五大湖のひとつミシガン湖の南西部に位置するシカゴは、アメリカ3大美術館のひとつシカゴ美術館をはじめとして、シカゴ近代美術館や多くのギャラリーが市内に乱立しています。アメリカ国内ではコンテンポラリアートの本場、New YorkやLAの影に埋もれがちですが、シカゴ建築やローカルアート等なかなか魅力のある都市です。音楽ではChicago Jazzが有名で、ダウンタウンを歩いているとストリートミュージシャンがあちらこちらで演奏していたり、意外かもしれませんがHouse music発祥の地としてクラブ文化も盛んです。

学術的にもシカゴ大学やノースウェスタン大学といった名門校が軒を連ねていますが、シカゴ美術館付属の芸術大学であるSchool of The Art Institute of Chicago(以下、SAIC)は全米屈指のアートスクールで、世界各国から学生が集まります。モダン/コンテンポラリアート関連の歴史書や教科書には必ず現れるようなJeff Koons, Claes Oldenburgや Georgia Okeefeといったシカゴに縁のあるアーティストも数多く在籍しました。

2018春の卒業式ではFeminist Artの第一人者、Judy Chicagoがスピーチを行い、男性優位だった時代のアートワールドで、ジェンダーや文化的逆境を経験しながら、自身がどのように生き抜いてきたか、アートワールドで活動する上で何が重要かなどを熱く語り、卒業生の門出を祝いました。20年、30年も前の作品ですが、Judy Chicagoを筆頭としたFeminist Artistの作品は、現代でも日本社会が巻き起こす諸問題に対し、痛切なメッセージを投げかけているように筆者は感じます。

話は戻りますが、一度シカゴを観光に訪れた方であればシカゴ美術館で時間をつぶした方も多いと思います。TripAdvisorのランキングでは近年1位を獲得するほどの美術館で、日々多くの観光客で賑わっており、New Yorkメトロポリタン美術館ほどのスケールは無いですが、所蔵作品のコンテンツや企画展は何度訪れても新しい発見があります。また、シカゴ近代美術館では昨年、村上隆氏がThe Octopus Eats Its Own Legと題した展覧会を開き、記録的な来館者数をもたらしました。次号で取り上げる予定ですが、毎年9月末にはExpo Chicagoが3日間開催され、世界中の名だたるギャラリーがブースを設け、若手~ベテランのアーティストの作品がジャンルを問わず一堂に展示されます。

只、どこの都市でも言えることですが、ローカルのアートシーンは美術館を訪れてもなかなか触れられるわけではなく、地元のギャラリーに足を運ぶ必要があります。当然ギャラリーではそれぞれ時期によって展示するアーティストも入れ替わり、タイミングが合わなければ自分の好みの作品と出会うことができません。

そんな中、ChicagoのLower West Side、元々はチェコ系移民が暮らし、70年代より徐々にメキシコ系移民のコミュニティーと化したPilsen地区があります。現在Pilsen地区はシカゴではトレンディーなエリアで2018年Forbesで世界で最もクールな12の街として選ばれました。この地区はギャラリーも多く、毎月第二金曜日にPilsen Gallery Walkと称したイベントがあり、多くの若手アーティストがスタジオを解放したり個展を開催します。また隣の地区Bridgeportでも毎月第三金曜日に同様のイベントがあり、週末にはシカゴ周辺の多くのギャラリーで夕方になるとオープニングレセプションを行っている事が多いです。筆者の場合、どこでオープニングがあるかなどの情報はVisualist (www.thevisualist.org)というサイトでチェックします。オープニングレセプションなんて聞くと少し敷居が高いと感じる方もいらっしゃるかも知れませんが、シカゴの人々は皆フレンドリーで、無料のワイン片手にローカルのアーティストや見ず知らずの来場者と会話するもよし、つまらなければスルーして次のギャラリーに向かうもよし、一人でも気にせず十分に楽しめます。今後シカゴ旅行や出張予定の方で、シカゴのローカルアートにご興味のある方は、暇があれば是非お試しください。

最後になりますが今回の投稿では、シカゴで制作を続けるロンドン出身のクリエーター、Theo Chin氏にインタビューを試みました。Theo氏は今年大学院を卒業したばかりの新人アーティストで、手書きのドローイングや絵画をデジタル化し独特のアニメーションを制作し、斬新な3Dインスタレーションを制作する若手アーティストです。日本の文化やアートにも興味があり作品の中でもそれが伝わってきます。今回、彼の作品やコンセプト、大学院生活について質問しました。英語になりますが、今後、海外の芸術大学に留学しようと考えている学生の方にの参考になれば光栄です。

(以下、Theo Chin氏 interview)

① Could you introduce yourself and your works briefly?

Hello, my name is Theo and I make animations. I am from London where I studied Illustration for my undergraduate.

② Why did you decide to study at School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) ?

The Film, Video, New Media, & Animation department at SAIC was one of the only I could find in at the world that had an approach to moving image that didn’t feel like an industry school. I knew I wanted to leave London since I had been there for so long. Also, the website wasn’t really bad, unlike some school sites, so I could get some idea of the school without ever visiting. I considered Germany, but I didn’t feel confident about learning the language, and also a school in Copenhagen, but they only took one student from outside the school per year, which seemed exclusive. SAIC was the only place I applied to.

③ How was your school life during the graduate program?

Really hard work but worth doing. Not a lot of sleep and running around a lot. Learning new software, making friends, how to teach as both a teaching assistant and media center trainer. A lot more art history than I had anticipated, particularly in the first year which I was slightly resentful towards, but important knowledge to have. Meeting my girlfriend Minami. Lots of important stuff and great memories.

④ Could you tell me your concept of your art?

I am interested in images, and how they move. What an image of a painting can do as a reproduction that the painting itself can’t. Ideas that have been mulled over by people like Susan Sontag. How internet specific movement of imagery inherits ideas that are very old. Memes have come out of this. I suppose the obvious thing to do when making work about this would be to appropriate imagery from the internet, but I sort of stopped doing that when I got to SAIC. My friend Charles recommended me a book by William Gibson called Pattern Recognition from 2003 that I read which has a lot of relevant stuff in it. I’ve also been working my way through Jorge Luis Borges’ fictions. The last work I made, Pinakothek, which was my thesis piece, was the first video I have ever written a straightforward narrative for. I am working on an animation now that is about a young person talking with an entity online whose face changes very slowly; I have written a narration for this also. It is a little influenced by all of that reading, and also by Sanshiro, the novel by Natsume Soseki.

⑤ Why do you combine hand drawing and digital Animation?

I think my least successful work is when I am working with just a computer or just my hands. Somehow the collaboration of a computer and the muscle memories in my body work well together; I think things end up looking much fresher that way. I always start things by hand, and finish with the help of computers. I also really enjoy using paint, and the airbrush, which has been great in relieving some of the pressure from my hands. I make all the movements and colour by hand on paper. Then I photograph these, tweak them in post, and isolate them from the paper in any number of ways. I then put them all together in composition with a few different tools, and work sound/narration in. This is how my last 2/3 works have been made. Each work takes half a year to a year. I anticipate that becoming longer.

⑥ How does this combination relate to your concept?

Conceptually because of what I was saying about reproductions. Things that ‘exist’ in ‘physical space’ transposed into this so-called ‘virtual’ space are able to travel, manipulate, and degrade in exciting ways. Other people could potentially get their hands on what I am a part of, and do something new to them. It’s very exciting. One of the things I took away from my first year of art school [in the UK that’s called Foundation, and you basically try everything], was that a computer is a finishing tool.

That has basically stuck with me.

⑦ What is today’s exhibition concept?

The show is called Fungibles, which is a term you can google easily, and it is the first time I am showing my drawings for these animations. S.Y Lim, an artist who graduated from SAIC a couple of years before me, was interested in having me show the drawings for my animations, so we put a show on like that. S.Y is the same age as me and somehow manages to run Gallery 062 by herself; I have to thank her for making it happen!

⑧ What is your future plan?

I want to keep making videos, maybe work with some other animators. For my thesis I worked with a great sound artist named Sophia Barr Hayne, who created wonderful sounds after I played some stuff I liked. I would love to work with sound artists again since I don’t naturally think in sound. If I make a song on the guitar, I look for what I want with unusual shapes that my hands might make, rather than the sounds themselves. I am hoping to finish a screenplay sometime soon; an idea I have had for a while now.

⑨ Could you give an advice for Japanese people who plan to study art abroad in the future?

Learn English to the best of your ability, because I think this will be the greatest challenge. Try to read something in Japanese, then read the same thing in English. Don’t be afraid, particularly about your art because that is the thing that is untouchable and hopefully impermeable by whatever bad things people have to say… So if you get the hard stuff done a little bit first, then you’ll have an easier time.

Thank you very much.

Theo Chin
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Name. Theo Chin
Date of Birth. 1993
Web URL. www.theoch.in

以上でした、次回はシカゴで毎年開催されるアートフェアExpo Chicagoについてのコラムを企画中です。