Yuka Oyama, Research Fellow at Oslo National Academy of the Arts, Department of Art and Craft

An artistic research project into how wearable objects
mediate psychological and physical realms

I am fascinated with folktales that the Irish writer Lafcadio Hearn (1850 – 1904)1 collected
in Japan in the late 19th century through undertaking interviews and reading antique
literature sources. In some tales toothpicks dance and harass their owner at night, childrenare reincarnated as duvets, a drum elongates a nose which turns a man into a fish, and many other obscure objects do obscure things. Through the tales, climates, social conditions and systems, the value of specific objects, hidden collective desires, fears, taboos, etc. are revealed.

In my work Heroes, Magical Helpers, Enemies and Beauty (2010) I have started to work
with the theme of objects having agencies themselves. I collected drawings of objects from people at work e.g. software developers, taxi drivers, artists and cleaning personnel. I constructed them as figures in metal and clay. I was not convinced with the final art format, (static objects), as I could envision objects talking, acting and living. However, I did not know what stories the objects should perform. I also realized that a place where a person enters an imaginary world with objects is not at work but at home, where a person feels comfortable and in solitude. While interviewing people, I was surprised how many adults answered that they had objects that provided company, to which they would speak e.g. teddies, dolls, machines, blankets, etc.

Throughout my work, I have been exploring the idea of the façade, a boundary that separates the inside and outside worlds of a person. These worlds represent how one feels inside and displays herself on the outside; private and public; psychological dimension and the physical reality; objectivity and subjectivity. I am interested in objects that mediatebetween both sides of the facade.

Wearable objects such as jewelry, masks and costumes seemed suitable media to communicate ideas focusing on this boundary. For example, they can accentuate and articulate the wearer`s individuality, exhibit power, wealth and identity such as ethnicity, attitudes, political and religious beliefs, status, occupation, personal tastes and wishes. Worn objects, especially masks and things that support the construction of a false identity or allow the wearer to enter into another personage can also provide her a space of her own behind the surface in order to protect the true self.

In my research project, I seek to investigate the artistic potential that lies in everyday
objects and worn object that mediates our psychological and physical realms. The aim
of this project is to examine how to create personal narratives and visualize the tales
through wearable objects when worn and in movement.

  • Narrative aspects of objects: From the objects that we surround ourselves with in our home, which objects do we select to create tales? How will our interpretation of them according to usage and personal experiences with them lead to humanize the objects? How will the humanized objects serve as creative impetus to construct imaginary stories? How will psychological and physical worlds merge in the tales?
  • Wearable objects and performativity: How to present the fluidity, the surreal, real and imaginary nature of the tales through wearable objects and performance? How to bring these relations to wearable objects and their implementation in the idea of the façade?