PEOPLEText: Kazumi Oiwa

This exhibition is held at Miyanomori Art Museum, Sapporo, from June 6th, 2008 through July 27th, 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.

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