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Sakiko Yamaoka (Japan), Relocation, Future Of Imagination 9, 2014. Photo by Jason Lim
Sakiko Yamaoka
Future of Imagination 9, Singapore
September 6, 2014
by Jane Shishido

Nowadays the epitome of high culture; art is readily available 24 hours a day as products catalogued and put into historical context or fabricated to importance. The press releases are things of beauty written with flair by branding agency staffers who will dazzle you with descriptions and pontifications. The art wares appear in museums, art fairs, auctions and public spaces with hardly any visual connection to the artist creator unless it's a marquee star. It's not dissimilar to cold packaged meats in a supermarket, dislodged of images or real associations of a flesh and blood animal that was killed to produce a small fillet of chicken breast. More and more people crave the assurance of the hands behind objects of everyday life in a city; the human hands, hence the resurgence of the handcraft movement. The spirit of FOI 9 attempted to return what has been lost in the hectic consumerism of art in Southeast Asia, a bit of soul.

The theme of the ninth edition of Future of Imagination was that of durational performances. Sakiko Yamaoka, from Tokyo, Japan is well known prominent performance artist who defines her work as sculpture that depict action, time, space and relationships between the artist self and viewer. She uses material to resonate the human condition and ironies in presentations, but enjoys the risk of unpredictability of the mash-up between audiences and objects. A graduate of Musashino Art University in 1984, her original focus was oil paining.

In RELOCATION, and Sakiko Yamaoka's only 2nd appearance in Singapore, it was an ode to the joys, pains, sorrow, hardship, and physical duty that is the life of a real working professional contemporary artist today. An exceptional performer has the ability to trigger empathy and a connection which is exactly what Sakiko Yamaoka had also accomplished at FOI9.

The performance was entitled RELOCATION. It reclaimed the role of artist as creator front and center, but not as the star and on a pedestal, but as equal. The six hour presentation by Sakiko evoked gesticulation and inner dialogues about walking and working through life. Hours, days, months, and years go as the artists continues to toil with creating art.

Sometimes the most mundane rituals and gestures of everyday life reveal truths. Upon first impression of Sakiko Yamamoka's RELOCATION there were the obvious associations, construction, moving and manual labour as FOI9 was being presented at the old Post Museum 107/109 Rowell Road, in the heart of Little India home base to many of the migrant workers that build Singapore's skyscrapers and casinos. Sakiko began proceedings by slowly moving objects from one room to another. The objects were found things in Little India such as a bed board, a chair, a television set, large stones. it was the physical rather than calling for pretty muses to inspire, it was heavy manual labor, unglamorous, with no champagne bottles or glorifications. The Japanese artist wore clothing that reflected on the tradesman, black trouser, red tshirt, gloves and hair tied in a pony tail. Ms. Yamaoka was performing with gloved construction worker gloved hands on ground performance art. A micro construction site evoking triumphs, pain, hardship, bruises and fatigue of human spirit.

There was nobility and serenity to in Sakiko's performance. During the performance a large wooden plank that the artist was carrying became too heavy and she laid beneath it as if it was a blanket. Instead of succumbing to the pressures of relocating, she just carried on. The act of relocating from one project to another, from one experience to another is the life of an artist. The journey may never be over for Sakiko Yamaoka, but urge to move will surely happen once again. Ms. Yamaoka reminded and informed viewers with her performance RELOCATION that the act of rebuilding happens to everyone, it maybe from natural disaster or personal tragedy, but we must give ourselves the opportunity to acknowledge it, embrace it and relish the act. Only in this manner will we be able to engage ourselves in our own destiny.


A few days after FOI9 later Sakiko contacted me and was very helpful in sharing her personal impressions from RELOCATION. She was sympathetic about the nature of the durational format and understood that viewers can choose to take bites from a six hours work rather than the full 12 course meal. There were no ghosts in Sakiko's relocation room despite the artist using the Fukushima incident as a footnote going through my notes, Sakiko said I missed an important segment; tea time. Beyond midway of RELOCATION, the hauling of objects from one room to another stopped. Sakiko invited the audience to take a tea break with her. The artist broke the invisible fourth wall between spectator and creator, and acknowledged that it was a metaphoric illusion of self containment, but as in real life, sometimes everyone needs a brief rest period.