Alone together. This is the title that Masahito Ono would give to our complicated times. The present forces us to find empathy, but also to reevaluate our individual life. His installation, “The Longest Distance between Two Places”, that can be seen in Bucharest, at Unfinished, is about time, space, love and war. It is a unique clock, made of 14 Solari board split flap display units, and a calendar which accumulates time. It never shows the same time again, it is always in motion and the sound of the clock marks time in your ears as if it were a living creature. The time of the piece begins in Bucharest, showing its local time, and then travels around the world to countries currently at war, civil war, territorial dispute and sectarianism.
Unfinished has long been so clever at coming up with a theme that is meaningful and allows many different interpretations. I actually think the idea of a center is interesting. You can find a precise center of a table, but how can you find a center in the universe? In our society? And in our ideas?, says Masahito Ono.
UNFINISHED will take place in Bucharest, from September 29th to October 2nd. The theme of the 2022 edition of the festival is OFF-CENTER. Artists, anthropologists, architects, philosophers, entrepreneurs and thinkers from various domains will explore the idea of decentering from multiple angles, approaches, and mediums.
Masahito Ono is a Japanese-born artist living and working in New York City. He creates conceptual installations, photographs and films that investigate the transience of nature and human life using geopoetics. We talked with him about science, art and his projects that traveled with NASA in space:
I think it is in 2019, when I was selected to fly an art project to the International Space Station in Low Earth Orbit. And when it flew in 2020, right at the beginning of the pandemic. If the chapter were to be given a name, I would call it, "liberty" — a freeing from all sorts of gravitational pull. It has given me the eyes to look at the world and ourselves from a cosmic perspective. It allowed me to not think about art as we know and the art market as we know. I made myself completely free from external pressure. I think it was a very good project.
With experience come …
With experience comes a realization of how immature I was.
What inspires you
I always say inspirations do not come to you when you are looking for one, just like love. Inspiration comes naturally, so it is important that you live and experience everyday to the fullest. Conscious or unconscious, you are always accumulating elements of an inspiration, and when you are able to connect the dots, you have the inspiration. It is also perhaps important, who you surround yourself with. And remember, we can also engage in a dialogue with those who passed already. We can have both friends and friends in history. I also find children very inspirational. Climate and the future of the planet.
I think Unfinished is one of the most engaging festivals I know around the world. And the community it has built over the years is just fascinating.
What does Off-Center mean to you
Unfinished has long been so clever at coming up with a theme that is meaningful and allows many different interpretations. I actually think the idea of a center is interesting. You can find a precise center of a table, but how can you find a center in the universe? In our society? And in our ideas? What we believe is the center might very well be off-center.
The biggest societal challenges in 2022, from a creator's perspective
I do not think this is a new challenge, but it has always been a challenge to think of what is happening faraway in an unfamiliar country as your own problem. In this regard, I always think of what Camus said in his 1946 speech called ‘human crisis.’ He said, “the world in its essence is unhappy that we need to create some joy, because the world is unjust we need to work towards justice, and because the world is absurd, we must provide it with all its meaning.”
Does the creators' mission change?
Yes, for some people. No, for some people. Neither is good or bad.
How do you feel the influence of these times
The pandemic has changed the way we live, the way we communicate, as well as the way we work. We often focus too much on the negative side of the pandemic, but I think it is positive that it has given us an opportunity to re-consider how we live or how we want to live.
Your sources of optimism
A source of optimism is in children and in young people. It does not mean that my generation can be just hopeful of the new generations and do less ourselves. Our generation and the older generations must engage and work together with a new generation.
A title for the present