In Conversation: Cindy Mochizuki
With ‘The Sakaki Tree, A Jewel and The Mirror’, Cindy Mochizuki creates a theatrical environment rich with magic and storytelling. We sat down with Cindy Mochizuki to discuss her experience in the BAF artist residency program, how her installation came together, and the narrative she seeks to tell.
Although each individual work in ‘The Sakaki, a Jewel, and the Mirror’ is small, together they create an environment that feels quite enveloping and experiential. How and why did you decide to exhibit them in this way?CM
I often create spaces or environments that the creaturely objects that I make might inhabit. I imagine that they won’t necessarily exist in gallery time, in the sense that they aren’t made for the traditional white cube of the gallery. I think I’m conscious that what artists create are ultimately fictive spaces, and so the theatricality of how the audience experiences something becomes quite integral to the work. I’m often thinking of stories – how they are told, why they are told, who’s speaking them and who they are for. The stories that I’m most interested in are often best told at twilight and I feel that shadows, light and darkness play an important aspect of conjuring those tones.
How did the choice come about to model the work off of Shinto mythology?CM
I never grew up practicing the Shinto religion, but as children, we were often told stories of some of its belief systems, and of the Japanese kami gods and goddesses. When I was creating the faces I couldn’t help but feel that they were starting to resemble smaller versions of some of these kami. Also, there is the idea in Shinto mythology that all ‘things’ are inhabited by a supernatural spirit or elements. I think this is what drew me to making these figures and the parts of their bodies which were significant in meaning, such as the clay feet.
In addition to your work as an artist, you are known for your tarot card reading and fortune telling. Can you share the origins of this interest?CM
When I was 19, a good friend of mine had a deck of tarot that we used to use to read our own cards. She had noticed that my readings were quite impactful and so she gifted me my own deck, the same deck. It has just been a practice similar to storytelling that I have kept up since then.
I’ve always been interested in how we ‘read’ an image versus just looking with our eyes.
You describe the works that you’ve created as ‘performance objects’. Could you elaborate a little more on this phrase? What does it mean to you?CM
Because I make performance and tell stories within my art practice, often the objects or puppets become a tool to further advance the story. They can also be an extension of the body, as in costume.
In this installation, I realized that the objects I was making were not meant to lie dormant, and as the larger suite of them formed it became more and more evident that they could be used for some other form of telling. I felt they had a kind of spirit even if they were quite tiny, small, simple and delicate.
Over the course of this exhibition, you’ll be activating the works by using them as a tool of divination. Have you ever combined your interests in art-making and fortune-telling before?CM
Yes, this is not the first time. I have exhibited or performed the work Fortune House and iterations of this at different galleries and museum spaces such as the Koganecho Bazaar (Koganecho, Japan), Frye Art Museum (Seattle, WA), and Magic School (Daisen, Japan), and FUSE at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Fortune House is essentially the act of offering fortunes in the gallery space or studio in exchange for something. There have been occasions on which I collected ‘monster’ stories in exchange for these readings. In the case of the project I did in Koganecho Japan, these ‘monster’ stories led to the production of a performance called loch (2016). For my project Magic School, I offered tasseography or coffee readings to the community of Daisen, which led to animations and paper cut drawings that were made from hand made inks. The original tasseography drawings of each reading were gifted back to each person.
Cindy Mochizuki’s exhibition ‘The Sakaki Tree, A Jewel and The Mirror’ will be open at the BAF Gallery until March the 7th.