INTERVIEW WITH TEIJI HAYAMA


Social media fatigue: The glorification of an unrealistic life and the exhausted celebrity wannabes. 


 


AA00

Let's start with your background. Where did you grow up?


T.H

In the south part of Japan, Kumamoto city.



A00

What was childhood like?


T.H

Great memories. Spent a lot of time with my dad, often taking me to museums.



A00

You're half Chinese?


T.H

My dad is Chinese but he was born in Japan.



A00

When did you get into art?


T.H

Since I was about 15. I took art lessons at a drawing school in Japan for few years.



A00

I noticed you studied fashion at Central Saint Martins during your university years?


T.H

Yes, I studied menswear and art history in London.



A00

So you left Japan when you were 18 and went straight to London. Tell us a little bit about your student years. What was Central Saint Martins like?


T.H

It was fun. The School was based in Tottenham Court Road at the time. When I started my first year, Stella McCartney was studying her final year, and I remembered meeting her dad, Paul McCartney, at the canteen visiting his daughter. I was at her graduation fashion show and Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss were on the runway. I also remember studying at the CSM library next to John Galliano! Great memories!



A00

Wow...what an era! it's so strange to even think that John Galliano and Stella McCartney was once a student. So what sucked you into the art world afterward?


T.H

I guess it’s because art was the best way I could ever express myself, more than words or any other job.



A00

Did you feel that fashion was not enough? Or perhaps limiting to some extent?



T.H

Fashion and painting are not quite the same, the approaches are very different. But for me, painting has become the best means of expression.



A00

You're based in Switzerland now. What brought you to Switzerland? and what's that like?


T.H

After graduating from CSM, I moved back to Tokyo where I was also working as an illustrator. Some Swiss fashion magazines saw my work and commissioned me for a few issues, which became so often that I had to move back to Europe...



A00

London, Tokyo, Switzerland...each location with distinctively fascinating cultures and history. Where does your heart belong?


T.H

When I'm back in Japan, I miss Europe... and vice versa, I love the differences and need those changes.



A00

What's your studio like today?


T.H

Too small!!! Not enough walls, I need to move soon...



A00

Is there anything you always do in the morning? Before you work. Something you do every day, like a ritual or a routine?


T.H

I go for an hour walk every morning.



A00

I heard walking can stimulate the brain especially in terms of creativity. Going into your work a little bit, is there any artist you were inspired by? or admire?


T.H

Andy Warhol and Barbara Kruger. I also find some 60s/70s erotic magazines inspiring.



A00

Like pinup girls. You have this pop art-like feel in your works, which makes sense when you mentioned names like Andy Warhol, but at the same time, it's so different.


T.H

Warhol was obsessed with celebrities. While I do use and focus only on past iconic celebrities, they are used in a metaphorical and caricatural way to express how social media is fueling the growing obsession with fame, which is the driving force for some so-called 'wannabe celebrities'.



A00

This self-obsession and celebrity wannabes. Why did you get into this topic?



T.H

It was in 2018, where I felt that my career and art had come to a standstill. I was told "no" a thousand times, it felt like every time I took a step forward, I was somehow taking seven steps backward.

So many artists coveting hard-pressed positions in this over-saturated field...with another million youngsters chasing the same dream. Honestly, I was close to burnout, just hoping that my work would gain some recognition. I guess this entire process actually lead me to discover the current style I have. And it caught Daniel Arsham’s attention one day, where he contacting me to do a solo show at his NYC gallery.



A00

I didn't know that Daniel Arsham was the one who discovered your talents. Celebrities used to feel more untouchable and distant from consumers. Hence calling them a star...but now, everybody wants to become famous (laughs). And frankly, people do and can get famous for randoms things rather than talents or efforts.


T.H

Indeed, some people can...and do get famous for random things, but this also means that real talents that would have been harder to discover would have more opportunities to be in the spotlight...which is a blessing.



A00

The droopy eyes, long amorphous rubber-like bodies...When you say, "social media fatigue has overburdened humans" what do you mean?


T.H

I wanted to express social media weariness by exaggerating some facial and body features. I believe there’s an exhaustion that emerges from the attempt to maintain an ideal digital identity...which is often sustained by users at any cost...for some people.



A00

The distortion effect you use is related to this view?


T.H

Yes, definitely.



A00

It's interesting that you mentioned the term "ideal digital identity". This is an ongoing social phenomenon with a lot of backfiring powers. Why do you think some people, especially the younger generations, work so hard to sustain a false/untrue digital identity? What would you say is the core reason?


T.H

Society creates certain expectations and ideologies on the perfect experience, and many individuals set themselves with high, but often false, standards. When people are unable to live up to those standards, they can rapidly lose confidence or feel left out, so to remedy the lack of self-esteem, they apply layers and layers of filters, forcing their digital identity to meet those criteria of so-called good life. Those untrue images will act as a painkiller to those negative feelings for a while, and the cycle repeats itself as they dive deeper into the fantasized reality.



A00

Diversity has brought the world some previously unimaginable wonders. But it has also brought us lots of confusion, especially in the context of identity. Do you ever feel that our identity has become too liquid...fluid...and fake to some extent?


T.H

The digital world is now totally a part of our reality. Virtual reality completely blends in with our daily lives, to the point where what constitutes the sense of identity has exponentially grown out of control. We can’t physically meet all those people we interact with on the internet, so avatar culture took over where a representation of self is generated to interact on behalf of the user. This online-based digital identity, as a social phenomenon, was probably natural for some people, especially for those who feel more comfortable with what they want to be than what they really are.



A00

Social media has brought diversity and connectivity to the world of art, but the heavy consumption of imageries has become somewhat problematic and confusing. What do you think?


T.H

Yes, social media has been a great platform for promoting visibility, helping people across the globe to connect with one another. Images tend to have a strong emotional factor, and emotions have a powerful pull on us. The right picture can bring out strong emotions in us. Like compassion, joy, disgust, or even hate. Unfortunately, it can also become very addictive.



A00

Do you think it is a curse or a gift?


T.H

Whether it's regarded as a gift or a curse lies in the way we use it...



A00

The hype generated on social media can rapidly glorify certain beauty standards and create a sense of something being "iconic". You certainly play with this idea through your work.


T.H

Yes, but the idea of defining what is trending and iconic, and glorifying certain standards have been around for a long time prior to the emergence of social media. Print media, publishing, news media, photography, cinema, broadcasting, and now through digital media. I've always found it fascinating how media influence people.



A00

The ways in which media influence people have a blurry boundary with how it brainwashes the viewers. The creation of false ideologies, unrealistic beauty standards, glorification of certain lifestyles...the list goes on. Would you say that you are to some extent immune to this? Perhaps because you study this phenomenon as an observer?


T.H

Yes, that’s true and I think that’s a pretty sad, but accurate, observation. I think I have become more sensitive in detecting authenticity, genuineness, and honesty...but not immune. The people I enjoy following are "real". They are genuine and true to their life. And I believe that true artists, painters, sculptors, singers, actors, writers, or designers will always stand up for their work, stand beside them, and never stand in front of them. They don't look for personal gratification through tweets and selfies... They’re focused on their creation, and never on selling themselves.



A00

It's interesting that diversity and uniqueness are often praised to be something special. Something to be cherished. Yet the power of trends and norms has always pulled us back from pushing the boundary too hard.


T.H

True, we’re living in a paradoxical society!




A00

Earlier you briefly mentioned the addictive nature of social media, which is closely associated with the idea of instant gratification. The toxicity is certainly there, but as you said - it all depends on the way we use it. In your view how should social media be embraced?


T.H

If you follow people that inspire and motivate you, then embrace it. But know what's real and what's not. What to expect and what not to. Don't get too detached from the reality. It’s not about using it less, but instead, use it wisely...with a clearer intention.



A00

Celebrities like Twiggy, Marylin Monroe, etc referenced in your work. You tend to reference older generations of celebrities. Is there any reason for this?


T.H

Yes, they are some of the most iconic celebrities, so any generation can instantly recognize them.



A00

In your more recent work, you started referencing basketball. Can you tell us a little bit more?


T.H

I’ve always been a huge fan of basketball, and the manga Slam Dunk. I played basketball for 6 years, and I think it’s probably one of the world's most popular and widely viewed sports now. Basketball can be described as a true art form, and there’s certainly something poetic and beautiful in the motion of dribbling. I think the game can be viewed as a living, breathing masterpiece.



A00

'Slam Dunk' makes a lot of sense considering your Japanese background. Beautiful beautiful ending...The combination of your classic icons, like Marylin and Twiggy, with NBA references, can be uniquely vibrant in the topic of 'Icon'. I wonder if you'll ever paint Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and other NBA legends.


T.H

I’m a big fan, but my work is more about classic Hollywood icons. The vintage influencers! So maybe not touching the NBA start just yet.



A00

In your recent exhibition in Japan, you showcased sculptures along with some paintings. This was surprising and new. Is this something you'll continue to explore? 3D artworks?


T.H

Yes definitely! Even bigger...



A00

Since leaving fashion, and moving into art, you've obviously evolved massively. Can you share a story, something that happened, that really stuck in your head...or inspired you...influenced you.


T.H

When I studied at CSM, the whole school’s motto was to push the boundaries of fashion. And there was this whole thing about blurring the boundaries of fashion and art. When I graduated in the end of the 90s, the fashion industry was very creative, over time it became "normcore", making it less and less connected to art. I didn't see the point of pursuing something that is so trend-oriented and characterized by normal-looking clothing. Obviously, this is not the case for all designers, but this experience, in many ways, has led me to realize how deeply in love I am with art...and that I just couldn't see myself drifting away from it.



A00

What do you see yourself doing in 10 years, 20 years? Assuming you're not planning to retire any time soon.


T.H

In 10 to 20 years from now, I won’t be that old! If I can I hope to be still painting!



A00

If you were to leave a message for a younger version of yourself, like a teenager or a child, what would you say?


T.H

I'd tell myself to start painting regularly as early as possible.



A00

You probably spend most of your time painting. But besides art, is there anything you're really into? Something you're secretly or low-key passionate about?


T.H

I’ve been obsessed with outer space since I was a little kid. Captain Harlock and Gundam series definitely opened that door of wonder...



A00

Last question, give as a movie recommendation!


T.H

George Lucas, THX 1138 and Solaris from Andrei Tarkovsky, and Mystery Train from Jim Jarmush.


 
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