"Resident Artists Interview, LMCC, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Work Space Session B 2004-2005"
Interviewed by Ka-Man Tse
Article onLMCC-Lower Manhattan Cultural Council website, April, 2005
LMCC/Ka-Man : When did you start working on this Linear Actions: Cutting Project?
Noriko: I started cutting the paper in 1999. It's going to be a ten-year project, because time is a very important theme in my work, like the annual rings of trees. At first I was trying to make my original geography and my own original typography. It looks like a grand canyon or something, as you know, my biggest work, with the largest depth [1300 sheets of paper]. But that work is already done for me. So I need to move on to the next step. Now I'm trying to use less cuts and use more negative space. To get to the sublime from another angle.
K: Can you talk about how you made the transition from paintings to this kind of work?
N: Before drawing lines, I was painting huge landscapes to get to something sublime. I was fascinated with infinite space, and I wanted to express that image somehow. But, you know, it was totally... I couldn't get to the real landscape. I felt really small. The more [the size of] the canvas was getting bigger, the more depressed I became, because I couldn't get to the real one. Also, the image was not my original image; I was doubting myself. So then I tried to discover myself. I had to ask, "What is my original? What is my original picture, my original landscape?" Then, once, when I was on an airplane, I saw lots of clouds, it was really beautiful against the blue sky, it looked like an ocean. I felt that I wanted to melt into the natural... And that was the reason why I was [originally] fascinated with infinite space. So I tried to focus on the details of nature, the annual rings of trees, the tiny details of wood tips, many things that were these tiny, tiny details. Then I started with small circles, and then lines by etching. By then I was moving on to paper cutting to make three-dimensional work.
K: Can you talk about the influence of Buddhism in your work?
N: Yeah. At first I didn't know about that, and I didn't care about that. Actually, somebody told me that my work and my concept was connected to Buddhist thought, so then I read and studied the book and I realized that was really important to me. The basic thought of Buddhism is that you exist, but you are nothing. You are emptiness. You are like the hole of the donut. So the surrounding environment makes you exist. You are emptiness... So it's connected to my experience when I was on the airplane. I wanted to melt into the natural world, I would disappear, but it's not a negative meaning. It's really rich. So the emptiness means to become the same with nature.
K: How do you describe your style?
N: This is all process. My work is process. It's also the same as the annual rings of trees. So it's all process, I'm never finished. I'm less interested in the finished work. The process of creation is of an equal importance.
K: What I like about your work is that it is a process, and it's very meditative. Even when you're making each cut, you can see that that's what you're talking about as a process. As a viewer you can see the lapse of time and that work and the concentration and your own consciousness, that sort of marking out of these pages... It's both personal and universal at the same.
N: So human beings exist the same as nature. It looks like typography, or maps.
K: Tell me, how has this studio space or working in this specific area of Manhattan influenced your work?
N: As you can see, I've picked up the newspaper as a metaphor for the daily life in New York, at least for me, and then I cut in the middle. It's very much about the present and the daily life, the actual present... With white paper, I can do that whenever and wherever I want. But this paper, the newspaper, it's absolutely and only in New York.
K: What's the oddest job you've had?
N: A teaching job. I taught high school for eight years. And then I quit that job and came to New York and stayed for a year. That, and making Japanese sweets.
K: You made Japanese sweets?
N: Yeah, I made Japanese sweets for tea ceremonies. It's like clay work. It was fun. I also worked at a glass signboard company. That's actually where I got the skill of cutting.