How did this work come together?
The starting point for “crt mgn” was a performance I did in Tokyo in memory of Korean-American artist Nam June Paik, who died in 2006. In the performance at the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art, I held a coil which manipulated signals from a speaker in one hand and manipulated the visual signals from a TV with a magnet in my other hand.
Isn’t it dangerous to attack a television like that?
Yes, highly dangerous. I wouldn’t recommend anybody does it, but it was a great experience.
Why is Paik so important to you?
He used to teach here in Düsseldorf and is connected to a number of German artists, including Joseph Beuys. I really appreciated the early works of Nam June Paik, where he explores electronics in a very basic way. He was a pioneer for video art and I think he left a very strong trace, not just on me but also on the German art scene.
Do you feel the term “media art” is an accurate way of describing your work?
It’s kind of terrible that artistic expression gets simply stripped down to the media, to the way it was produced. It’s secondary to me if the work is a photograph, painting, interactive work, program, software or sculpture. For me, it’s more interesting what is expressed in the work. Artists are not trying to force these genres or categories; for us they are a burden and a limit.
You’ve been working in Japan for 15 years. Where does your fascination with the country come from?
I think the very basic reason is that ever since I was 14 or 15, I’ve been deeply fascinated with Japanese gardens. Also with woodcuts and traditional, classic art, too.
Do you feel an artistic connection between Germany and Japan?
German architect Bruno Taut helped connect Japanese and German art, and in his architecture I can see there is a very strong attraction between the two cultures. I see my fascination with Japan as a continuity of the kind of connection which existed in the 1920s between Japan and Germany. Bauhaus would be unthinkable without Japanese culture. (C.A.M.)