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JT                       Jonna Tapanainen

TK                      Tadashi Kawamata


JT: Kansainvälinen nykytaidetapahtuma Helsinki Biennaali järjestetään tänä kesänä Helsingin Vallisaaressa. Tässä podcast-sarjassa keskustellaan tapahtuman merkityksestä sekä siitä, millaisia taide-elämyksiä on luvassa. Minä olen toimittaja Jonna Tapanainen. Helsinki Biennaaliin on kutsuttu 40 taiteilijaa ja taiteilijaryhmää.  Yksi heistä on japanilainen Tadashi Kawamata. Hän rakentaa romusta ja muusta löydetystä materiaalista julkisiin rakennuksiin eräänlaisia loisia, lisäkkeitä, kuten majoja, pesiä, savupiippuja tai siltoja ja luo siten uusia näkökulmia rakennettuun ympäristöömme. Vallisaareen Kawamata luo väliaikaiseksi maamerkiksi puurojusta rakennetun majakan. Tadashi Kawamata asuu ja työskentelee Pariisissa, jonne hän oli puhuessamme juuri palannut Helsingistä majakan rakennustöistä. Kysyinkin ensin miten työskentely Vallisaaressa oli sujunut.

TK: It was very nice, you know sunshine and a very nice good day, and we are really lucky to (be walking) [0:00:09.0] like that, and (then) every morning we just go there to the (starting to work) and with my assistant, and the (two of the) students from the academy, they (are helping), so (–) really nice. And so everything is set up, it was very good (organised) you know the material, machine and the tools, everything set up ready. So we got a really good (–), (and also the good weather). So we are really nice and you know (working there) [0:00:41.7], I was really happy to the finishing the you know this (time of the work) (-).

JT: So let’s talk about the work in Helsinki Biennial, it’s called Vallisaari Lighthouse, and it is a lighthouse that can be seen from far at the sea and also from the neighboring islands and also from the Helsinki waterfront and I was wondering when you first time visited Vallisaari, did you already have something like this in your mind or did the island inspire you?
TK: No, well I’m always when I go to the site, for the, to make a project I have no idea, I have no information, I just (begin) there, and then I just get all the, kind of like researching for the (you know the thing) and (people to talking, they explain to me) so the, we (worked) a lot there, it was already three years ago, I was visiting the first time in the, you know (-) island. And then this is a military island, and now it’s a totally (dead) [0:01:44.4] island and nobody’s there but it used be (like there), a lot of people you know about 300 people (were there), so it’s this kind of like (old information I just get it) and then we can, I made a couple (of) you know (plan) ideas. Then we can (you know discussing) which one is best, which one is good. So one of the (plan) I just think about you know when I see the this kind of like (elevator shaft) [0:02:15.3], you know not it’s like (–) concrete you know (the mountain or something) so that’s the site, so now we are, I was (working) you know, so (–) this elevator shaft goes down to the underground, (to putting there some), I think this is the (–) military you know some (weapon or anything) or maybe some kind of like secret thing to do underground. So underground is very much a mystery and (also there) very much secret, and it’s very important for (this) military island. So the underground, something (–) [0:02:52.8], then to the elevator shaft go up to the, the island, so I think it’s a, you know (this is a) lighthouse tower, but it (is not really) lighthouse, this is (more or less like you know something) (-) (bless) come up from the underground, so this is you know, the idea it’s like just (blessing) from the island. The island (is still like a bless) from the (underground history or underground during a memory) [0:03:24.0], you know come out on the island, so the (–) (the light on), so (–) somebody living there or somebody (–) island was a (blessing) or you know just kind (of an image), it’s not like using for the ship you know, going (-) out, not this kind of (–) lighthouse tower, not like that. This is more like (you know) the metaphorically (image of the) [0:03:56.9] island (still aliving) island of (–) [laughs].

JT: Yeah, that’s a wonderful combination, this tower that is huge and that can be seen very far away, but then there’s this other element. This invisible channel from below the ground, so that’s a very wonderful combination.

TK: Yeah yeah, but you know the, we have a very much (concerning) [0:04:27.1] about the (lighthouse) I mean like the light, (-) the sea. (So the ship will be confusing), so that’s why we cannot very very strong light, or (–) not like that, just (stay) on the light, (never changing), so now I think (it’s already set up) from the six o’clock in the morning till one o’clock in the night (it’s turned on) even the daytime nighttime, then one o’clock to the six o’clock in the morning they just shut down.

JT: Ok.

TK: Because (of the white light) [0:05:06.3] (–) you know,

JT: Yes.

TK: ..(–) something like that.

JT: Well, your works have been this kind of..

TK: Site-specific, very much site-specific, yeah.

JT: Yes, exactly. But they also shape these kind of public places, these buildings, and in very like the one you did in Palace of Versailles with thousands of wooden vegetable and fruit boxes from the local merchants, and this kind of wonderful like this (parasite) [0:05:37.0] feeling to them, but this is a bit different because the lighthouse (-) almost be a building that has (existed during) island that’s missing from the island.

TK: As I told you this is a tower, but of course, (looks like a) lighthouse but (it’s not really a lighthouse at all) [laughs] and, so also the I use (all) the scrap material from the, come from the island, (not from there), but of course technically, also the kind like an obligation, I have to (-) [0:06:10.1] (make strong the structure) (–) because (-) this area is very much windy, and then it’s not you know (-) or anything. So the (total like) the engineering (obligation) and( then to kind of connect with) scrap material from the local, this island, so this is (I can make it) (–) for me it’s like a (-) box or some scrap material I (always using) [0:06:44.3], but the reality of the engineering, the building you know (-) so this I have to be (following to them) anyway. So it’s kind of like a mixture, so it looks like a you know, (-) structure, but also the attaching to the some scrap material like that. So it’s like in between the lighthouse and the (some kind of) different type of tower, you know (wooden) tower.

JT: Yes.

TK: It’s kind of like symbolically for me (to the light it’s on) [0:07:14.6] this is very important, also the tower is (–) find out, it’s like a sign (of the you know biennale) to see the site or (something like a happen) to there. And also (to) connect with history of the island.

JT: I wanted to ask what is the value, why is the reclaimed material (central) to you as an artist and also this temporarity?

TK: I think, I don’t (believe any) [0:07:45.6] new you know very much sensational new art or new art (works), I always (using) for the scrap material because I really like (–) already existing some materials some piece, but somehow they (destroyed or scrap) or some (–) so I just find some material and the using for (that) something new. So this is (I’m more interesting) [0:08:15.2] about the something very very special and new material (to using), or maybe some (stone) or metal or anything, I use just you know (already existing) also the, even the material they’re (not using) anymore, or you know, this is I can (using for something) new you know something different way to do you know.

JT: Yes.

TK: For example like a (-) box, they’re always (throw away)(–) so I just (–) then (decided) to make something different, so this is a quite different type of (work) [0:08:51.5] you know, and (this is a free) [laughs], free material so why not.

JT: Yes yes. And not bringing anything extra to the world, and also Vallisaari is a very delicate place so it’s also valuable that it’s not something that you bring somewhere else that has been produced for that, so, but also it’s not always about the finished work, I mean you have also said that the production process is important, and then you often build your works with the local groups, and you had some students or artists from academy here with (–) [0:09:29.0 os] (lighthouse)..

TK: Actually the, first time I came to the Helsinki, I had a (lecture) at the academy and then I was asking to those students if you are interested about my work (–) with the project in biennale, so then the yeah, some students (then) applied to help (here). But it was a bit like you know one year (postponed) [0:09:58.8] that’s why more or less you know [laughs], (how to call it information), but anyway I got (–) two or three yeah something like that, but it was very nice, yeah, (it’s very familiar) it’s like, we have four teams and then (working together) and (eating) together, (–) yeah it was very nice you know (take care of the artist you know). I get a free meal from the (-) lunch) [0:10:28.3]..

JT: Yes.

TK: ..(–) site, so that was really nice, good for the artist anyway and (–) hospitality yeah, very good hospitality, yeah.

JT: Well, I have to ask how does it feel, I mean you said that it was maybe three years ago you visited Vallisaari for the first time and the pandemic postponed everything and so on, so how does it feel to actually execute the work that has been planned so long ago?

TK: Yeah, it’s very complicated, (to postpone) [0:10:58.3] for the you know the corona, and you know (this time we are very much concerning about) how to go there and stay there and work in there, so the PCR check, like in France and then PCR check in Helsinki, and the way to back to the (Paris) I check again to the PCR check so it’s four times, (I’ve put in the stick on the nose) you know, it’s really you know (-) [0:11:29.0]. But anyway and then with everybody has a mask, so this is we cannot imagine two years ago, so it was very strange. Also the, island is, it’s more like a little bit (isolative). So it’s you know I just take out mask and I just (breath in) it’s really great, you know like in the springtime many flower, and it’s very very beautiful, and (there was) also very good weather. So for me, anyway you know I was waiting for to (realise) [0:12:04.6] these projects since two or three years now. But I’m really happy to the all the solutions and everything helping, so I’m, it is very (-) and I just (made it anyway), except the PCR check anyway, four times PCR check [laughs].

JT: [0:12:24.4 laughs]. Well you are internationally acclaimed artist and you have exhibited around the world, and the first time you participated in a biennial was in 1982 when you were 20 years old, and it was Venice Biennial and now you are taking part in the first Helsinki Biennial. I was wondering as an artist what do you think is the meaning for biennials and do you see there’s something that sets Helsinki Biennial apart from the other biennials or do you have any (sense of) [0:12:56.6] that yet?

TK: You know the biennial, you know I did so many places, and almost everywhere in the world, (biennale, triennale you know) (–) everything you know international (exhibition) anyway. So this time was you know biennale Helsinki of course you know it’s already (biennale was exists) so much I don’t know maybe hundred or two hundred (biennale) in the world anyway at the moment. It’s, I think the Helsinki Biennial is very much characteristic the site, the site is very important, because it’s this island (to work) [0:13:36.4] you know. So maybe this is a quite a good (character). (It could) you know point for the other (you know, compare with other) biennales, the idea of the you know, to using for this island, I think this is quite interesting for me, because that’s why I was (participate) (-).

JT: Yeah, that’s great hear. Final question about your work and in general. Helsinki Biennial is the principles are to respect the value of nature and to be as sustainable event as possible, it’s not always possible but you can do much about that well. We can feel quite alienated from the nature, from our surroundings, but did you think your art could be, (could strengthen our) [0:14:24.4] connection to I don’t know, to..?

TK: I think (–) natural environment this is a very very big issue for the global you know (thing), because for the nature (-), the environment it’s quite challenging in the moment and (very rapidly) and very much, I’m not like a (ecologist) or anything but I’m really (concerning) about the material and the (weather) changing and also the you know all (–) [0:14:58.0] (environmental) and some (food) and water, anything. You know this is a how do we, anyway how do we survive in this time of the world, but the thing is very much kind of like changing rapidly by the (consumerism) or kind of like the how do you call, business or (-) economic you know, but I think it’s, they have to be (-) [0:15:32.7] anyway (sometime) very important to think about nature, to think about how to keep the you know in this time or (quality of the work or the world), so you know we have very much (closed the wall) anyway, so somebody dies, somebody born, somebody rich, somebody poor, you know this is a (–) anyway. So I think, you know (it’s just) [0:16:04.3] concerning about how to live together with all this, (–), I’m always interesting about site-specific, because site is always, find out something new, ideas, new (-), new (life) and everything. So this is (I was really interesting).