Artist Highlight: Yuko Amano
Tell us a little about your background as an artist
I am a photographer and video artist based in Tokyo. I completed a Master degree in Photography at Musashino Art University,Tokyo. Most of my photographs find subjects in nature and animals. The images depict the subjects innocently and freshly, and each image has its own meaning and philosophy based on my interpretation of the world. I am also interested in ethnology and folkloristic, and aim to represent how the relationship between a certain place and human memory or recognition are changing in a long period of history. Since April, I am an artist in residence at the Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris.
Where are you based now and how would you describe what you do?
Normally, I’m based in Tokyo, Japan but I’m currently in Paris for an artist residency for a year. Everything that I record: owls and hundreds of cows and horses drawn in old caves, and the days of the life of the Japanese wolf, which has now become a stuffed animal or a fur; volcanoes 150,000 years ago, when the pebbles under one’s feet were rocks; and now the fate of a single leaf flowing down a river, and the tomorrow of an ant I saw some time ago.
I am deeply interested in long-term or instantaneous changes to the meanings bestowed on certain phenomena. And I feel a strong creative desire to use photography, which does not have a temporal scale, in order to realise the ways in which these changes are established as memories or forgotten completely.
This is like forgetting the names of everything one can see from where one is standing, and assigning new names. This process gives me a sense of being within life with a world that continued from the time when humanity became conscious until now.
Looking at the present means looking at the past and the future, and I always take the positive view that all photographs have the inherent possibility of becoming reference materials for the future hundreds of years from now. It’s not a matter of what is true and what is false: what one can see is everything.
Describe the technical process you use to create your work
I usually use PENTAX 67 with colour film to take photographs, as well as hand printing in a dark room. When I make some video work, I use Nikon D800. I pay attention to when I take a photo or video as “photographing objects in a style that befits the object as though something is one thing but could also be everything else.”
Why would you describe yourself as an environmental artist? What is the relationship between your work and nature?
Because we came from nature and I think that it is the origin of everything. Human beings can’t live by themselves, nor can they ignore the environment even though there are many serious issues in only human society.For my work, nature is an enigma for all, and an answer as well.
Why would you say that your art is purpose-driven? If so, what do you aim to accomplish through your creative expression?
To be honest, I’m not sure if my art is purpose-driven. I try to go to same place where I took photos several times and understand there. I think that everything has many-sided meaning, even a stone at the bottom of a river. I wish that I could represent the flow of time and change in meaning using my art even though it is only one photograph, and it gives a good influence to the nature little by little.
Which environmental issues and causes are you most passionate about?
First, please excuse my narrowing perspective answer, but I suppose that this kind of issue is happening everywhere in the world.
There are some areas where damage to an alpine plant or a bark caused by deer which are increasing in recent years is becoming more and more serious in Japanese mountains.
I think there are many reasons why deer are increasing. For example, one of those is a declining Matagi, who are Japanese traditional hunters in mountains area, caused by aging or changing eating habits. Another major reason is the extinction of Japanese wolf. Japanese wolf is thought to have become extinct by Rabies, Canine distemper, indiscriminate hunting and many people wanted to have it as the object of worship in the late Edo period.
I’m always confused when I think about this issue. I’m not sure what/who was wrong with it. One thing is for sure, Japanese wolf are never going to come back again and nobody knows how bring back them. However, I would like to say one thing that there are a lot of people who aim to do something good for nature or another living things in Japan.
I have asked Rinpoche about this issue when I went to Bhutan and met him accidentally.
He only said, “If there were no flowers, there are no deer. If there were no deer, there are no wolves. If there were no wolves, there are no human beings. If there were no human beings, there are no flowers.”
I still haven’t been able to understand all of it. It’s sad but I would never grasp it completely. I feel the necessity to keep it in mind at all times, even though there is no answer.
Do you have any upcoming projects or exhibitions that you’d like to share with us?
Some of my works will appear in the magazine, which name is Slanted published in Germany next January.