</Utopia: Japanese Artist Yumiko Ono On The Art Residency In Moscow>
author: Natalia Borisova
photos: Tanya Sushenkova
Currently, it is not easy for artists from Russia to participate in residencies abroad, also vice versa. The international art residency at the Center for Creative Industries “Fabrika” in Moscow has been a place of attracting foreign artists, providing them with an art studio and a place for living. Now it's empty, but most recently there was an artist from Japan — Yumiko Ono (Japan/USA). She shares her experience of being an art resident in Russia.

Pavilion, 2022

N.: Was it your first experience of international residency or not? Tell us about your feelings and results. What’s your impression of the residency, have you learned anything new from it? Why have you chosen Russian residency?

Y: I’ve done about 15 residencies before all around the world. Unlike the most of the residencies that I’ve done, this one was pretty individual. I was the only resident and I was doing everything individually. In this sense I could concentrate on my research and work and I could build relationships with not only the residency but institutions outside the residency, which was good for me. As a result, I could have a solo show and also have future exhibition plans.

I chose residency in Russia, because I’ve been researching Soviet architecture for the last several years and I produce artworks out of it. I’ve also completed an MA in St.Petersburg and did a residency there before, so this isn’t my first experience in Russia. I would like to build a sustainable cultural relationship with Russia because of the thing I’m focusing on.

Moscow has always been one of my favorite cities and I found out about CCI Fabrika through another residency that I did in Russia and later on I applied for it. I usually use architecture in the region for my work and I think Russia has a very good system in terms of searching things and people are also very helpful and well connected so that is very good for my research.
N: How was the idea of creating the project 'Unbuilt' born?
Y: I have been interested in unrealized architectural plans for several years and I particularly wanted to use images from the unrealized plans from Soviet time for this residency. And I was overwhelmed by the vast construction site landscape in Moscow, particularly the textile cover of buildings, which became an inspiration for the realization of the new work I produced here. I also thought “Unbuilt” could be applicable to my porcelain works, which come along in the same show. One is about the ideal world, others are about fictive architecture.

Utopia, 2018

N: The theme of utopia, an ideal world that exists only in the imagination. Tell us why this topic is so important and what does this topic mean to you personally?

Y: I’ve moved to many countries in the past almost two decades in order to find an ideal place for me to settle down both as a person and as an artist. When I was still wandering around the world, I lost my family and its home and literally became a shelterless person. Then I thought, why not to make the ideal place by myself?

So my ideal place and my base, all of which I had been seeking, I realized them all in myself and my works since there is no such place as an ideal place in the real world. That was the trigger to start producing fictive architecture works. I multiply objects or make a series of drawings and make a sort of city out of it. I want to make some place, which does not belong to anywhere, which is a utopia to me, the ideal place.
N: Do you live in Japan? How would you describe your ordinary artist day from your everyday life? Do you have your own art studio? What mediums and materials do you mainly work with? Do you participate in Japanese art residencies? How would you describe the differences between the Russian and Japanese contemporary art scenes?
Y: It’s hard to say where I live or where I’m based. Since I graduated from a university in Japan in 2005, I’ve been moving from one country to another by getting scholarships to study or residencies. Although I was in Japan for the last two years because of Covid, but I’m back to nomadic life since this year. Since I don’t have any regular job and a family, there isn’t a big border between my everyday life and my artist life. In a way I’m working and playing at the same time all the time.

In Japan during the Covid I made a studio but it’s a new thing. I make mainly drawings and ceramics and lately also textiles. During the Covid time I’ve done 4 residencies in Japan.

I think many Russian artists use their traditional elements like folklore. In Japan there are lots of contemporary crafts and they obviously deal with that but artists rarely focus on it.
Y: It’s not only about art, Japan in general is a community that is very tight and closed, so to keep being loyal to the community is important too. But because of the internet and Covid time, lots of people started to do many things by themselves online and maybe now game is changing.
Y: I’m not really in the Japanese art scene since I’m usually out of Japan so I don’t know if I’m qualified to talk about it but I would say mostly people who graduate from famous universities get advantage.
Yumiko Ono's art studio (from the artist's archive)
N: What are your favorite places in Moscow?
Y: I have so many places that I love in Moscow, there are so many monuments and iconic buildings which are overwhelming, including the Academy of Science, Melnikov’s house, the Seven sisters, Museum of cosmonauts etc. Additionally, it is always nice to walk around VDNKh when I visit Moscow. I have been researching the visual similarities between Russia, USA and Japan especially in the field of architecture. Based on this research, I create works in order to unite the world from my perspective. Therefore, the idea of uniting the world is important for me and that’s why I am interested in world expo kinds of places in general.
N: Who or what inspires you? Tell us about your favorite figures of culture and art? (perhaps there will be Japanese or Russian heroes among them)
Y: Architecture, film, literature, music, minerals, natural science, and art inspire me. I was particularly interested in imaginative architectural and city plan from Melnikov and Krutikov. Sergey Parajanov, Kazimir Malevich, Bela Tarr and Milan Kundela were the triggers to like the Eastern block’s culture. I have sympathy for quietness in works of such atrists as Rei Naito and Yasujiro Ozu.