The Normality of Being
Gregor Jansen, 2011
Football fans are generally and sociologically, when seen in the social network of a complex ornament of the masses, simple beings. Nevertheless, in terms of numbers, they are often compared with museum visitors. German garden allotments, mostly lovingly cultivated and neatly fenced off mini-domains of city dwellers, are sometimes similarly compared. The combination (the geometric play and formal and conceptual layering of both simple entities) results in a new, elaborate and unusual construct, a layering, interlocking and fraying of content-laden surfaces, which is bizarre, beautiful and peculiar, artificial and artistic.
Yukako Ando chose this form of interlocking depiction for an exhibition in Aachen, which had a very real connection to the content of her image. The construction of a new football stadium (the legendary Tivoli) on what was a long established garden allotment colony on the outskirts of Aachen, which subsequently had to move, resulted in this abstract conf lict between the two interest groups. One of the parties is shrill and sometimes fanatical while rare, exotic plants represent the other. Immediately, a wonderful symbiosis between nature and culture is created.
It is the real places that are intriguing in Ando’s works. Originally from Osaka, Ando studied art in Düsseldorf in the late 1990s. Since then, she has worked at the threshold between the foreign, strange, surreal and playful and has closely observed the urban absurdity and solitude in Someplace. Her interventions and installations usually deal with existing real-places of fate, experience and life, but also with being and feeling foreign. Life reveals itself as a continual, row of situations with countless bizarre incidents, emotions between setting-up and living, between residing and social relationships. Ando’s Duisburg dwelling-installation “S-t-e-f-a-n” (2006), in which fiction, longing and reality strangely melt together, is wonderful.
For the exhibition with Wolfgang Lüttgens in Cologne, the two artists decided on the collective title “range”. On one hand, this title reflects how the artists explore and adjust their own radius of activity, while on the other hand, it refers to their actual sphere of activity on site, in which new artworks assert themselves, unfold and confront the viewer. Ando’s works are also often site specific. In the stairwell of the Japan Foundation, she laconically created a clear unit of displaced plasticity with extended bungee cords. Her stupendous wall-work “picnic” right next to the small indoor pond and splashing water is precise – it is straightforwardly beautiful and simple. No tricks are used, but still it remains open, what effect the tension of the bungee cords will have on the drinking cups. They allow us to understand how things come together, keep their distance and, in spite of that, interlock. Four colours – stretched in a room – and there you have it: A wall picture in and for the space.
Similarly, Ando’s small intervention “Lace-ups”, exhibited at Raum Oberkassel, Düsseldorf in September 2010, has great charm. In a tiny room with a fireplace, she placed a pair of her own Chucks with super long laces. The focal point however, was the continued crossing-over of the laces on the floor, which evoked a meaningless, absurd but humorous personal and ultimately tragic-comic situation.
Yukako Ando’s works result directly from that personal experience of perceiving reality as a complex, sometimes difficult to bear, tragic to ludicrous environment – possibly based on her experience as a Japanese living in Germany. Ultimately, reality and fiction are blended into equal parts of her and our feelings. In this unity, the platform of a world that can only be experienced subjectively is cultivated.
In the same way, Ando repeatedly works with newspapers, covering up or painting over large areas, leaving and extracting only small, quite particular elements. It is worth mentioning that, for both graphic and aesthetic reasons, she only ever uses the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit – other newspapers don't provoke her interest. The page of a newspaper is whitened; only the moment of the illustration is extracted, isolated. Regardless of whether this is image or text, the fundamental singularity of the moment for Ando, becomes apparent – a particular “snapshot” of that moment becomes obvious. She is interested in the irritation ‘in between’ – in the context. Whether it is Adenauer or an advertisement in text form, the ball as small cosmos or a text like BIG STORY, we are thrown back on ourselves and have to make amendments. We play with the gaps, the blank space, with that which has been left out. In this way, a large area is left open for imagination on the pages that as a medium of information in time and space are both simultaneously cutting edge and radically outdated.
Ando’s sculptural works are also remarkable. For example, “dialog” (2010) with its two billiard players, lying opposite each other hiding – a little shy, anxious and anonymous, warmly wrapped up in their blankets. Yes, they want to hit the egg, but is it a friendly or rather a hostile encounter?
Who dares to go first? However, the egg is also a symbol, for it wobbles and doesn't roll in a straight line like a ball that can be cued in any direction and then accurately runs its course. In a certain sense, precision with an egg is not possible. However, this is just as much real life as it is good art.
Normality determines existence and usually only a tiny shift, an unfamiliar change, determines the magic of the least magical normality or reality. Yukako Ando allows us to feel this and forget our everyday lives. Through Ando’s interventions, the windows to the world have just been re-opened or partly closed, or are waiting, like in the tension on the wall, for the release of tension in our heads. They are very definitely constructions and even if we knew this before, it is a long time since we saw them this delicate and beautiful.
Stefan Skowron, 2006
“aus der Dampfzeit” was never meant to be music-theatre, in either the classical or the modern sense of the word. But it wasn’t an image or a sculpture either – not even a social sculpture. The work connected rather to the long-established art world tradition of multi-media, synaesthetic works; but not of course as an egomaniacal Gesamtkunstwerk, from which in truth only a very few of the works so described are actually worthy of mention.
Instead as a musical theatre performance in 5 scenes, “aus der Dampfzeit” brought together the most disparate elements, artistic disciplines, images and individuals into a whole, and at the same time wasn’t afraid to be witty one moment and sad the next. Music and the visual arts, thrown together as sisters, gave their best. For the viewers it was both a physical and sensual experience, as it was both serious and funny, planned and improvised, ambiguous and narrative, static and moving. And it was a bold undertaking.
At the beginning of “aus der Dampfzeit” came the question: is there a recipe for life? In the same way as there is, for example, a recipe for bread.
Transferred onto life, that means: is there something that can guarantee that my plans will succeed? Is there absolute security? Ergo: do we have a right to a happy, successful and interesting life? Hiding behind these in no way rhetorical questions, which are all essentially asking the same thing, namely, can life be planned, are the autobiographical experiences from the life of the artist up to her residency in Mönchengladbach as guest of the Josef und Hilde Wilberz-Stiftung. Like in any attempt at producing authentic art, the source material for “aus der Dampfzeit” logically came out of an exhaustive examination of the self. “aus der Dampfzeit” is consequently a story which is not free of tragedy. The story is not allegorical and in no way educational, but is nevertheless very emotional, with dissonant, expressive and softly harmonising sounds. The music, written by the composer Rudiger Blömer from Aachen, is also a kind of collage – in the first act, for example, he cites Haydn.
With the benefit of hindsight, looking back today to the premiere on the 5th of June 2005 on the roof of the Museum Abteiberg in Mönchengladbach, a further completely different factor seems meaningful and essential for the work (or my understanding of it): the external circumstances of the performance in the open air of “aus der Dampfzeit” wanted to show up the moodiness of life, the abundance of available possibilities and approaches, maybe even that which can only imperfectly be described by the word fate. On the 5th of June 2005, strong winds, rain and other forms of inclemency presented the artist and all involved with huge problems. It was as if the underlying thematic of “aus der Dampfzeit” so to speak manifested itself in just these weatherdetermined problems, in order to be able to realise a performance which was appropriate to the score and the intentions of the artist. In this way was/is “aus der Dampfzeit” literally a living art work. Every further performance will and must be different. Because that’s how life is.
Because there’s no recipe for life.
Dieter Ronte, 2002
Some people say that her texts are chaotic, poetic or unclear. Other think her actions have a strong social impetus, that she does social work, so to speak, in an aesthetic field. Others, in turn, think you can't exhibit more than yourself - the artist as a self-exhibitor, as it were, a positive exhibitionist. All of the above may be true. Yukako Ando’s art is egocentric, is I-related, yet it has something of everything. What she never is, is indifferent. She is always engaged.
“How would it be if the world were like the fantasy of painted pictures? Then we would paint even more colorfully and more beautifully! ... In theory it should work, but... !?!?!?!?!?!?!?”
This sentence taken from her newest project, Inside Wall, hits the precise point of all her works. How would it be if the world were like the fantasy of pictures, if the world would correspond to these plans? Her contribution to the visual arts lies exactly within this conflict between utopia, self-knowledge and reality.
In Brain-child Pot she cooks a theoretical recipe for life, a plat du jour that is meant to be appetizingly prepared. Yet every day as a cook, she searches for a better taste. For her the kitchen is there, the ingredients inside her, yet she still doesn’t know how to finish the meal. The cooking utensils are topsy-turvy. As an artist and a cook Yukako Ando juggles.
As in all her other works, there is a strong sociological component. The issue with Yukako Ando is not scientific research but aesthetic engagement, setting up models, happenings and performances. These actions, which can be experienced in videos or in actual installations, shift between earnestness and gaiety, between the helpless and the masterful. And always she changes our view of the everyday. The feelings of the viewers are incorporated. In a way that goes unremarked, the recipient of these works is made a co-actor.