ニュース

2020.11.16
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Artist’s web talk session with General director KITAGAWA Fram vol.10 ‘Entomological Souvenirs by Shuhei Ohno’

In this round, we have invited artist Mr. Shuhei Ohno, who will show his artwork at the former Heisan elementary school.

Mr. Ohno has been making artworks with a theme of insects. He will show an artwork that incorporates the green worms he collected in Ichihara at Ichihara Art Mix.

This is the first face-to-face interview of this series.

Joined also by the Art Director of Art×Mix, Ryo Toyofuku who has known Ohno since their teenage time, we had a lively time together, talking over insects.

  

Participants:
 Ohno Shuhei, General Director Fram Kitagawa, Art Director Ryo Toyofuku, Icihara Art×Mix Executive Committee

 

 

Director Fram Kitagawa (hereafter Director):
I really would like to ask you a lot about insects, but before that, I’d like to know how you spent your time and what you’ve been thinking about during the quarantine.

 

Shuhei Ohno (hereafter Ohno):
There was actually little influence on my architectural job, which I do for a living. Fortunately, I was busy during this time. As my family mostly stayed at home, I had more time to play with my kids. My son loves insects just like me, so I went back home before the sunset, and went to catch insects with him every day.

I live in Ikebukuro and one day I drove to a park a little far away. Then, I found many grasshoppers were dead clinging to the plants. I looked at them closely, and found out that they were dead because they failed to molt. I thought it was due to the coronavirus, but, after some research, it turned out to be nothing to do with it. Molting is tremendously risky for insects as mantis and some other insects often die in that process.

 

Director:
When I was a kid, I put some mantis eggs at home but they all died eventually. After that accident, I gave up taking care of insects.

 

Ohno:
My son loves mantis too. What is interesting is that, if you look closely, you would notice that mantis keep their eyes on chase when human moves.

 

Director:
When do mantis lay eggs and when do they hatch?

 

Ohno:
Mantis become adult at the end of summer, so they lay eggs in autumn and hatch in spring.

 

Director:
Where do they lay eggs?

 

 

Ohno:
As I’ve been living in the city, I often saw them lay eggs on the wall of my house. Since I was small, I often observe them, wondering what is inside of the eggs.

 

Director:
Since when have you been interested in insects?

 

Ohno:
The oldest memory I have is from when I was around 3 years old. I remember that I was so excited about the stag beetle my neighbor caught that I fell off from the balcony.

Also, I was fan of drawing from the beginning, and so I started to love drawing insects.

 

Director:
Have you been taking care of insects since you were small?

 

Ohno:
Yes, I have. I remember my personal trend, what I would like to have, had constantly changed.

Sometimes I came back home and looked up the insects that I came across in the catalog, and went out for catching again.

 

Director:
What kind of insect have you ever kept?

 

Ohno:
I used to have giant stag beetles when I was in college. I also made artworks about them.

According to the catalogue, giant stag beetles make nest inside of the tree to live on the tree’s sap, so it barely goes out. Now that I think about it, I was most impressed by the fact that it really lives the same way as described in the catalog, when I had it for real. I didn’t think much of those things as a child.

 

Director:
Was there a boom among the public in general?

 

Ohno:
We had in the 2000s. For some time, those with mutations such as red eyes were sold for millions of yen each.  

 

Director:
I remember insects were sold at Sunshine City in Ikebukuro.

 

Ohno:
They might have been at the space for exhibition.

Since my parent did not buy me insects, I had no other way but to search for them all over the country, from Hokkaido to Kanto. Although I knew that there is hardly any insects in Hokkaido, I could not stop myself.

 

Director:
Do you have any now?

 

Ohno:
I catch and take care of the ones my kid requests.

Now we have stag beetles, beetle larvae, mantis, and bell crickets, nothing really rare. Sometimes we go to specialty stores, but I don’t feel like keeping any now.

 

Director:
At one of the venues of Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, we take care of beetles and offer to the visitors.

We ask them to keep it until it dies, not to release, otherwise the ecosystem might be affected.

 

Ohno:
Beetles grow very fast, so the reproduction cycle is very quick if kept in pairs.

 

 

Director:
What made you start to make artworks about insects?

 

Ohno:
My motive is to know how the world of insects connect to our life. I am now studying the theory of evolution. There are various interpretations and views, and I’m interested to see whether it is recognized as a socially and politically influential theory, or whether it is science or thought. Some theories say animals evolve intentionally but some not, so I quite don’t know what is true.

In this sense, the relationship between human and nature interest me the most now. I’m wondering if I can relate this to my artworks.

 

Director:
Did you become an artist to make artworks related to insects?

 

Ohno:
Not that I only make artworks for insects, but I cannot do what I’m not interested… what I can concentrate on is insects and animals.

 

 

Director:
Mr. Ono and Mr. Toyofuku have been knowing each other for a long time, right?

 

Ohno:
We first met each other when we were 17 years old.

 

Art Director Ryo Toyofuku (hereafter Toyofuku AD):
When we were about to enter the university, there were many at our age. It was the toughest time for those who took an art university’s entrance exam, and I remember the ratio of the applicants to places was nearly 50. Mr.Ohno is a friend who has survived such a tough time with me together. I think he has something I don’t have.

 

Ohno:
It is the case for you too hahaha.

 

Toyofuku AD:
He has been making interesting works for a long time, and he also has his own field of expertise. I recommended him this time as I thought his works should be seen more.

 

Director:
Your video for Artists’ Breath was pretty interesting. I think everyone will like it.

 

Ohno:
Green worms are cute when you look at very closely.

 

Director:
Do you think cockroaches are cute as well?

 

Ohno:
I am thinking about making an artwork featured cockroaches but I’m afraid it might not be accepted. I didn’t really feel dislike before, but as I get older I start to hate them a little bit. I wonder what exactly that ‘dislike’ is. Not only insects, all creatures living in the nature have something respectful. I wonder why people hate them.

My wife came from Tochigi prefecture, but her way of thinking is totally different from mine. For example, if we find a longhorn beetle, I will show it to my kid, while wife will try to get rid of it immediately. In her hometown, longhorn beetles are harmful insects.

 

Director:
In an open-call for the art festivals, some artists try to portrait insects as beautiful and adorable creatures, and others use cockroaches and other pests as a typical expression of the relationship between nature and human.

 

Ohno:
Incidentally, the cockroaches in the mountains are cute.

There are large and slow, living on dead trees, called giant cockroaches. They are sold at a very high price. They are very shiny from the distance and are often mistaken for a beetle or a giant stag beetle.

 

Director:
Is it true that there is no cockroach in Hokkaido?

 

Ohno:
I have lived in Hokkaido until the first year of junior high school, but I didn’t see any. There was no mantis, beetle, brown cicadas or mingming cicadas either.

 

Director:
Because they cannot cross the sea?

 

Ohno:
It is often said cicadas cannot cross the sea. I also heard that, in old days, the river would separate the area that has mingming cicadas, and the other without them. I guess they spread by surface transportation now.

 

 

Director:
Please tell us more about your artwork in Ichihara.

  

Ohno:
I heard that the cover-photo of the butterfly used for Japonica Notebook was replaced due to complains that they are disgusting. It was from the teachers, not the children who study with the notebooks. That kind of incidents have made me create dresses with a pattern of butterflies and bees, and this time, I dug deeper into this theme and made it wearable, collaborated with real insects.

And this is the first time that I had a chance to reorganize my artwork. I am thinking about making some changes. I had not thought about the staff who would operate the machines during Art×Mix, so I suppose it’s better to anticipate such details.

 

Directors:
What about those butterflies that were supposed to be exhibited last March?

 

Ohno:
I caught green worms in Ichihara and I kept them in Tokyo. They emerged so I released them back in Ichihara. As an artwork, it has been completed once. But I will catch new insects from now on.

I couldn’t find any myself last year due to the typhoon, and I got a lot of help form the local people.

 

Toyofuku AD:
They said green worms are everywhere, but we looked for them for 2 days but to no avail.

 

Director:
I think many kids are interested in ants. Have you ever made something about ants?

 

Ohno:
I have built a nest, but I’ve never made it into an artwork. I want to learn more about social insects more like ants and bees. I heard that bees are able to use language and remember human’s face. I mentioned the theory of evolution earlier, but when I looked it up the other day, it was concluded by genetic testing that more than 90% of the Earth’s species have appeared within the last 200,000 years and have not evolved. In other words, the theory is totally denied by this.

 

Toyofuku AD:
I remember we passionately discussed and reached a conclusion that the theory of evolution is fake, a long ago.

 

Director:
I kind of get that most of the species haven’t evolved much.

 

Ohno:
I used to think the time-axis of the theory of evolution is far beyond human’s timeframe, but the new theory made it quite short.

 

Director:
It seems that the research on dinosaurs has progressed a lot.

 

Ohno:
Now dinosaurs are classified as birds. In the past, we have learned birds and dinosaurs were totally different species.

 

Director:
Almost 45years ago, I thought a lot about animals after I read The Seal of Solomon. I see a lot of butterflies and bees flying around my office.

 

Ohno:
I just saw some. This place is surrounded by insects.

 

Director:
Our staff would panic, perhaps little too much, when there is a cockroach.

 

Ohno:
People somehow feel their lives are threatened.

 

Artists’ web talk session with General director KITAGAWA Fram
vol.1 ‘Hope artists have in the midst of the coronavirus disease outbreak’
vol.2 ‘Communication between two distant places’
vol.3 ‘Beyond borders’
vol.4 ‘Small changes in the daily life of the artist’
vol.5 ‘Time difference of 12 hours’
vol.6 ’Online Photo Session?'
vol.7 ‘Possibilities of public spaces’
vol.8 ‘Changing artwork’
vol.9 ‘Longest summer vacation’