A few days ago, I was in Munich to see the diploma shows of the graduates in the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. Of course, I was especially curious about the exhibitions of the five graduates of Karen Pontoppidan´s jewellery class. I know most of them from my own studies there as our time in the class overlapped for one or two years. It is an exhilarating but also a bit scary moment to finish these long studies: In the ADBK Munich, you can finish your diploma after three years, but most students stay there for five or even six years. So, we weren’t only talking about their artworks in the diploma show, but also about their plans for the future. The interviews with Mari Iwamoto, Nadine Kuffner, Jing Yang, Emi Fukuda and Kvetoslava Flora Sekanova will be presented here, one by one, over the next few days.
I want to start with a friend of mine: Mari Iwamoto (born 1987 in Tokyo, Japan), came to Munich 6 1/2 years ago to study in the Munich jewellery class, which then was still under Prof. Otto Künzli. Previously, she had studied at the Hikomizuno College of Jewelry in Tokyo from 2006-2009.
For her diploma show, which was titled Zieh dich aus! (“Undress yourself!”), Mari dared to enter a completely new terrain. She created an installation, which consisted of three parts: A city of glass jars, which were all filled with cooked peeled tomatoes, a heap of yellow leaves, and a single oval shaped brown pendant, which was lying on a square cement stone. I recorded our conversation, when Mari explained her work to me:
Carina: Did you cook and preserve these tomatoes?
Mari: Yes, I first separated the tomato skin from the meat and then cooked the meat and preserved it in glasses. The leaves here are the skins of all the tomatoes in the preserving jars. The pendant has a wooden core and then it’s covered with tomato seeds.
Carina: How many tomatoes did you use there? It looks like many kilos.
Mari: Around 150 kg. I cooked tomatoes for about three months…
Carina: Please tell me a bit about the idea behind it. I know that you worked with the shape of tomatoes before, but now this is a whole different story I believe.
Mari: For me, the tomatoes are similar to humans. They consist of a thin skin and inside there is meat, water and seeds. Also, tomatoes are a very common vegetable, and you see them all the time. And they are very fragile, which I find is comparable to us.
Carina: So when the tomatoes are symbolizing humans, why did you peel their skin off? Did you want to expose their insides?
Mari: My aim in the beginning was to create a jewellery piece. I think that one important characteristic of jewellery is that it helps to express the individuality of the wearer. So, I was thinking about what individuality means today for my generation, especially in Japan. I think my generation did not create a lot. My grandfather’s and father’s generation had to rebuild Japan after the war almost from scratch, but today, we are just followers. Today, most people in Japan totally identify themselves with the company for which they are working. Even if the work is really, really hard, you will never quit, because it is the most important thing for you. When we are born into this world, we have our own individual skin, our own character, but eventually we consciously or unconsciously get rid of it to fit into another cover instead. And we have to change a lot to fit in there.
Carina: So the jars symbolize the new “houses” where the individuals had to fit inside. And all the jars together create something like a city, an accumulation of unities, which contain the individuals. Is this installation talking about the loss of individuality when we obligate ourselves into a certain closed community, e.g. a company?
Mari: Yes, exactly. I must say I feel very secure and comfortable in a group, for instance, I belong to the group of students of the ADBK which makes me feel safe. The individuality of one person is beautiful, but also instable and weak. But when you belong to a community, the group is much stronger and protected. It feels comfortable. However, we do have a substantial need to be different from others even though I believe we don’t know what this really means. This is what the pendant is symbolizing.
Carina: What do you mean? What do the seeds of the pendant stand for?
Mari: The seeds symbolize the future. We have the potential to build something new, but we don’t know how to do that. Our system is finished and rigid, and to change or destroy parts of it doesn’t come naturally to us.
Carina: So do you think that we have to leave the safety of the jar to create our future differently?
Mari: Yes, definitely.
Carina: The pendant looks quite archaic.
Mari: Yes, I wanted to create a kind of talisman from the seeds.
Carina: So, now that you are finished with your studies here, what is the individual Mari going to do?
Mari: I will stay in Munich for now and will continue making art, but I don’t know which kind of art that will be. I’ve been working in the field of art jewellery for a long time now and I want to continue my research about the body etc., but I feel that what is more important for me now is to implement an idea that I have and develop it in the way I feel is right for it.
Carina: I think it works really well here. The different parts of the installation all tell one story together. It is totally conclusive. So maybe that is a good way of working for you, to express an idea in different media and bring them together.
Mari: Yes, I would like to choose the media according to the idea or thought that I have. Video, installation or jewellery, there is no limit for me, and also no hierarchy. The media has to express the idea well. That is where I will center my attention.
Carina: So congratulations on this great diploma show. You also won a prize for it, no? Which one is it? I know there are several…
Mari: It is called “Senator-Bernhard-Borstpreis” of the Stiftung Kunstakademie. It includes another show from the 9th until the 17th of June 2017 in Lothringer 13 Halle in Munich.
Carina: Great. So people will have the chance to see a similar installation again there?
Carina: Thank you, Mari!
1 Mari Iwamoto: Invitation card for diploma show Zieh dich aus, Photo: Mari Iwamoto
2 Mari Iwamoto: Diploma show Zieh dich aus, Munich, 2017; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
3 Mari Iwamoto: Diploma show Zieh dich aus, Munich, 2017; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
4 Mari Iwamoto: Zieh dich aus, 2017; Tomato skins; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
5 Mari Iwamoto: Zieh dich aus, Pendant 2017; Tomato seeds, wood, soil; Photo: Masayuki Nagata
6 Mari Iwamoto: Diploma show Zieh dich aus, Munich, 2017; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
7 Mari Iwamoto: Zieh dich aus, 2017; Tomato flesh, glas jars, cement; Photo: Masayuki Nagata
8 Mari Iwamoto: Diploma show Zieh dich aus, Munich, 2017; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi