Thursday, May 14, 2015

In Conversation: Chaco Kato

Artist collaborations are a fascinating and growing area of arts practice. They are not new but they are on the rise. The idea of the singular artistic genius slavishly working away in a private studio has given way to artists who work collaboratively with designers, with fabricators and with each other. Slow Art Collective is just such a collaboration and has built a reputation for itself over recent years. Town Hall Gallery is very pleased to be able to exhibit their work as part of Conflicted: Adversaries in Art. Currently comprising core members Chaco Kato and Dylan Martorall, Slow Art Collective employs an interesting philosophy in its work and produces engaging, thought-provoking art. We put some questions to member Chaco Kato about the artwork we have on display, some of which includes art made by her young son, and the ideas driving the group's work.

Bow River (2014), by Slow Art Collective 

Could you explain the connection between your son Ringo, the weapons we have on display and where the idea for them came from?

Ringo has been constantly making things since he was really young. By the age of 6 or 7, he started using electric drills and sanders to create 'weapons' - swords, shields, etc - which he was using for dress up and play. Then he learnt simple bows and arrows, followed by rubber-band guns and cross bows. 

When he was about 10 yrs old (a few years ago), he decided to have a small stall selling of his creations at a school market. He sold almost everything in a minutes. (Just a note here, he goes to 'Steiner school' which is a great arty school but not really for weapon making). The next year, the school committees decided not to allow Ringo's weapons stall, so he was very disappointed. 

Artist Chaco Kato's young son Ringo, carving out an early career as an artist
I told the story to (fellow artist) Dylan Martorell and he suggested that we should make a healthy path for his creative passion, even though it was not really welcomed nor accepted by some sections of society. Dylan has a daughter, Ines, who is about the same age asRingo, and who was also really into bows and arrows after the influence of the  'Hunger Games' movies. So we decided to 'invite' them to Slow Art Collective, and organised a show about it, (last year at c3 Contemporary Art Space). We set up the venue for a 'shooting' stage with sound component. and let the kids run bow- and arrow-making workshops. 

One of the philosophy of Slow Art Collective is break down the boundary between artist and audience. So, we invited children as the main creators and the majority of participants were children. It was also great to incorporate a gameness and play element into a contemporary art arena too. So that was the first show's intention.

And for this show at Town Hall Gallery, i think the project built up more layers and interesting meanings. Showing 'Dangerous Boy's Club'- 'documentary' clips of young boys making weapons - it is showing interesting double edges: while their passion is so pure and full of joy, but so potentially dangerous too, it can lead to the great danger of harming themselves or others, or potentially being deemed a criminal act (as Ringo is so interested making something like real hydrogen bombs, oil making using a parts of microwave etc. crazy!) 

In the real world, there are many kid solders. Are those who are involved with serious wars, or terrorism, were they originally like those boys? Young boys are so full of potential and full of energy but so pure too. It seems like a very fine line between where they end up:  this end or that end. In fact, the exhibition is juxtaposing paintings with beautiful young soldier images, it is really interested.

I think it is interesting to think of the fine lines between art, imaginative creation, curiosity, weapon-looking work (like Juan's work) or actual devices for violence, that would lead us (or kids) to a disaster. That makes me think that things can be so subtle and ambiguous rather than black and white.

One of Ringo's incredibly well-designed, and fully functional weapons,
as part of Dangerous Boys' Club (2014)

How long has Slow Art Collective been going and who have your members been?

We started as four artists in 2009, with Dylan Martorell, Chaco Kato, Tony Adams, and Ash Keating. Originally, the opportunity was given because I won an installation award from Artecycle 2008, and the prize was a solo show with promotional pack. At that time I was thinking of 'Slow Art' as a strategy of art-making; interested in a process-based, site-specific, collaborative and environmentally-experimental project. So I organised a transfer station (recycle depot) as a partner and asked those artists above, as I was interested in their methodology. Since then, we have been invited to explore work in many different fields. Now Dylan and I are kind of the core, and we invite guest collaborators according to the project - Joseph Griffith, Brian Spiri, Kate Hill, Jolinde Deprez, Hiroshi Fuji, for example. Many artists are involved. It is a very open and flexible collective. I think we aim to create artwork with  a collective consciousness.

Collaborative art-making is something growing in the art world, and is quite interesting. Can you explain more of the philosophy behind SAC?

We like being flexible, intuitive and improvisational. Also, i believe art derives from real life and real life also becomes an act of art. So, we like to be responsive to the given parameters, like materials, site, time frame etc. Also, collaboration is central, and we aim to blur the boundaries between artists and audience. Another important aspect is what is slow. We think 'Slow Art' is not about slow in making speed, but rather art with slow absorption within the community and society. It is about slow exchange of values rather than art commodities in direct exchange with money. We are not against the gallery system as such but want to widen and diversify the art arena in the social context. If Slow Art Collective can keep sustainable in this way, there will be more chance for other artists. I think more artists in society means a richer culture and a more interesting world, as life becomes full of artistic visions.

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