Ken + Julia Yonetani_Sense of Taste_2011_murray river salt_92 x 123 x 6cm
Why did you decide to become an artist?
Neither of us really made a conscious decision to become an artist. This sounds kind of naff, but maybe it was more kind of fate. One day we took a trip to a ceramics studio in Okinawa. There was a sign that said “looking for apprentices” on an old dusty window display. The studio (in Japanese “kobo”) was very rustic, all made of wood, with a huge Noborigama out the back. A couple of flea-ridden dogs came hobbling out. Right at the back of the kobo sat pottery master Toshio Kinjo, meticulously engraving traditional Okinawa fish patterns onto large ceramic pieces. This became the place where Ken ended up working for three years, nine hours a day, six days a week. And the beginning of his art career.
It is harder to pinpoint a particular time for Julia. To her detriment, she always got very good marks at school, and followed the path of the “elite student”, from Sydney University to Tokyo University and then on to a PhD scholarship to the Australian National University. It was only when she suddenly dropped out from her academic career after having children that she really began to question what she wanted out of life. She worked as Project Manager on Ken’s Sweet Barrier Reef in Venice, and then Ken + Julia did a performance together at the beginning of 2010 in Federation Square (Global WARming IS OVER! (if you want it) bed-in). They have been collaborating together ever since.
Can you explain the process behind your work and the inspiration behind this process?
It is like running a marathon, but with four legs.
Conceptually what are the ideas and concepts being explored and conveyed through your work?
Our work is an expression of our anxiety about the direction the world is taking.
What are your key influences as an artist?
There is a saying by the twelfth century Japanese Emperor, Joko Goshirakawa:
Nothing is born without play
Nothing is born without fun
When I hear the sound of children playing,
Even I feel the urge to join in
What is it that you want audiences to take away from your work?
Rather than take away, we like to think that it is the audience and their experience interacting with the work that gives our work its meaning.
Tell us about one highlight from your career so far…
Everyday more we are able to make work and live our passion is a highlight for us.
What else do you have coming up in the near future and what are you working on next?
Being able to be a part of the Singapore Biennale next month (October) is a big thing for us.