A conversation with CHiKA

By Eve O’Shea

Still from “Holding Breath” exhibition at the NARS Foundation, October 9 – 30, 2020 

Artist CHiKA talks about the work made at her recent Satellite residency at the NARS Foundation at Governor’s Island. She describes the processes of her practice and the details the work in group exhibition Holding Breath.


EOS: What is the role of the audience in your work? In what ways do you choose to incorporate the audience as part of the piece, and why?

C: I used to be a DJ at a club, with experimental controllers, in front of live audiences. You are performing in front of the audience, in a sense, and seeing how people react to that. My installation is an extension of that — my art is always with people. I want to gather people together and for us to make something together. So in my installations, I’m not performing; my installations are there so that people interact with each other. Every station has a different concept — two people get together or learn something to do with the installation, or I use my selection as a tool to get people together and learn something.

EOS: There’s often some element of light in your work that’s very important. I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about that.

C: It’s also an extension of working in the dark. Projections are only able to be seen in the darkness. There’s something about being in the dark and seeing a light — that excitement I have in the audience is something I can’t explain very well. I think it’s something in our DNA. When you’re a kid, making fire… I can’t understand it. Also probably, you know, fire in a cave —- maybe people did shadow puppets or whatever. That’s probably the first performance… There are changes in that way that we see things, but the bottom line is the same. And you want to communicate through your visual performance or visual presentations with other people.

EOS: I was also thinking about how you used different geometric elements in this piece. Could you speak about that?

C: In this piece, everything goes along with five number five. Plato’s five elements are his most famous ones – all of these elements are the same size and angle and create the five objects. They follow the same law — the same agents, same face size, same angle; all the bodies of the solids fit inside of the sphere. So the sphere is the perfect company — it’s all goes back to the same concept, and the creation of the piece connects the dots. Connecting the dots is always the bottom line of the concept. I always wanted to stick with the, like, invisible rules. And once it’s revealed people go, “aha,” right? I like that rules control my concept.

Still from “Holding Breath” exhibition at the NARS Foundation, October 9 – 30, 2020 

Some people love crazy artwork. I like hidden meaning that follows the rules.

I guess it’s coming from like growing up in the 80s in Japan, you know, even though I like freedom… That’s a funny way of looking at my work. It’s easy for me to create structures, and then follow it, and create ways to do that.

EOS: How do you choose the medium, the physicality of the piece itself?

C: It’s always related to light. I used to do projection mapping, which is creating content and projecting it onto three dimensional surfaces. By the same technique, I can map the lights, and use LED bars to get a different type of light, and I found that more interesting, to create shapes. My background is in photography, media manipulation, photo manipulation, and retouching. And then that became projection, PCA, relational mapping and editing. At the bottom line, it’s the same technique but that opened up the opportunity to choose a different medium. And then it’s getting bigger and bigger. Next I really want to try lasers.

Because I created augmented reality stuff here, I plan to combine those together; to do something next year like an installation with augmented reality combined with something else — something different, something new for this process.