OPEN STUDIO: ARTIST-IN-RESIDENCE
SEPT 22 to OCT 26, 2019
ABOUT THE ARTIST / JON SASAKI
Jon Sasaki is a Toronto-based multidisciplinary artist who explores many concurrent streams of inquiry that regularly intertwine in surprising ways. Charting the territory between logic and absurdity, his work often stages inefficiencies or impossible tasks as prompts for ad hoc problem solving, performative thought experiments that strive to find useful models. His practice brings performance, video, object and installation into a framework where expectation and outcome rarely align. His work has been exhibited in solo exhibitions at The Esker Foundation (Calgary, Alberta), The Richmond Art Gallery, The Rooms (St. John's, Newfoundland) and the Art Gallery of Ontario. Sasaki has participated in recent group exhibitions at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul, South Korea). The Bentway (Toronto, Ontario), the Canadian Embassy in Japan (Tokyo) and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (Toronto).
He has presented durational performance projects at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, The Power Plant (Toronto), the LIVE Performance Art Biennale (Vancouver, B.C.), Toronto's Nuit Blanche, Edmonton's Nuit Blanche and The Toronto Dance Theatre.
Numerous one-night, event-based participatory projects have brought his practice into spaces where the outcomes are tied to a search for useful social models. They have been presented at the Gardiner Museum (Toronto), Massive Party (The Art Gallery of Ontario) and Operanation (Canadian Opera Company, Toronto). His involvement in participatory events began with his membership, from 2002 to 2007, in the Toronto/Vancouver-based art collective Instant Coffee.
Sasaki has participated in Canadian and international residencies, including the 2015 Canadian Glenfiddich Artists in Residence Prize (Dufftown, Scotland), Cataract Gorge AIR (Launceston, Tasmania, Australia), Struts&Faucet (Sackville, N.B.), three stints in Japan, and The Canadian Residency (Detroit, Michigan).
Beginning in 2014 with a public commission for Sheridan College, Sasaki has been working in the realm of public art. He has completed permanent works for the City of Barrie Ontario and Coxwell station on the TTC subway line. He is currently artist lead on a Toronto waterfront memorial to Terry Fox, in collaboration with landscape architecture firm DTAH.
Sasaki holds a BFA from Mount Allison University (Sackville, N.B.). He lives and works in Toronto where he is represented by Clint Roenisch Gallery.
STUDIO VIEW /
The autumn of 2019 was great. I got to spend it in one of my favourite places in the world and refamiliarize myself with a town I fell in love with as a student in the '90s. I arrived at the end of September with a long list of things I wanted to work on during my stay. It was a mixed bag of projects, some new ideas and some old neglected things that just needed a bit of time and space to take across the finish line. I had that in Sackville, and it ended up being a very productive time for me, the conclusion of some projects and the starting point for others. And, as I had done years earlier, I spent many hours in the MTA library flipping through books and jotting down ideas. Up on the third floor I figured out solutions to some art problems that had been vexing me for a long time. It was so deeply gratifying, but I was aware this was an invisible form of productivity and I worried Coco and Todd would think I was slacking off. I figured I should probably do something that looked like art, so I spent a week charcoal sketching the local scenery and taping the drawings up on the wall to resemble a studio. To my surprise I found this deeply gratifying as well, a comforting return to a mode of working that I had set aside for too long. Coco and Todd were very supportive; week after week I would propose ideas that probably didn't sound all that much like art, but invariably they would find ways to help make them happen.
PROCESS & PROJECTS /
Canadian Landscapes Made with Canadian Ingredients.
An ongoing project
I have been making Canadian landscape paintings using only Canadian ingredients; soil dug up in various provinces, ground into pigment, mixed with Saskatchewan-grown linseed oil and applied to Quebec-grown birch panels. It has been excruciatingly difficult.
Working title: "Rat King"
In this durational performance, eight corded power tools are arranged around two switching power supplies. A DMX processor has been programmed to randomly turn on and off the eight tools at different times and for different durations: one, two and occasionally three at a time.
The outcome is entirely unpredictable; the power tools may attack one another, sever power cords, or lacerate the central controller. Or they might spin benignly on the floor. The residency provided an opportunity to iron out the technical components for this performative installation, which was publicly presented for the first time as an online program for The Power Plant, Toronto.
This work furthers my ongoing exploration of industrial infrastructure in post-industrial societies and the possibilities of repurposing materials, tools and processes. Untethered from their prescribed uses, the tools in the piece function in sculptural, sonic and choreographic ways. The outcome could be balletic, with moments of tension and poignant interaction. Or it could result in a cacophonous, writhing “rat’s nest” with disastrous, destructive potential.
Magnet Fishing With Todd at the Quarry
Back when I lived in Bennett house I made regular trips to the quarry. I had an urge to swim in a quarry like those carefree guys in the movie Breaking Away, but this one was full of broken beer bottles and things that could give me tetanus. So I never went in. During my residency I asked Todd if he wanted to go down there with some magnets and see what we could dredge up. I didn't tell him why because I wasn't entirely sure myself. It had something to do with the artistic process... perhaps a vague analogue for the murky searching I had been doing in the library, sifting through reams of material hoping something interesting and unexpected burbled up to the surface. We recovered a hand saw and part of a toaster oven. I don't know if any of this is art—I need to think about it more.
Improvised Light Fixtures
2018 - ongoing
Part of a series of temporary functional sculptures that repurpose readily available objects as luminaires, albeit precarious and dangerous ones. See more Improvised Light Fixtures.
I tried really hard not to start an electrical fire in Struts or the upstairs apartment. The building looks kind of flammable, and I was told that proposals involving fire were the only thing that would be a hard “no.”
The project extrapolates one of my favourite aspects of making work during a residency: the imperative to “make do” and improvise creative workarounds when the right tool isn't readily at hand. The desk in the apartment needed a lamp, so I made one using a c-clamp and a foot of wire. In the end it wasn't helpful for working by because I was distractingly aware I could electrocute myself, but I think the photo is lovely.
This is not a how-do guide, this is art. It is not intended to serve as an example for anyone, anywhere ever. Please do not attempt this at home or away from home.
The Struts Gallery & Faucet Media Arts Centre has a large, heavy safe in the office space, which has sat there since time immemorial. The combination was long lost, so for decades it could not function as a safe. Fortunately, it was locked in the open position, so over the years it has been used sometimes as a gallery venue for safe-sized, site-specific work. It is lovingly referred to as the “Tingley Gallery,” after the manufacturer.
I decided to retrieve the combination by reverse-engineering the mechanism with the help of some safecracking videos on YouTube. It required some focus, logic, concentration and sensitivity to the situation at hand—a lot of the same skills artists use to make art. But unlike artmaking, safecracking always ends with definitive certainty: depending on whether you've done things right or wrong, the safe will either open or it won't. There is no ambiguity about whether the process worked or not. The video documents one of those beautifully satisfying moments in life when everything lines up just perfectly.