 10, 2011 | Posted by Joel Dittrich | Comment
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As live visuals curator for Volt 2011 – The Festival for Electronic Music, I´m honored to have my invitation accepted by Aoi Yamaguchi, an artist I met in New York City about a year ago. I had just seen her performance at the 310 Lounge (and I really loved it) when we started talking more or less by coincidence. As an artist myself I actually started out doing painting for several years, so I´d say that background might be one of several great reasons we are collaborating, combining calligraphy and video. We found the time to do an interview, so here it is. Enjoy!

Joel: Who are you and what do you do?

Aoi: My name is Aoi Yamaguchi, I’m a Japanese calligrapher living and working based in San Francisco Bay Area, California, USA. I was born and raised in Hokkaido, the Northern island of Japan. I landed in United States in 2004, and I have been working on many exhibitions, mixed-media installations, performances and commissions internationally.

My calligraphy works are based on traditional brush skills that I have learned and practiced over 20 years, but I pursue new possibilities of calligraphy art by taking a contemporary approach, through collaborating with dancers, music producers, videographers and designers. Not only I work on Japanese washi papers, I write on canvas, mural walls, models’ faces, dancers’ bodies and many other unique surfaces and materials. Depends on the project and its concept, I try to choose the best form to tell the stories or messages to the world.

Joel: What got you started and how was your way to where you are today?

Aoi: My mother, who also practices Japanese calligraphy, brought me to calligraphy school when I was 6. I was classically trained under the Master Zuiho Sato throughout school age, and polished my skills. I started calligraphy performances about 6 years ago after I came to the United States. I have been passionate about music since when I was little, as well as about writing poetry and stories because of my father’s influence, so my passion naturally made me think of a way to combine musical element and literal and philosophical element into live calligraphy performance piece.

I believe that performance calligraphy provides viewers with the unique opportunity to experience calligraphy in its entirety by immersing them in the creative process that is usually hidden from public view. I aim to create more opportunities to expose the beauty of Japanese calligraphy by transferring two-dimensional art of Japanese calligraphy into the art of physical expression through the performance.

Joel: Tell us about your trip to Sweden and the project you are doing here?

Aoi: This is my first time visiting Sweden – At VOLT: Festival for Electronic Music, I will perform a collaborative live visual set for Ben Klock in collaboration with the audiovisual artist / Volt curator Joel Dittrich. The idea is to integrate calligraphy art into audiovisual performance / VJ-ing, based on the theme Urbanature, where the urban life and nature coexist, and repeat the cycle of construction and deconstruction. This experimental performance aims to fuse the traditional analog art and digital art. As a calligraphy artist, I hope that this collaboration introduces the beauty of Eastern traditional art to the new audiences in this unique setting, the electronic music festival, and show how these two elements will cause an interesting chemical reaction. The project is supported by the art grant from Asahi Shinbun Foundation, Tokyo.

Joel: A word about Volt?

Aoi: I am very excited to be part of VOLT – this festival consists of world-renown cutting edge music producers, DJs and bands, VJs and artists. I look forward to share this inspirational moments with all the artists and audiences on the night of the festival.

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