The Tokyo Midtown Award, established to support young artists and designers, is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. The art competition accepted ideas for site-specific works for the iconic Tokyo Midtown complex, which is the essence of Tokyo. The 10-hectare block of lush greenery is adorned with buildings and artworks by architects, artists, and designers who are active both in Japan and abroad. In addition, Tokyo Midtown, which has attracted facilities such as the Suntory Museum of Art, 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, and Tokyo Midtown Design Hub, hosts a wide variety of art and design activities every day. As a crossroads of talent, it plays a role in the art and design movement in Tokyo.
Following a judging process of several months, six finalists were selected and Hazuki Katagai – a finalist for ITS Artwork in 2016 and ITS Accessories in 2019 – brought home the Runner-Up Award with her artwork. We had a chance to talk with her about it, and also look back at how she became an established artist.
ITS: Can you tell us about your artistic background and how you decided to become an artist?
HK: Many of my past works are wearable, functional devices, each of which has its own specific purpose. The term “device” is known as a piece of mechanical equipment generally, but I use this word as a general name for my works expressed in the form of objects, accessories, or tools which can be actually used by people. I am interested in thinking about ideas by crossing and mixing fields and boundaries, and I have given shapes to my thoughts in the form of art and design.
I consider my works as a means to actively intervene in the world, and I am making my works for finding out “what we are” and “what the world is”. I am really interested in proposing new points of view into the world with my works, and that is the reason why I became an artist
ITS: You’re among a very selected few who entered the ITS Contest finals twice, once in the Artwork field in and once in 2019 in the Accessories field. Can you tell us the strongest memory of both experiences?
HK: I am truly honored and grateful to have been selected as a finalist twice. My collections were based on my conceptual art idea, and I truly appreciate that ITS welcomes works from various backgrounds, values and points of views.
Looking back on my collections in ITS, I first presented “The Weapons of Love” in ITS 2016. The collection was composed of 12 functional weapons for showing affection and friendship to others. I actually used and presented the weapons to judges and viewers, and I remember their smiles and warmth. Also, there was a big surprise and great joy that I received a special award which gave me an opportunity of 4 months experience in an artist-residence at Swatch Art Peace Hotel by Mr. Carlo Giordanetti.
I also presented the collection “The Breathing” in ITS 2019. The collection was inspired by a way of breathing as seen in meditation techniques in Eastern philosophy, and was created based on my personal motto: believe in the power of imagination. Through the contest, I was moved by empowering words from the judges and ITS family
As above, there are so many “strongest memories”, so I can’t choose just one… but, I would like to say my strong memory through the contests is the passion of Barbara and all the people working for ITS. They always respect every single designer, artist, and their works. They are passionate about making it the best opportunity, experience and event. They always supported me to have the best presentations. (Can you believe that they kindly made an amazing automatic-breathing mannequin for my “The Breathing” collection…!) I feel very honored to have worked with such a great “ITS family”.
ITS: Can you tell us about the project you presented for the Tokyo Midtown Award 2022?
HK: The project is a site-specific work for the iconic place of Tokyo, the “Tokyo Midtown” complex. The artwork is a viewer-participation type of artwork and can be experienced by accessing a QR code placed on the work at the concourse of Tokyo Midtown with a mobile phone of viewers.
This artwork is intended to take you on a journey of imagination. The route of that journey is a single-track route going straight westward at the same latitude (35°39’55″N) as the exhibition site, through places such as the endless terraced fields, the salt lakes on the plateau, the ranges of world’s highest mountains, the river surface of the Tigris and the Euphrates, the conflict zone of Syria, the blue beach of Cyprus, the ancient city of Tunisia, the peaceful vineyard of California, etc, and of course, the daily lives of people. The artwork, a poetic voice guidance of the journey, gives opportunities to rediscover forgotten connections in this diverse world. I believe, gaining a new perspective on both ourselves and the world through the rediscovery is one way that each of us can join together this increasingly fragmented world.
ITS: You will be actively involved in ITS Arcademy with your own personal workshop for kids (we had already talked about it here). Can you tell us more about this project, and how you developed it?
HK: I really enjoyed planning the workshop! I originally got inspiration for the workshop from my past collection “The Breathing”. Through the workshop, young participants can make their personal crown which visualizes their own breathing. I am looking forward to seeing children find a mysterious connection between breathing and themselves. Also, I made a personal picture book to convey the concept of the workshop more easily and friendly to children, including a story about a relationship between breathing and Asian cultures such as a myth, religion, Eastern philosophy, etc… I would be glad if young participants enjoy their creativity and find out more about breathing and different cultures.
I would like to keep supporting and working with ITS Arcademy. I would also like to plan a new workshop inspired by Trieste, perhaps based on your Bora, the strong wind that blows in town and defines it so characteristically? I am fascinated by the city and hope to work on an artwork inspired by it in the future. And I really appreciate the warm and kind support from ITS. I am looking forward to collaborating and showing you my next projects