30.05.2016 / ArtsPeople, Sydney
Slow Art: In Conversation with Chaco Kato
and Dylan Martorell
It’s a philosophy, a movement, a way of living. ‘Slow art’ is all about creating something together – blurring the boundary between artists and viewers. In Australia, Slow Art Collective (SAC) are one of the most interesting clusters engaging in this space – and we’re thrilled to be working with them on Tanabata: Star Village – a project that espouses this ethos.
Chaco Kato and Dylan Martorell are the core members of SAC. Chaco is best known for her ephemeral, site-specific installations where she encourages audience participation. Dylan’s music-based art practice rests on a foundation of improvisation and collaboration. For SAC, the process is paramount. It’s not part of the project, it is the project. The focus is on the act of making. We sat down with Dylan and Chaco for a quick chat about collaboration, Tanabata, inspiration, and deep aesthetic pleasure…
ArtsPeople (AP): Where did the idea for Slow Art Collective come from, how did it come about?
Chaco: When I was setting up a group show at Counihan Gallery in Brunswick, one of the artists’ friends told me about Dylan’s show at Craft Victoria. I really liked what he was doing and his aesthetic and ways of thinking. By this time, I was forming an exhibition, which was a collaborative project using very banal, everyday recycled materials, so I asked him to be on board.
There were a few other artists that joined for a while, but now me and Dylan are the core members who run the collective. And we are still very flexible in terms materials, venue, scale, etc. and also working with other artists to collaborate. We usually invite other artists on board according to the project – scale, timeline and budget. And we enjoy how each artist brings their own ideas and methodology, so the artworks become much more unexpected and keep growing and changing. Also most of our projects are interactive and participatory. The artwork is the outcome of the collaboration with participants. Usually the materials will keep being recycled and that keep transforming each time.
AP: Describe the ethos behind the Slow Art Collective.
Chaco: Flexible, high plasticity, collaboration and process-focused. DIY, nomad, crafty, low‐hi tech, elegant and wild, recycled and up-cycled, interactive, collaborative, open to public, new and old.
Dylan: To create an expansive body of work with a floating collective, engaging in site-specific projects, which explore social and environmental issues in a playful, humble manner.
AP: What do you hope visitors to Tanabata: Star Village will experience?
Chaco: For us it is important that audiences will be involved in and experience and enjoy, then activate the space by themselves. Installation is like a seductive skeleton to invite people in, and they are the ones to set it in motion, and give the artwork a life. I hope they will experience a deep aesthetic pleasure within the large architectural structure first of all, and they can find out the activities, which is all derived from the Tanabata folk tale. Weaving happens to be one of my artistic focuses as well as it is for Orihime, one of the Tanabata story’s main characters. I hope visitors will enjoy the activity and re‐experience what Orihime does. I hope it’s of interest to non‐Japanese children to know the story and the message and re‐experience what stars suggests from different cultural viewpoint.
Dylan: I want it to feel like a village market where there is a bustle of activity, sound and movement.
AP: Tell us about some of your other projects.
Chaco: We have done many large scale of interactive art projects, which include: Kaeru was a collaboration with Hiroshi Fuji, a highly regarded Japanese artist, at the Art Centre Melbourne. We set up a big workshop tent for three weeks right next to the Art Centre and people could drop in and make their work. At the end we created a large-scale installation out of their work.
Shelter was created at a McDonald’s underground drive-through in 2011. Slow Art Collective’s shared concern for environmental issues leads them to develop sustainable art practices that highlight the need for social change. We built and installed a makeshift dwelling, filming the process and streamed it live to the Ian Potter Museum of Art in Melbourne. This temporary human shelter was designed for use in ‘emergency’ conditions. Whether these conditions came about through a natural disaster, such as flood or fire, a man-made event, such as nuclear fallout, or a more localized – yet no less devastating – event such as the advent of homelessness, is unspecified. Collingwood provides a context where discrepancies in living conditions are transparent.
Malarkey was a big commission for NGV Melbourne NOW 2013 and was a kid-friendly program that involved some experimental sound installation, day-beds to relax in, and a kitchen area where kids and family could play.
Archi-Loom is an outcome of many of the past projects, like Loomusica at the Castlemaine Festival, Bamboo House Music (MPavillion and ACMI, Warrnambool Art Gallery) that focused on creating a gigantic loom structure, and inviting people to weave the skin of the installation. It also worked as a shelter, where people could do some art activities, relax, and play music. At the end, the installation transformed into a colourful woven structure.
I would like to let audiences know that art can exist everywhere around us, in many different scales, and that will provide them with a very special sensation and some sort of sense of achievement which is very different from anything else. I hope that is a small step for people reevaluate the meaning of art. Art is absolutely no use, but it is very meaningful.
Dylan: My highlight is always the next project – I don’t really think about previous works. A highlight has been working all these years with Chaco, it can be very hard to find people that you work well with and Chaco is such a great collaborator, she is very serious and hardworking but also a very fun, flexible and has a great positive energy.
AP: Which artists/artwork inspire you most?
Chaco: Outsider art, bricorage building, ‘non‐art happened to be art’ type of art, very low-tech simple craft work, conceptual architects such as Shigeru Ban, Takaharu Tetzuka and of course, Tadao Ando. I also like highly conceptual art such as Yoko Ono’s instruction art, fluxus movement, contemporary artists like Sarah Sze, Shinro Otake, modernists like Cy Twombly, Alexander Calder, DeCooning. I like Dylan’s music work and also Nathan Gray, and many other Asian artists – too many!
Dylan: La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s ‘Dream House’, a small to medium room in New York dedicated to a synesthetic spatialised sound environments that has been playing constantly for a couple of decades.
AP: What place do you find most meaningful?
Chaco: Everywhere I am at now.
Dylan: Being in the water.
AP: Do you have a favourite form to work with?
Chaco: Weaving, just working with strings – lines are my favourite.
Dylan: Cyclical layers of sound occurring at different speeds – like a solar system in miniature.
AP: Material of choice?
Chaco: Whatever is available at the time.
Dylan: Bamboo and sound.
AP: Does music play a part in your art-making? If so, are there any artists in particular?
Chaco: Always. Dylan is a DJ. I am very flexible in my musical taste – from classic to hip-hop.
Dylan: Dean Blunt, Hype Williams, John Cage, Luc Ferrari, John Martyn, Alice Coltrane, Underground Resistance, Prince, Boredoms, Alva Noto, Senyawa, Grouper, Francis Bebey.
AP: Favourite book?
Chako: Anything by Haruki Murakami.
Dylan: Too many to mention. I’m currently reading Topophilia by Yi Fu Tuan and Almost Nothing, a collection of interviews with French sound artist, musique concrete pioneer, Luc Ferrari.
Words: Joan-Maree Hargreaves for ArtsPeople
Australia House, Urada, Echigo-Tsumari, November 2015