At some point in our interview it starts to feel like I’ve become part of Masato Takasaka’s research experiment. Like I’m being put to work in his latest round of self-examination and self-appropriation.
Takasaka, who is in the final stages of writing his PhD, says these days he’d rather talk about his art than make it. In fact, talking about, thinking about, endlessly revisiting and reconsidering what his art is, is what his art is.
“Since 2007 I’ve been embarking on this project which is collecting and displaying almost everything I’ve ever made or collected. Each exhibition becomes a re-curation of previous elements and materials.”
Like the mythical Ouroboros, Takasaka feeds on his own work - and by necessity his influences - in order to create something new. It’s a process he repeats over and over again, creating installations out of the old works, detritus, mementos and ephemera found in his studio.
The question Takasaka has set himself is, “How can you make something new by reusing your materials and your artworks, and treating them as a found object or a ready-made?”
Takasaka is currently featured in The Knock-Off Show, the first exhibition at new Collingwood gallery Slopes (on until 21 December), which explores the shifting role of appropriation in art.
The Knock-Off Show includes Kez Hughes’ witty oil paintings based on photographic documentation of other exhibitions, Geoff Newton’s lo-fi cover version of David Rosetzky, and three different works that reference Joan Rivers' reaction to Barbara Streisand hitting the big time ("screw Babs").
Takasaka’s contribution is a regurgitation of an earlier work, which was itself made of pre-existing work and materials.
“I’m re-exhibiting documentation from an exhibition at Conical in 2010, which consisted of materials and objects from the studio, which consisted of my artwork and leaflets of other artists, a collection of music that I’m listening to...”
The title of the work - So..so…studio materials portrait (Yes you Kan(t) after Duchamp!...(M.T after M.T – Conical redux)) - mentions Kant, Duchamp, Takasaka himself, Phil Collins; so many sources are sampled that it’s basically nonsensical (like Collins’ gibberish "sussudio").
As a teenager Takasaka had aspirations of becoming a guitar rock god. Pop music culture is a frequent subject of Takasama's art, but it also informs how he thinks about his work.
“I think about my practice as a two album iPod... one track list is the greatest hits of 20th Century art and design and then the other track list consists of the a-sides and b-sides of my own career trajectory. It’s like making a mix tape for yourself and listening to it, but it’s on repeat and shuffle at the same time. One song might be post punk and the next song might be Emerson, Lake & Palmer.”
He also compares his work to a cover version, a bootleg, a back catalogue, a remix, a sample, delay pedal, feedback loop, mash-up and so on.
To anyone not familiar with this exhaustive project of self-recycling, Takasaka’s work is, on first encounter, almost indecipherable (except in its loveliness; his assemblages are, for the most part, very beautiful). But as his many pop music references make clear, Takasaka’s approach is not that different to most contemporary culture, which is self-reflexive, referential and nostalgic to the point of becoming its own bad cover band.
Contemporary culture exists in the form that it exists only because it's been filtered through a century and a half of earlier works, which were themselves informed by earlier works and therefore it is, in Takasaka-speak, "always already made". (Or in Bakhtin-speak, "dialogic"). The difference is that Takasaka is just uncommonly explicit about how he fits in the cycle of constant cultural reproduction.
Near the end of the interview, Takasaka says this project, which has occupied nearly seven years of his life, is ultimately for himself, or a version of himself who is out there in the audience.
“It’s like Jimmy Page listening to bootleg performances of Led Zeppelin, listening to it from the vantage point of the audience. It’s like listening to yourself in a newer and entirely different way. By self-appropriation you find variation in returning to something from your own making.”
>> Maura Edmond
>> Posted 12 December 2013