I’m happy that everyone is equally distant from each other
What has the Coronavirus crisis brought to your mind?
“With less work due to coronavirus, I slept a lot. From last year until this April, I was super busy going viral while graduating as top student at Geidai (Tokyo University of the Arts). So, it was perfect for me that all humankind was recommended to stay at home. I was rejoicing the fact that I have finally escaped from the 16 years of ‘educational prison’ which started when I was 2 years old. Sleeping was my way of expressing great pleasure.”
You were sleeping (LOL).
“Yes. Come to think of it, I realized something very inspiring from coronavirus: humans are animals. In June, I took the train for the first time in 3 months. I don’t like taking trains. I mean, traveling on ‘electric cars’ with someone you don’t know results in stress for both of us, right (LOL)? So, when I returned home after this train trip, I smelled different from my usual self. This smell in animal world is intimidation. It seems like I was giving off this intimidating odor while on the train. I realized that I must be giving off this intimidating odor when I meet someone I don’t want to or passing by people who I prefer not to.”
Perhaps staying at home scraped off our sociability and made us regain animalistic character. On the other hand, we hear many people say that they miss eating out with their friends or colleagues during this period. How about you, Namichie?
“I don’t have many friends and seldom eat out, and hardly have any hobby (my outputs are mostly my work). Work, especially live concerts reduced because of the coronavirus. On top of that, everyone wears masks outside. I’m glad about the distance it creates between myself and others. As my appearance stands out, people tend to ask me personal stuff even at first meeting, but that has stopped. People are avoiding each other to prevent the virus from spreading, and it made me extremely happy that everyone is equally distant from one another.”
Is that the kind of stress you normally feel?
“Yes, one of my stressors. I think it was good to be able to return to animal-like life by not meeting others (to be able to reaffirm that humans are indeed animals) which made me realize that I was emitting intimidating odor. Since I wasn’t meeting people due to coronavirus situation, I went out with my arms unshaved and an aphid flew and landed on my arm. When it was moving on my unshaved arm, I could clearly feel the aphid slowly moving its leg one by one. It was amusing, and I felt like growing my body hair, after all body hair is one of our sense organs. April 2020 might have been one of the happiest times of my life. It was because everything was gone.”
I guess the feeling is something like, being cut off from the complicated human sociality, to be able to return to an animal like state.
“True, holding that feeling makes us most animal-like, but also complicated since it conflicts with humanity. This complex world is created by humans. For me, the benefit of coronavirus was being able to make clear choice not to get involved with people who I don’t want to.”
I am willing co-participant on ‘Earth’
Has creativity accelerated under those circumstances?
“Sadly, I’m just a genius no matter the situation. Happy or sad experiences have absolutely no impact to my productivity. It has been steadily growing. For better or worse, my creativeness is not affected by external factors. There’s absolutely no relation between coronavirus and creativeness, since creativeness happens when you are yourself. Artists who lose their core with the superficial trends and movement created by the coronavirus and BLM (Black Lives Matter) atmosphere, may only be producing ‘fake creations’ built into society. Perhaps I myself may be feeling a slight falter… Anyways, in a very good way, my productivity will never change whether non-talented people are mean and hinder me, or whether a nice person give me kind words. It proves I have a core. Nothing happening on the Earth’s surface has impact on what I do.”
Do you feel that the Coronavirus accelerated your judgment on people with different values?
“Yes, very much. Very organized now, and I’d like to continue what I have been doing. After all, life is about doing what you want. So, after sleeping and resting all I want, I shall finally start.”
You mentioned that the Coronavirus did not affect your creativity, but under the situation where we could not give concerts in live houses nor open galleries, I see certain changes in how we transmit. Were there any changes on your side?
“If there’s no live concert, it just means I don’t do it. However, I do notice that more writing opportunities came to me. In that sense, output style has changed a bit. With all the live concerts being cancelled, one of my events in end-March changed to live streaming, but no drastic change on my side. Health has always been the center of my transmission.”
Did you feel any new possibilities through your experience in steaming live?
“Living my life brings new feelings to me every day. So, I didn’t feel anything special about it. Originally… and I am still a costume creator, how and the way I output to the Earth doesn’t matter to me. Moreover, I’m good with my hands and good at anything, so I would say that I’m the type of person that can simply live on, no matter how the society changes.
From my perspective as an artist, even if the coronavirus outbreak is not natural, if you look at the Earth from far away, everything is a natural phenomenon, I believe nothing on the Earth is ‘unnatural.’ I intend to observe and participate closely in anything related to Earth living. In that sense, even if analog jobs and live concerts disappear in the future, it will be entertaining to live and reconfirm that the Earth is giving a live performance.”
Art contributes to make people question things
There were many issues that became apparent under the Coronavirus crisis. What do you think are problems that have been highlighted through this crisis?
“I’d say education in Japan, especially what to do when we fail. For example, you will be scolded in front of everyone in your classroom and will learn that we should be ashamed of failure. When those people grow up, they will get mad or emotional when something is pointed out to them. In my opinion, the coronavirus ended up widely revealing those kinds of problems with the school education.
We should examine ourselves more, examine independently and not relatively. We should doubt whether who we are with other people, are our true self. There aren’t many people who can apologize after failure. Getting a job and working without wanting to take responsibility, this continuity is creating a negative cycle. Society runs itself, even when peer pressure makes it difficult to share the process of dealing with failure. We must fix this.”
So, what kind of education did you get, Namichie?
“I attended local elementary, junior high, and high school – around the Shonan area (Chigasaki ~ Hiratsuka). School was boring and there wasn’t much to learn for me. That’s why I usually went home early and spent my time just drawing pictures or creating costume characters.”
I see your art experience started from your early childhood. Personally, I believe education and art are essential to changing the future. What do you think is the role of art?
“To me, everything is ART. So, it doesn’t feel right to put its role into words. But I feel that art contributes to make people question things.
Music is divided into two – one that turns us away from the social conditions, and one that makes us face it directly. Which means, art can be distinguished as something that ‘makes us face the truth’ and capitalistic music as something that ‘makes us dream.’ The act of expressing art is living itself, it functions as a way to critique myself and plays a part in improving my quality of life. That is why we should deepen our knowledge and education and always pursue the unknown. I think we need Music which is a device to capture this space critically in this era.”
Please don’t think you are in the audience seats forever
Is there something you thought must not be forgotten amid this Coronavirus crisis?
“Hmm. There were different kinds of movements on SNS regarding coronavirus, BLM, and other social issues; and I saw occasions where the statement is missing the point or far from the essence of the issue. I wonder why?”
What do you think is the reason behind it?
“I feel that each event is made more complicated because of the different weight we put on bias and awareness as individuals.”
There might be changes already with more time to examine ourselves during Coronavirus crisis, but how would you like the society to change though this crisis?
“I recommend working from home and think we have started to realize that not everything has to be centralized in Tokyo. True globalization means anything can be done equally from any place or country, so the DIY spirit of the artists will be important. More artists are recording at home now. Marketing that is not using major companies or large venues, something that can be done easily, micro connecting to macro structure, … something like that.
So, I believe the micro movement will become more important. Traditional ways, especially places where they ask you to chop stamps just for formality, I sincerely hope they disappear. Recently I want to avoid chop stamps at work, where possible. I’m using my energy to express that. There are many occasions where no stamps will make us happy. So, at the end of the day, education to raise youngsters who can immediately speak out, ‘Isn’t this world strange?’ will be essential. ASAP.”
Might be difficult to change, I guess.
“It might be better if less people expect the society to change. There are people who are passive or act like an outsider using the phrase ‘I don’t know how the minority feels, but……‘ as preambles. That preamble itself should disappear. We should all know that we are all part of something on this Earth. Thoughts like, ‘If I change, you might also change’ or ‘If I change even slightly, the Earth might start to change from this moment’ should be planted in our minds. People without it chase the idol ‘Namichie’ and profusely calls out to that idol, ‘Tell them, Namichie!’ I refuse to be seen as an ordinary strong, minority girl doing something. After all, without my appearance, I am only a life form.
‘I’m saying it, so Y’ALL SHOULD, TOO!’ is what I am always feeling when expressing myself. I hope passive people don’t think they will be in the audience seats forever. The whole Earth is giving a live performance. Since these kinds of reformation and education is lacking, in order to encourage speaking out spontaneously, I’ve been riding on the traditional and capitalistic marketing. And I believe it’s my mission to make music or express myself in a way that will displease the ones doing well with the traditional ways. That, I call ‘Humanity Namichielization Plan 2020.’”
Graduated as valedictorian from the Department of Inter-media Art of Tokyo University of the Arts.Got the Ikuo Hirayama and Top Seller prizes while in school. Artist and performer active in various fields including music, costume creating and writing. For music activities, performs solo and as a member of a girls group, Zoomgals and in a duo with her brother named TAMURA KING. The latest work, “Mainichi rainichi (Every day visit Japan)” won the special prize in “APPLE VINEGAR -Music Award-”2020 held by Masafumi Goto of ASIAN KUNG-FU GENERATION. Selected as one of 30 UNDER 30 JAPAN 2020 in the art area.
Interviewed by Joe Yokomizo on 29th Jun, 2020