Yuzuru Maeda creates cross-disciplinary works, merging video, music, dance and sculpture.

Art Radar had the opportunity to speak with performance artist Yuzuru Maeda to learn more about her multi-faceted art practice.

Portrait of the artist Yuzuru Maeda. Image courtesy the artist.

Portrait of the artist Yuzuru Maeda. Image courtesy the artist.

Yuzuru Maeda was born in Japan in 1978 and attended Singapore’s LaSalle College of the Arts, where she earned her Bachelor’s in Music in 2009. Currently, Maeda divides her time between locations in Asia, which include Singapore, New Delhi and others. She organises the Zentai Art Festival in Singapore and around Asia, as well as the Singapore based festival Performance Art Resource Orchestrator. In addition to her performances, Maeda does not limit her practice to a single categorisation and develops many cross-disciplinary works within: music, dance and sculpture. Her Zentai Performance Art works have gained international recognition and have occured in several countries throughout Asia since 2009. Maeda explains that she

uses the Japanese subculture to investigate the human conditions of identity, spiritual connections with cosmic energy in the universe and as a means to come to terms with one’s living environment.

Art Radar spoke to the artist to learn more about her cross-disciplinary and performance art practice, zentai suits and collective energy.

Detail of a Zentai Performance, variant dates and location (2009-2018). Photo Credit: Wugang Ng. Image courtesy the artist.

Yuzuru Maeda, Zentai Performance (detail), variant dates and location (2009-2018). Photo: Wugang Ng. Image courtesy the artist.

Please explain your interest in performance art as a medium. How did you get into performance art?

I was musically educated. During this time, I had an interest in the integration of music and visual performance from artists like John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen, La Monte Young. And I started to go to performance art events. Having a chance to experience an international performance art festival was what helped to guide to the way.

Are there other artistic media that you work in to communicate your ideas, or are you solely a performance artist?

I make video. I also work in sound performance, and additionally I do dance projects.

What do you think it means to be a performance artist today in this global climate? Are there responsibilities that the artist must take on in order to deliver successful works? What do you think of the idea of ‘successful works’?

Being able to make living off of an artistic practice is a successful ideal. Responsibilities that the artist could take on to ensure that they deliver successful works would be to fully immerse and dedicate their life to the ideas that they are working with.

Detail of a Zentai Performance, variant dates and location (2009-2018). Photo Credit: Wugang Ng. Image courtesy the artist.

Yuzuru Maeda, Zentai Performance (detail), variant dates and location (2009-2018). Photo: Wugang Ng. Image courtesy the artist.

As the Curator of Performance Art Research Orchestrator, what was it like to put this event on in Singapore as an alternative to the arts programming that happens there at other times during the year?

The purpose of the project is to create a platform for local community engagement and development in the performing arts using performance art as a unifying artistic canvas across all countries in Asia. There are many good performance artists around Asia that are not known because in the major performance art events, only certain artists are repeatedly invited to participate. These artists might be an organiser of another performance art event, or very well known performance artists that have status to attract audiences and funding. For Performance Art Resource Orchestrator, we want to go back to the basics of art – where the event is an opportunity to express a message to society. We believe that art is the collective energy of a community, rather than a piece of artwork produced by the individual. We want to build the collective community’s energy in each country and connect the creative motivations for realising art throughout Asian countries in order to make one big community of artistic energy in Asia.

This platform is also focused on the importance of the interactions between contemporary artists that result in exchange and discussion. What is being addressed is the accentuation of an artist-centric approach, which is in the spirit of earlier avant-gardes. At the core of these earlier methods of working are a non-hierarchic and non-formal attitude. It is an honest counter-current and alternative, which operates on the ephemeral and the human scale, and because it is non-hierarchical in structure, it is also profoundly non-commercial. Since there is nothing to sell, it can only give those who understand art an exchange in the form of “pure experience”.

Yuzuru Maeda, Zentai Performance (detail), variant dates and location (2009-2018). Photo: Wugang Ng. Image courtesy the artist.

Yuzuru Maeda, Zentai Performance (detail), variant dates and location (2009-2018). Photo: Wugang Ng. Image courtesy the artist.

Recently you performed in the Dhaka Live Art Biennale (2017), and the Kolkata International Performance Art Festival (2018). Could you speak a bit to the variant audience engagement that you get from delivering your works in different places, as well as detail the works that you delivered or your recent works?

As mentioned previously, what is of interest to me is that zentai not only takes away the physical details that are constructive of identity, but it is also possible to see that through the removal of individual demarcations, it can be seen that we are not separate from each other. We are actually just one energy. Zentai reminds us to be a simple being. This idea became stronger in recent years. I have an urge to develop and discover the collective movement of groups of people.

I recently engaged a dance company to try dance projects with zentai. The dancer will wear same colour zentai and explore movements. The ideal dancers would be having a wide range of age and body type. But the dancer with big belly looks beautiful in zentai. In Zentai, we can appreciate the uniqueness of the body instead of the typical slim and young body figure. As if the world need different body shapes puzzled together. A group of people in zentai in a sense, merge together, which enhances cohesion of energy from the group dynamic. Perhaps this is who and what we can be, a community and less separate as individuals. The dance presents an alternative to the singular pursuit of individual benefit. The performance highlights how the surrender of individual identity enhances cooperation and harmony in a group.

Have there been times when audiences are more susceptible to participation, and other times where audiences did not know what to make of it? How do you navigate this?

I don’t know how to navigate this yet. I still think about audience reaction of the performance that happened one year ago. It is variant.

What are some of the relevant readings or materials (video, music, other artists) that have informed your work? Are there any texts that you are reading now that are resonating with you?

“When I was younger I thought that the fantasy of becoming invisible and the desire to become a poet stood in an antinomy. But now I can positively say that these two dreams are not contradictory at all.” ― Shuji Terayama

Yuzuru Maeda, Zentai Performance (detail), variant dates and location (2009-2018). Photo: Wugang Ng. Image courtesy the artist.

Yuzuru Maeda, Zentai Performance (detail), variant dates and location (2009-2018). Photo: Wugang Ng. Image courtesy the artist.

Do you anticipate that there will be a shift in what we know of as performance art right now, because it is a responsive medium to the sites in which it is created, and the world is changing so much right now?

I don’t see the change now or the need for change in the future regarding performance art. I don’t believe in applying focus to the temporary changes from generation to generation, because of global change, etc. When we read the literature of 2000 years ago, we are able to clearly know that we have not grown as much as we may have hoped. Human nature does not change much at all. Rather than focusing on where we might be going, instead, what we need to focus on is to have an intensity in our artworks that is timeless and unconditional.

What is coming up next for you in your curatorial and artistic endeavours?

At the moment, I am trying to organise a performance art event in New Delhi. And I also want to have another Performance Art Resource Orchestrator in Singapore. I am about to have my first sculpture exhibition as well. My larger dream is to have a large scale dance project with thirty people.

Chelsea Coon

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Related Topics: Japanese artists, performance, collaborativeidentity art, interviews

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Brittney

By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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