April 20, 2010, Ever Gold Gallery
A conversation with artist Owen Takabayashi before his upcoming solo exhibition.
Interviewers: Alex Braubach & Christian Ebert
Christian: [moving camera around the room] The sun is shining, a beautiful, gorgeous day in San Francisco, California. Here is Mr. Owen Michael Takabayashi, straight out of Torrance, Southern California, still straight ballin’ after 31 years. We’ve got a fresh shipment of blood-sausage and other yummies, smuggled into the country by Eva Braun. It’s 4/20. [To Owen] This is the man. [To Alex] This is the master of ceremony for now. And these are the questions.
Alex: What is your current age, location and occupation?
Owen: 31, San Francisco, unemployed.
A: You answered them all right. Describe a day in the life of Owen Takabayashi.
O: Right now I just wake up late, that’s all I do. Coffee, cigarette, shower, eat and avoid the studio.
A: Why, Owen, are you still making art?
O: I have a lot of free time.
C: You told me a few times that you’re sick of it.
O: I am sick. I haven’t been making art really.
C: After everything you’ve been through, why do you still keep making it?
O: I guess because I’m still trying to find out what it is, what art work is. It’s kind of a search. Why do you make art [to Christian]?
C: Because it’s a fun quest to know where I am. It’s like that. It’s the same answer.
O: Kind of like life I guess. It’s an analog, or a metaphor (pause) or a parallel.
O: Why do you make art? [To Alex]
A: You’re not asking me I’m asking you.
C: It’s a conversation buddy.
O: A dialogue.
A: Well then you guys have the conversation. I’ll be the moderator. What’s the main reason you guys make art? Does it have anything to do with your daily occupation whatsoever, or who you are or where you‘re from?
O: I think it goes the other way around. The job that you do part time is right now. Art is kind of like…it’s in everything.
C: Other question, what would you do if you weren’t making art?
O: Maybe farm, I’d like to farm maybe, try it out. I’ve never tried that.
A: Where did you grow up?
O: Torrance, California.
C: What happened when you told your parents you were moving to S.F. to go to art school? Were they really pissed?
O: They were pretty happy…to get me out of the house.
C: They weren’t worried about you going to The Bay and going to some crazy art school? They didn’t think their kid was going to end up in the gutter in the loin, like, where we are right now?
O: Well, we ended up here.
A: What’s wrong with that?
C: No, I’m just wondering.
O: I think they had faith.
C: They didn’t want you to become a doctor or a lawyer?
O: That’s my brothers.
C: So you had the free ride?
O: Yeah, I was in the middle.
A: Why are you going to paint everything in the room one color?
O: Because I thought some of the visual art I’m making right now, it can be inconsequential. I don’t know. Is art of any consequence? I guess it is in some senses. I think I just have to take a more active role in what I’m doing.
A: Explain this inconsequential art to me. I don’t quite get the jist on that.
O: You don’t think art is inconsequential? Like it doesn’t matter?
A: Art that doesn’t matter. You’re saying your art is inconsequential?
O: Not consequences in the sense of good or bad things coming from it, but actually saying something that matters. A symbol. It’s a very hard thing to do. You could say…
C: Try to reveal something?
O: Try to reveal something. You could try to reveal nothing, try to confuse your realization.
C: Or you can fight something with your art too. Whatever that might be.
O: Yeah. I guess I am striving to do that, to communicate something good. Something of consequence.
C: I think there is something that drives all of us, [to Alex] you too, even if you are in denial of it. There is something that drives all of us to keep doing this and we might not be able to articulate it because we haven’t really thought about it or haven’t really put it into words. But for some reason we all, I mean… why are we sitting here doing this? It’s the same question.
O: To be connected with your life. I guess it’s to be of consequence to the world.
C: So maybe there is consequence in whatever you do. There is always consequence. It might have a big impact or a small impact.
O: Or no impact.
C: Just the fact that you are making art instead of being a tennis instructor or something has a consequence, too.
A: The fact that people are looking at your artwork is a consequence.
C: Yeah there’s going to be 300 people looking at your show.
O: I guess it’s trying to also live up to saying something meaningful in a good way.
A: It’s a tough question.
C: It’s a question we can all ask ourselves.
O: I think it’s also aesthetic. I try to be precise.
A: Super precise. No shebang around it. Like the universal balance.
O: It’s weird because there is always going to be that too. Where does that come from? Creating something, so it’s there?
A: Where do you feel that minimal, inconsequential irony comes from?
O: Maybe its personality, I’m quiet by personality.
C: I’ve seen other sides of you buddy.
O: I guess it’s more vague but it’s like, precise at the same time. To be minimal…I guess I’m trying to be efficient.
A: Art is efficiency.
C: What are your interests? What other artists are you looking at?
O: I like everything. Minimalism is definitely one. I don’t look at enough art. My favorite piece recently was by Anish Kapoor. That bell at the MOMA. He had the bell piece in the MOMA. Covered in ultra marine. It was very simple, made out of fiberglass. Some kind of mold of a bell turned on its side and you just looked into it and it was almost like a meditation. I think that’s some of the art that interests me, that brings on a different state of thinking.
A: Looking into the bell. Right. Like it’s a different kind of experience.
O: Like it’s a different state of being almost. Because its one color, its blue.
A: So you’re drawn to it because of the experience, not necessarily the way it looks?
O: But that’s part of it. The way it looks is important. The form and the color of it is going to decide what your experience is. That’s some of the art that I like. Some others are Richard Prince, Ed Ruscha and Nauman Bruce.
C: So what do you think of clowns Owen? Tell me the clown story. Let’s get back to storytelling.
O: Well, I was invited to a birthday party in first grade or younger. My mom brings me, and I show up and there is a clown there and I see the clown and freak out.
C: Was it your friend’s birthday?
O: Just a classmate. But I freak out and I couldn’t go into the party. I had to go home.
C: You didn’t even go to the party at all? What happened to the present you were supposed to bring? Did you keep it for yourself?
O: I don’t know. I never thought about that.
C: What did that clown look like?
O: I don’t remember. A general clown.
A: A general clown?
C: Just a scary old clown?
A: I don’t like clowns.
O: You don’t like clowns?
O: I think I’m alright with clowns now. I’ve grown into it, or out of it.
C: When was the last time you saw a clown? I mean, you’re sitting here with two clowns right now.
A: We’re not dressed up dude. I mean, that’s a whole different kind of clown.
O: You’re still clowns though.
A: Would you say you’ve got a difficult relationship with clowns though?
O: Not anymore.
A: You’ve gotten over that?
O: Humans are clowns. Life is funny. Maybe that’s what freaked me out, when I was little. Seeing the Death Mask.
C: Artists are clowns, pretty much.
A: “Death Mask”…
O: Maybe I’m not fully satisfied with my art. Maybe that’s why I’ve been avoiding making the stuff. Just saying that artists are clowns. You know, maybe my jokes aren’t funny enough yet. Or they’re just bad. Bad jokes. That’s the worst.
C: Can art can change the world, Owen?
A: As long as you got a joke to tell man.
O: That’s an optimistic one.
C: That’s a good answer.
O: As long as we keep laughing I guess.
A: You should be a stand-up comedian.O: The most depressing stand-up comedian.