Fall 2011 Fellow
As many expatriates have learned, you really can’t go home — and feel at home — again. This has been the experience of Rui Sasaki, a Fall, 2011 resident fellow at the Center Glass Center of America. Like many young glass artists today, she spent several years as an international nomad, attending schools and workshops, assisting senior artists, working in glass, and teaching. When she returned after five years in the US to the house near Tokyo in which she grew up, she was surprised to discover a strangeness. She loves the house and had looked forward to being there but she experienced an unexpected psychic discomfort, a sense of literally ―not fitting in.‖ ―Who am I?‖ she asked herself. The scale of things related to her body-sense felt wrong, especially what she calls ―private space,‖ the clean, empty space of a single room.
Sasaki is sensitive to the inner kinetic perception of the body in space. She’s made a number of works in which she explored the relationship of the human body — her body — to the corners of a room. Corners are her favorite places she says, safe because it’s possible to see everything else in the room, but she is frustrated that she can’t fit her body perfectly into this safe place. One might describe the corner as a practical invention, but it is not an invention made in emulation of the human form. It isn’t possible to fully utilize the space in a corner. Sasaki casts the negative spaces that simply can’t be used, those between her skin and the walls, making a collection of corners — and has previously done performance works in which she tried to force her body into corners or even into a cube of volume comparable to her body. She even endured the painful challenge of trying to adapt to a frozen cube of ice to her human contours, playing out her incompatibility with it by placing her naked body on and around it until it melted completely away.
Thinking about her Tokyo home, that particular 30-year-old house with which she has lost certain core connections, she got copies of the blueprints and is using them as the basis of a series of works at the WheatonArts. Drawings made with glass powder suspended in gum Arabic are permanently fired onto sheets of clear glass, making a permanent but visually elusive drawing. The finished very low relief image is transparent, revealing itself through a directed beam of light and casting shadows on the wall behind. Like memory itself, it seems protean, unfixed, changing with the viewer’s point of view. Sasaki also made wax models of the building with the intention of casting them.
A stranger in family house, Sasaki doesn’t feel at home in the over-scaled United States either. It’s too vast, seemingly unsafe. ―Everything here is big for me, uncomfortable for me.‖ The concept of the empty room that she calls ―private space‖ is ―about my culture, about my memory, my past life and something personal.‖ In practical terms, she says it’s not a space where one is alone so much as a place where one feels safe, intimate, and unselfconscious.
In engaging with intractable architectural structures, Sasaki enacts a dilemma of contemporary domestic life. We have made an interface with nature that makes nature more comfortable for us: warm, sheltered. Similarly, in civilized life, humans have invented useful relationship structures that are equally artificial. They include language and money. They are vital but they are also troublesome. In a world that is increasingly permeable through travel, the sense of self is persistently reconfigured by new spaces, new customs, new languages, and new homes.
Sasaki had her mother collect and send her the dust that gathers in the corners of the house. ―The dust has absorbed the air and essence of the place where it settled.‖ She hopes to make a record, a disk coated with this dust, that could be played on a turntable. The needle – a nail hooked up to an amplifier—will play the sounds of that dust, an essence that recorded the specific and intimate corners of home.