Interview with Ella Krivanek 2


Where did you get the idea of doing The Bathhouse show?
Earlier in 2015 I had asked Tokyo-based American artist Dorothy Siemens to co-curate a show at Space Space alongside two Japanese artists. We had developed such a good working relationship and friendship that we had started to discuss doing a combined music and art show under the heading of Space Space in the new year.

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We looked for venues that would provide their own source material, rather than just being white cube galleries/black box live houses, and settled on the soon-to-be demolished bathhouse as a space. Dorothy has deep ties to the music industry here, having designed album covers for the Mean Jeans’ Japan release, as well as several other local bands, and working as a tour manager for Guruguru Brain’s Minami Deutsch. She created an amazing line-up of experimental Japanese musicians including Melt-Banana and Hikashu.

For my part I wanted to end the gallery’s time in Tokyo by collaborating with international curators Rohan Whitely, Ander Rennick, Kitty Clark and Elizabeth Shev, as well as dozens of individual artists from around the world to put on an intensely diverse and immediate show. I was proud to bring a truly representative show to Tokyo, that included more female than male artists, as well as the work of transgender, queer, gay and lesbian artists, artists of colour, and artists who identify as “hafu”. By working with these excellent creators in such a bizarre space and on such a big scale we were able to curate an experience, and not just a show that could be expressed through photos or video of the event. The dark hallways deposit the viewer in these shadowy rooms, one after the other, to be visited upon by impressions of works that leave an imprint on the mind.

There was a secretive feeling throughout the show,  because it was an unusual venue in a quiet residential area, just for one night. Also, there was not much notice beforehand. Were these all intentional?

Even though it was a big event, promotion was done in an old fashioned way. We just let people from our circle know what was happening, and word spread because people were psyched about the concept. There aren’t many opportunities to go wild in Tokyo, for young people who are living on the fringes of society to express themselves. Maybe 300 or 400 people came.

One guy coming to an early Space Space show for the first time said that, walking through the dark houses and up to the brightly lit warehouse, he got that pit of excitement in his stomach that he was finding something that no one else knew about. It’s important to strike a balance, because we want large audiences to be exposed to the art and the musical experience. There’s no point otherwise. But if you are doing something that is genuinely on the fringes of what’s expected and permitted then it naturally emits a certain clandestine energy.

In the show, most of the artists and the audience, apart from the musicians, were from abroad, which I think is quite irregular. Is there any reason for that?
The gallery doesn’t have a sense of boundaries. Quite the contrary, we are focussed on increasing the amount of communication between artists and patrons in different places. The artwork can only be simultaneously diverse and honest, if it is produced by people from diverse geographical places, and social backgrounds. Diversity is hugely important to the gallery.

For the show, I heard you talked to the neighbourhood of the venue to get consensus. How did you find it and did you always have chance to communicate with the local people around the gallery while you stayed in Japan?
Yes! We worked closely with the local community with some pretty corny traditional methods, like door-knocking and giving out flyers that were simultaneously an invitation to join us and a caution about the elevated noise levels that could be expected. We were so touched by the reception. While some neighbours called the cops on us, when the police did arrive other elderly residents went and talked to the officers and told them what a good thing they felt this was for the community. One woman in her 90s came to look at the bathhouse she frequented as a little girl as it was the first and last time access has been granted to the public in decades, and it was, of course, going to be knocked down afterwards. The police were even bobbing their heads to the music at certain points. They were really friendly.

Dorothy and I are residents of the local area ourselves, and we know many of the obaachan from bathing at Komae Yuu, doing our laundry at the coin laundry, and chatting with the konbini employees.

Because what we are doing straddles localism, nationalism, and internationalism, we have to be careful to strike a balance between the needs of the community and the freedom of expression we are promoting. We’ve found that reaching out to the community and genuinely connecting is the best way to do this.

What was the influence you got from this experience of the stay in Japan as an artist or curator?    
The biggest impression I got was that as long as you work very hard, and treat people kindly, then you can always reinvent yourself. The community in Japan respects hard work, kindness, and passion for something no matter how specific or esoteric. If you put it out there they will support you.

The Bathhouse Showのアイデアは何処から出てきましたか?

2015年の初め、東京に滞在していたアメリカ人アーティストDorothy Siemensに、他の二人の日本人アーティストと一緒に、Space Spaceで展覧会をキュレーションしないかと持ちかけました。私たちは仕事上の関係と友人関係をとても上手く築いていて、音楽とアートを合わせた展示をSpace Spaceの枠内で出来ないかと、話し合うようになっていました。

ホワイトキューブ式のギャラリーやブラックボックスのライブハウスではなく、場所そのものが素材を提供するような施設を私たちは探しました。そして、間もなく取り壊し予定の銭湯に落ち着いたのです。Dorothyはここの音楽業界と深くつながっていて、Mean Jeansの日本版リリースのアルバムや、他の日本のバンドのアルバムデザインをしたり、Guruguru BrainMinami Deutschのツアーマネージャーを務めたりしていました。彼女はMelt-BananaHikashuといった、実験的な日本人ミュージシャンの素晴らしいラインナップを用意してくれました。

私としては、東京のギャラリーの締めくくりに、Rohan WhitelyAnder RennickKitty ClarkElizabeth Shevを始めとした、多くの国際的なアーティストとコラボレーションし、強烈に多様で直観的な展示をしたいと思いました。こういった真に象徴的な展示を東京で行えることを、私は誇りに思っていて、男性より女性作家を多く入れたり、トランスジェンダーやゲイ・レズビアン、有色人種やハーフの作家なども含めました。こんなにも奇妙な場所で大規模に、素晴らしいクリエイターたちと仕事をすることで、写真やビデオに映るだけの展示ではなく、体験を創造することができました。暗い廊下がひとつひとつ、影のある部屋へと観客を導き、心に痕跡を残すような作品と出会うのです。

The Bathhouse Showは静かな住宅街にある、変わった施設で行われ、すべてに秘密めいた雰囲気が漂っていました。事前告知もあまり行われなかったこともその理由のひとつです。これは意図的なものでしょうか?


初期のSpace Spaceに初めて来た男性が言ったのですが、暗い家を抜けて明るく照らされた倉庫に上がったとき、誰も知らない何かを発見したと、腹の底から興奮したそうです。私たちは多くの観客にアートと音楽の体験をして欲しいので、バランスをよく考えることは大事です。でなければ意味がありません。でも、もし期待していることと許されることの、本当にぎりぎりのところにある何かをやろうと思ったら、自然と人目につかないようなパワーを放つことになります。









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