In partnership with 18th Street Arts Center 18th Street Arts Center is an artists' residency program that provokes public dialogue through contemporary art-making.
Yukako Ando is a Japanese visual artist based in Düsseldorf, Germany, whose work focuses on everyday phenomena and fundamental questions that emanate from the experiences of daily life. She is in residence at 18th Street Arts Center through the end of September, with an exhibition of her work on view through October 3. "This residency program is important to me," says Ando, who was introduced to the program by her friend Michiko Yao, a former visiting artist in residence at 18th Street. "I would like to take this opportunity to connect to the local art community, and to learn about the work and lifestyles of local artists and how they see my work." To help foster these connections, there will be a reception for Ando's exhibition "PRIORITY REQUIRED", along with shows by Tsai Shih-Hung and Miljohn Ruperto with Aimée de Jongh, at 18th Street on September 6.
Ando graduated from the Department of Sculpture at Kyoto Seika University, Japan, in 1994, and received her MA from Kunstakademie Düsseldorf in 2001. She has won numerous international scholarships and prizes. Most notably, she is a recent recipient of the Program for Arts Fellowship administered by the Japanese Department of Cultural Affairs, which also provided the funds to enable her three-month residency at 18th Street. The residency has supported artists for 25 years by not only offering them the time and space to hone their craft, but by providing them a community and a platform to create new art works and to connect with other artists.
Ando, who has lived and worked for the past twenty years in Germany, has a deep understanding of both Japanese and German culture. Curious about American culture and how it differs from Germany, Yukako came to Los Angeles. "L.A. is nothing like Germany," Ando says. "People here are fun and easygoing. Diversity and difference are tolerated and respected here." She appreciates how "Noise and crowd, rich and poor, Mexican and Latino style, people from different races can be seen everywhere." Attracted by the contemporary art and funky pop culture in Los Angeles, Ando continues: "I need to live in L.A. to better understand and figure out what kind of art I can create here." She articulates a feeling of freedom and independence as characteristic of L.A. culture.
The "PRIORITY REQUIRED" exhibition in 18th Street Art Center's Atrium Gallery shows Ando's works displayed clockwise, starting with the sculptural installations "Picnic" and "Transparent View", then visual artworks "Priority Required" and "Peephole Universe," and ending with two videos, "Orientation" and "Rain". "My inspiration is not coming from reading and researching," she says. "It comes from the air, the wind, and the freeways. It comes from what I see, what I hear, and what I feel. Something grows from my heart, comes to my mind, and then I turn it into reality, and transfer it to art pieces."
Referencing "Picnic", she says, "This was first made in Germany in 2010, but here it expresses different feelings and views. In Germany, I focused more on visual art, on the color of lines and the shape of them, since Germans value a rigorous working style. Here, I just followed my feelings, connecting the lines freely, and making extensions of them." She uses hooks to secure the multicolored bungee cords to the wall. Ando says the resulting configuration makes her think of freeway connections in L.A.: "It's like all possibilities can be achieved here if you can find your way." She also puts colorful plastic cups on the wall behind the bungees, saying that they stand for American consumption culture. "Everything here is plastic. Trash can be seen everywhere. Asia has consumption culture too, but not as extreme as here. In Germany, people use glass cups and plates instead. It's totally different," she remarks.
"Transparent View" is a glass door with a peephole on it. Ando used safety glass to create the piece, and chose the house number "808" to be displayed on the door because of its symmetry. "It is about what is true, and what to see. What to see is the most important issue for visual artists. It feels like you are seeing things, but at the same time, you are seen by others." Ando contines: "Unlike Germany, the walls here are made of wood and plastic, which are so weak that I can hear people from the other side of the wall, and it makes me think about the role of doors. Doors should be at the border of two rooms. They connect here and there, inside and outside, private and public. The philosophical question is, if I set this door in a room, would it become two places?" She thinks for a while, then says, "It is a joke and also a question. I put a peephole on the door, but it's not necessary, because the door is transparent. It raises a question about our urban life, about the relationships between one and another." She asks, "Why do you need to see through a peephole? You can just open the door. People can communicate directly with each other."
"Priority Required" is the work that gives its name to the exhibition. "The inspiration comes from a brief episode in L.A.," says Ando. After she arrived here, she mailed packages through USPS many times, but they were consistently delayed. "The Japanese and German mailing companies that I used before were much better." Frustrated, she says, "I can never trust USPS anymore." Even so, when she went to the USPS office she saw that they offer nice envelopes and packaging for free, with large printed letters spelling "Priority Mail" on them. She finds this to be ironic. "The commercialization is perfect," Ando admits, "but the service is bad." She has fixed a green drawer on the wall, and put USPS envelopes and packages inside it, to express the idea that "If there are so many priorities, there can be no priority at all."
"The next work is also about peepholes," Ando says with a smile, "It's called 'Peephole Universe'." These four photos represent the whole of the cosmos, she says. "When I see outside from my peephole, I suddenly feel the peephole is like the beginning of outer space. Through it, I can see a different world. I use my camera to take pictures through a kaleidoscope to make this work. The forms I get seem like planets to me." She concludes, "Through the peephole, I can see the universe."
The last part of this exhibition is composed of two videos, which are placed in the same space. The first one, "Orientation", is a remake of a performance that was first executed in Germany in 1998. "The interesting part is that it was shot like a documentary, but then it was edited as a story." In this video, Ando tries to connect to a power source that will light up the bulb on her helmet and power her computer. The other video is called "Rain", but is actually about sunshine. "Sunshine in Los Angeles is too strong, so I need a curtain to block the light." In the video, wind comes, the curtain shakes, and the cat hiding behind it runs away. "Who makes this happen?" Ando asks. "It's the power of nature. It's called 'Rain' because the line of the curtain is like the line of rainfall." She admits, "When I was making this video, I suddenly missed the rain in Germany, so I added the sound of rain. This video connects L.A.'s sunshine to Germany's rain, like connecting my dreaming paradise to my reality." The proximity of these videos highlights the sharp contrast between them. "It's human power against nature's power." She asks, "How do we live? Do we live in the power of electricity or in the power of nature? Maybe we live in both of them, or maybe we live in between."
When asked whether she is concerned with an audience's interpretations of her works, Ando says, "The audience doesn't need to understand what I am showing. To me, art is a feeling. If an audience can feel something through my work, my art exists. If they cannot, it's fine -- maybe it's just not for them." She is sanguine on this point. "My art is not for everybody." Ultimately, "I want to be the trigger. I want to make them think and question through my work. I am trying to say 'This is my feeling, how about yours?'"
After this residency program, Ando plans to continue living in Los Angeles so she can continue exploring the streets and people here, get to know the L.A. community and local artists better, and find more inspiration in the city. Additionally, Ando and her Düsseldorf gallery, Schuebbe Projects, have applied for inclusion in Art Los Angeles Contemporary 2015. Los Angeles may prove to be fertile territory for Ando's explorations, and the residency at 18th Street Arts Center the first of many L.A. episodes to come.