Conversation with Kiyoshi Yamamoto Farias
Kiyoshi Yamamoto - Conversation with Anni Albers
March 20th - April 27th, 2014
EJ: Is Anni Albers your muse?
KYF: Yes, but I do not really know how this happened. In the beginning she was an inspiration. Then she became my muse. Now it is almost like she is my friend. I know so much about her, and it feels like I know her from somewhere. I recognize myself in her practice and her history, through her visual works, writing and experiences. I am more inspired by her thoughts and ideas than by her actual works.
EJ: How did this fascination begin?
KYF: Studying in London, one assignment was to pick an exhibition poster from the wall and to research the artist. I arrived late, and the only poster left was the poster from an Anni Albers exhibition. This was my first meeting with her, and it puzzled me that she was the last one to be picked. Soon I realized that she was picked last in the art history canon as well. Despite having written extensive and important theoretical texts, she is seldom cited. Art history usually only pays attention to her husband, Josef Albers, who is more acclaimed. I think that if she were a man, she would have had more credibility. Realizing this, I first became angry with Josef, thinking it was his fault that she was largely forgotten. But it was not his fault. If anything, society is to blame, and it is a societal flaw on gender equality, how men always seem to be in the highest regard. She influenced him in so many ways, but despite being a progressive and modern woman, her place was still besides her husband, remaining partially in his shadow.
EJ: But Anni Albers is not really forgotten though, is she? She is widely considered to be one of the most important textile artists of the last century.
KYP: It is true she is the biggest textile artist, but in the general art history, she is at the bottom, below Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, and her husband, Josef. In the beginning, she was not particularly interested in textiles, but as a woman at the Bauhaus, the textile department was the only one available to her. But she took the craft seriously and became a textile artist, while engaged in similar artistic questions as her male colleagues working with, for instance painting.
Before Anni Albers, most textile art was considered amateurish or as just a hobby, but working in a completely different way, she helped change that perception. Her works are not merely textile art. They are as important for modernism as the contributions from her male counterparts at the Bauhaus.
As an artistic medium, textile is often shoved off as something mundane. Everybody knows something about textile, since it is what we wear; so many people consider it ordinary, I believe. The loom is regarded as the woman’s tool whereas painting or sculpting is considered masculine activities. This is probably why textile art has only held a marginal place in the art historical canon. And since the textile craft if considered feminine, a male textile artist is automatically feminized. So just like Anni Albers was a minority in the contemporary art movement at the Bauhaus because she was a woman, I too, sometimes, feel like a minority, as a male textile artist.
Also, for being gay, I become a minority times two. It feels like a strange contradiction, but being a man has advantages, something I have become very aware of. This is, as I said, a societal flaw, determined to order the world in fixed categories and dichotomies such as male : female, heterosexual : homosexual, art : textile. These misconceptions have shaped my work.
EJ: You mentioned you were inspired by her ideas more than her work, but what about similarities in relation to artistic practice? You seem to accentuate the value of craft and design, while simultaneously rationalizing production methods for larger scale productions: do find remnants of the Bauhaus ideology in your work?
KYF: I think the Bauhaus model and its methods are implemented at the Bergen Academy of Art and Design today. Also, I came from a design background before I started working art, and I am not too concerned whether my work is labeled as this or that. It is what it is, and it is art to me.
Actually, I find the unique object a bit boring, because it limits me to only make one. I am fond of repetition, and I think that while all the encounters with my works are unique, the material in itself is not.
I am also fascinated and impressed with how industrial textile suppliers here in Norway are so helpful to artists. Businesses happily agree to become involved, and willingly shut down huge industrial looms just to make a few meters of my textiles. I think this is remarkable, and working with industrial suppliers opens up lots of new possibilities. But of course, I still focus on quality and craftsmanship.
EJ: Circling back to Anni Albers, do you have a final comment on your relationship in regard to this exhibition?
KYP: All this research I have conducted on Anni Albers reveals so many similarities to my own practice, and besides being an excellent writer and a quotation goldmine, there are several aspects of her art I appropriate in one way or another.
Some times I wonder if I am her reincarnation. No wait, edit that, I will sound crazy.
Photo by Øystein Thorvaldsen.