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The Dangerous Man. Chu Enoki.

This exhibition is held at Miyanomori Art Museum, Sapporo, from June 6, 2008 through July 27, 2008. We had a chance to talk to the artist, Chu Enoki.

The title of the exhibition is “The Dangerous man”, so we thought he must be scary. On the contrary, Mr. Anoka is a very nice person and he talked with us with his smile and western-Japan style funny jokes. He told us about his style, his thoughts on art, and his challenges. He doesn’t care about the market. He believes in himself and does what he really wants to do. We interviewed him for about 90 minutes, with his favorite accomplices: alcohol and cigarettes.

Went to Hungary with HANGARI (1977)
Photo courtesy of Chu Enoki, Miyanomori Art Museum

Tell us about this work. This haircut is one of your symbols.

I think hair is interesting. When we are young, your hair grows really quickly. Even if you get a buzz cut, your hair recovers soon. I made this haircut to change myself.

You spent 4 years creating this half-buzz cut. And you visited Hungary with this haircut, right?

First, I spent a year shaving the hair on the right side of my body. Then I did the same on my left side. And I went to Hungary, traveling around on trains. I couldn’t stay in Hungary longer than 4 days. It was about 1977 and Hungary was one of the Communist blocs. They were strict in regard to letting foreigners enter the country. One of my friends was working as a professor of physics at a University in Hungary at the time so I got him to send a message to the country saying that I am a famous person in Japan and I finally got an entry visa. So I could enter the country with that haircut (laughs).

People in the country must have been surprised.

They seemed curious about which country I came from. They had no idea whether I was Mongolian, Chinese, or Japanese. Then I told them that I am Japanese, but they didn’t know where it was. Hungary was a closed country at that time. So I drew on a paper a circle, drew Europe, Asia, and then pointed out saying “Here is Japan.”

Did you have some trouble when you were there because the country was so strict and you looked very different?

No, what happened was the opposite. They seemed to be afraid of me. I’m not in a gang, or a religious man or something. They didn’t know who I was. So they imagined various things about me. For example, when I got on a train, I saw people sitting in front of me jumping when I accidentally made eye contact with them. They seemed to be confused in regard to how they should deal with me. So I talked to them. Talked to kids, for example. Then kids finally started to touch my bags and everything. When I first got there, it was like “they looked at me”, but in the end, it became the opposite, “I looked at them”. I felt their excitement. It was really fun. They asked to touch me, or some people just followed me wherever I went all day long.

First of all, why did you decide to make your hair half-buzz cut?

IIn 1997, I had been in an art group called “ZERO” for 10 years. But I couldn’t be in it anymore because I got married, and the world has changed. So I withdrew from the group. I wanted to do art that was purely for me. I held exhibitions at my house, which was about “ordinary life”. Then I came up with that haircut, to change my own “ordinary life”. It was my way to express my decision, “I will go my own way for the art”. Think about the Japanese army in the history. They got buzz cuts when they entered the army, the time that anything could happen to them. They must be worried about themselves. I was feeling the same thing at the time. I did everything that I could do because I couldn’t control my life anyways. I inscribed my decision to my body. That was it, that haircut.

Your works are generally hard to express through words. Many of your works are hard to explain.

Exactly. I can’t express the beauty by words. I express it by action. I just want to find what is inside of me. The beauty doesn’t exist in particular shapes. The beauty is in what you create. I want to express how gentle I am, how strong and weak and how much evil I have inside. It’s not something you can express by words.

AK47 / AR-15 (Datails)

Why do you focus on guns?

Humans invented weapons. And humans use them. Humans are really cleaver, but at the same time, humans are cruel and foolish. And humans are greedy. As a result, many people are killed today in the world. I created those gun works to express atrocious aspects of humanity. It’s not an antiwar piece.

I like paintings and drawings, but it’s not enough for me. I want to challenge myself further to see what I can really do. So I create those works. Plus, I used to be living close to an army base when I was a kid, and weapons were there in my ordinary life. I used to play war. I wanted to have guns, but I couldn’t. So I made guns from bamboo. They were fragile, so I wanted to grow up and have sturdy guns. Those memories were what partly motivated me.

When did you start to create works made by guns?

1971 was when I made my first art work with guns. The concept was “Everyone should have a cannon.” or “I have it to save my family”.
I released it in 1972 after a big cruel incident with guns in Japan at that time. I did a performance using a big falcon. The police were trying to catch me.

That sounds dangerous.

I didn’t care. Because I didn’t do anything bad (laughs).

RPM-1200, Photo © Yoshisato Komaki

You made those works by composing each tiny part individually. Those are impossible to duplicate.

Off course it depends on the space they gave me, but basically I made those based on my feelings. So I can’t make the same works again. I don’t have any rules about creation. It depends on my inspiration. Maybe after this interview, I may change the way I work completely. It’s like piling blocks. If the earthquake hits, my works will collapse and be gone.

I’d like to talk about one of your works which looks like a city in the future. Are you saying even these works you made by “piling blocks”?

At first, I was planning to make something like a missile factory or plant. Something mechanical. I don’t know enough about cables or pipes, but I put a lot of those in there. I didn’t think about where it is. Japan or somewhere else. Someone’s basement or not. Maybe it’s outside of the earth. I don’t know whether it is attacking or defending. I just imagined all of these. Then that work was completed.

So, you don’t have a plan at first?

No, I don’t. I made it from my heart. People come to see my works. Sometimes, someone touches it and they happen to break it. They try hard to rebuild it. I know they did because It’s different from what I did. Their ways and my ways are different. Someone wants to get my design drawings, but I don’t have it. No one can duplicate it.

RPM-1200 (Datails), Photo © Yoshisato Komaki

We heard that you use junk to make your works.

I’ve been going to a factory familiar with me for 30 years, and get junk from there for free. Those metal scraps will be melted to make new metal if I don’t use them. I imagine each junk’s life and choose pieces for my work. And first of all, Metals are too expensive to buy! I like metals. They differ from stainless or aluminum, metals rust and decay as you use them. It’s like a human. I don’t like stainless. And I like the sound and smell of metals, too. It makes me excited.

You re-shape those metals by yourself. What are you thinking or imagining when you are working with metals?

I use a machine to re-shape metals. My machine is old and it makes a big throbbing sound. I stand in front of the machine, feel the throb of the machine, and start to imagine. Then my imagination changes into a hallucination. I’m not a human being anymore by the time I awake. I put this delusional world into my art. When I go deep in it, it’s horrible. The machine starts to order to me. “Make a hole here. Shave here. Polish.” And so on. My hands and heart gradually get into the hallucinatory world as it feels the throb. If I get into another world completely, it is very dangerous, so I come back. But this is the way for me to do my art. I dedicate myself to my work.

Photo courtesy of Chu Enoki, Miyanomori Art Museum

How about “BAR ROSE CHU”? Why did you play a woman?

I like to drink. But at that time, I couldn’t afford to go out and drink. So I made a place where I could drink even though I didn’t have money. Then I played a woman. I put breasts on me. Everybody can touch my boobs, and drink. I made a place like a paradise. My art is fighting, drawing, making, I do various works but each time I dedicate myself deep into the art, so when I come back from that world, I get confused in regard to what I want to do next. So I need another person who is objective. I’m not good at expressing myself with words, but words are necessary to express things. I made ROSE as my agent who goes between words and non-words. I did this performance again in 2006. A lot of people including an artist, KENJI YANOBE, drank with me.

You also had been working as a company employee. The compatibility of work and art must be hard.

I had been working as an employee for about 40 years. I didn’t feel hard because I was doing it for living. I didn’t have enough time for sleep, but I was happy because I had so many things that I wanted to do. My job was a very delicate job about metal.

That is why you are familiar with using metals.

Yes. But sometimes my art and my job were too close and it felt hard to do art. That’s why I had been making large works. After I retired from my job, I started to make what I really think is beautiful. I changed my approach to art from 2003, it was only 3 or 4 years ago.


Do you make works all by yourself? Or do you have any assistants?

Normally I make my works all by myself. But when I have exhibitions like this, I have some people help because I have to make a lot and I use a lot of metals. I used to hold exhibitions at my house every 1 or 2 years. It was after I retired from my job when people started to invite me to do these kind of big shows. It affects my art because I meet a lot of people through the exhibitions. Working with others, drinking with them builds a sense of comraderie and some people come to see me again. Who I am is made by the people I meet and things I see. I am very happy with this situation because I like people. I have an atelier at Kobe, but each time I hold an exhibition, I rent a different atelier depending on what I make.

You move for each work?

Yes, because I want to make my work fit the space of exhibitions. I rent warehouses only while I make a work. And shut myself up in there. I don’t choose a space or metal parts which are more than I’m capable of. I always take ways I can handle. But I’m not very young and don’t have the power I used to have, so I get people to help.

<a href="" rel="lightbox" title="Falcon-H2D2, Photo © Yoshisato Komaki”>CHU ENOKI

Falcon-H2D2, Photo © Yoshisato Komaki

You break your works after exhibitions.

Those are too big to sell. So I break them. I can’t make works to sell or keep. That makes my work bad. It is not my work anymore if I am restricted by time and money. I think about breaking it from the beginning. I have never thought of keeping it. And I find what I want to do next when I destroy it. I feel encouraged by doing it.

You retired from your job, so you have no restrictions from now on.

Yes. I can do what I really want to do now. But I have so much that I want to do, and I can’t choose one.

Are you going to keep making works with guns and metal?

No, A year later, I probably won’t. I haven’t thought about after that. You never know about your future. I may die, or go somewhere else, or fall in love with someone! I’m not thinking that I will keep doing art. I just do what I want to do now. That’s how I have keep doing art. Some people do things because they have a desire or a goal. I am not like that. I just do things.

I used to think about what is beauty, what is art. I used to search for it. But it was meaningless. As I continue to do art, I happened to see the social value, or meanings sometimes. But it’s not something you should seek for. I just believe myself and do only what I want to do. I don’t know about my future.

I hope the audience to see my present state. I hope they will come and feel it. You can’t see me through tape recordings. I want them to feel me with their five senses.


Unearthing, Photo © Yoshisato Komaki

In this exhibition, you show a work inspired by Hokkaido.

Yes. It called “Unearthing”. I named it after a comic book I used to read when I was a kid. This is my first time to visit Hokkaido, It reminds me of phrases “Ainu” or “Unearthing”.

How is your first visit to Hokkaido?

When I first got here, it was January. It was completely white outside by snow, I wondered if I was really in Hokkaido. I felt that I was in another country. I went to MOERENUMA PARK. And I ate a fish rice bowl. I really liked that fish rice bowl (laughs).
In June 28, I will do performance of salute of guns for a newly married couple at MIYANOMORI ART MUSEUM, I’m really excited.

And what is your plan after this show?

I’m supposed to come back here at November, I don’t know for what, though (laughs).

From your story you are telling us, we get the feeling that your works are who you are.

Exactly. My art includes my way of living. It’s my expression. Nowadays people believe what TV says and their senses are almost numb. Even though they know it is dangerous, or wrong, they don’t act to stop it. In the old days, things were different. Why people don’t act? I think because they can’t imagine things. I think imagination is necessary for the art. As an artist, you always feel anxious or danger. Then you learn to imagine. You can’t just sit there and do nothing. Imagination makes my work. That’s why you said that my works seems to be a reflection of myself. I will keep enjoying to do art as long as I live. I luckily live in the world of art. In this world, you can express whatever you want to.

On June 6, Mr. Enoki held the opening talk show for the beginning of the exhibition at MIYANOMORUI ART MUSEUM. He said in the interview that he is not good at expressing himself by words, but at the same time, he likes people. He smiled at the audience and told them gently about his beliefs. The space was filled with his warmth and his tenderness, and a lot of smiles. He performed of salute of guns at the end of the day. We saw his passion for art.

In this exhibition, we can see his new works, pictures of his past works, and a video of “BAR ROSE CHU” performance. You can also buy his photographic collections or other goods.
At June 21 at Miyanomori Art Museum, they will have a special event in which you can see Mr. Enoki’s works in light of candles. And on June 28, he will perform a salute of guns for a newly married couple.

The Dangerous Man-Chu Enoki
Date: June 6, – July 27, 2008
Place: Miyanomori Art Museum, Sapporo
Open hours: 11:00 – 19:00 / Holidays: Monday
Address: 2-1, 2-11 Miyanomori, Chuo-ku, Sapporo
Fee: Adult 500yen, Students 300yen, Children free
Presented by Miyanomori Art Museum
Supported by Sapporo city, Sapporo city Board of education

Text and photos: Kazumi Oiwa
Translation: Shiori Saito
Photo courtesy of Miyanomori Art Museum

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