The lady in her lurid yellow fitted jacket raced over to me and told me not to touch the artwork.

I told her, “But I’m the one who made it; this is my artwork!”

She frowned and did that Japanese suck-air-through-your-teeth thing and said that if I touched it, other people would think it’s okay to touch it too.
In the moment, I couldn’t gather my thoughts well enough to give a level-headed response so I just sort of nodded. What I really wanted to say was “So what?! What if I actually don’t mind people reaching out and touching my work? Its fabric, it’s washable, it’s FINE!”

Pretty sure it’s not just me that sees something like this fabric and hears a little voice scream “touch me!!!!” こういうのを見て、触りたくなるのが私だけじゃないでしょう?!



This was just another glimpse of conservative Kyoto that I got when I exhibited at the Kyoto Museum last month. まあ、京都のミュージアムでも、世界のミュージアムでもそういう態度ですね。

The work I recently exhibited at the Kyoto Museum: “floriferous – 咲き乱れる” 京都文化博物館で展示した作品です。

Perhaps a MUSEUM is not the place for textiles.

As a kind of pipe dream, I would love to make textile installations. Wait! Don’t roll your eyes at the word “installation”, often used by arty-farty types as a blanket term to legitimise anything from a room full of bits of garbage to an empty room with a soundtrack on loop.

Fly free my pretties! “Freshly” dyed and washed pieces of fabric hanging out in this wicked autumn wind as if trying to get free. It was a beautiful sight and I stopped there and thought: “THIS! this is what a textile is supposed to be like” 水洗いしたあと、乾かしている生地の動きが本当に綺麗で感動した!その瞬間に「テキスタイルってこれや!!」と思った。

What I mean is, a room or even better a semi-outdoor space full of hanging dyed fabric, that you walk through, look at, which moves as you walk by and shows off the best of Australia’s brilliantly coloured scenery or birds. And it would be something you are free to touch.

This time there was no gallery minders and no alarms to set off!

You can’t do this kind of installation in your average museum or city gallery-type space. For one thing, they often don’t allow you to hang anything from the ceiling (another sticking point I’m still annoyed about with the Kyoto-city Municipal Museum of Art), which reduces you to hanging against a wall or to creating some kind of nifty wall-fittings. And then there’s those sneaky Gallery Minders (as in the ones in yellow suit jackets) who are going to tell you off for touching, photographing, getting too close, using your phone, reaching for a pen… This kind of stuffy, rigid atmosphere somehow doesn’t allow the artwork to be what I intended.


Sneaking a photo amongst my own work at Some-seiryukan Gallery in Kyoto, November 2014. 自分の作品に入って写真を取っちゃった。去年の11月、京都の染・清流館で。
I liked the way the author of this article “PLEASE DON’T TOUCH THE (TOUCHABLE) ART” described this gap between museums and the art shown in them:

“…more and more contemporary art is created by artists who intend you to play with it. The full meaning and experience of the work requires you to interact…
Unfortunately, for…contemporary artwork that gets its primary meaning, emotion and significance from interacting with it, keeping it locked behind glass isn’t good enough. Most museums and galleries have not caught up to this idea…All objects, regardless of the artist’s intent, are treated the same.”


So it doesn’t really matter how eccentric or open an artist might be about displaying their work, when you go it stick it in the museum mould, you’re stuck playing by their rules.

Weee–ooooo—Weeee-ooooo! Can you hear the alarms going off?

It’s an unfortunate catch 22 (which is probably changing for the better but still remains, especially in the considerably conservative art scene of Kyoto) that artists feel they have to exhibit in museums or art galleries to feel validated as a “real”, “made-it-and-can-afford-to-stop-eating-cereal-as-dinner” artists when those are the very places curbing the unique creative streaks which make them artists in the first place.


Another part of this is the way we’ve managed to make art so precious and segregated; raising it to un-touchable status (literally) in galleries and museums. The art world manages to segregate itself with it’s words too.


An old favourite, which generates random artist statements and shows you just how meaningless they really are
and you can refresh and refresh the page into increasing obscurity…

I was reading this really great article by Steve Lambert about artists using vague speech and losing the chance to engage ordinary people because of their wordiness. Here’s a quote,

“artists are already too cloistered off from the rest of our culture; isolated in elite institutions, appreciated by small numbers, and/or segregating ourselves in confusing social difference alone as some kind of admirable attribute. Around 45 years ago John Berger disparagingly called this phenomena the needless “mystification” of art. If we want to change this, and we should, we need to speak clearly in a language people can understand – not by adopting academic language for institutional appeal or trying to cover over our insecurity with pompous nonsense”

作家さんはもう一般社から離れすぎている。偉い学校に閉じ混んでいたり、少人数にしか認められていない。あれは尊敬する資質のように思っているのか?45年前にジョン・バージャーさんが、この行為を「アートの秘訣化」と呼びました。この事情を変えたたかったら (変える必要がある)、使っている言葉を変えるべき。学的な言葉や、自分自身不足を隠すようなわけわからない言葉じゃなくて、皆が分かるような言葉ではっきり表現しないといけない。


The way we show and speak about art has the potential to scare people away. The kinds of airy-fairy words as in the randomly generated statements like the ones above can make people uncomfortable.

Hey, even just the word ART can make some people feel out of place. 


There’s a need for artists to be less exclusive and more relate-able. One way to do that could be to bring art out of the museums and galleries and put it into real life. I don’t mean reproducing artworks onto cushions for the masses or in the sense of having beautiful things in our homes, I mean actually putting the real deal artwork into public places. Why not? What’s the point of making art if you’re going to show it to only some  people, or let it be touched only sometimes?


Maybe it’s fabric dyed with plants that hangs from a naturally lit ceiling in a shopping centre? Maybe it could be dyed birds and John Gould text across the walls of the cafe? Maybe it’s a see-through hanging beside the rest area in a hospital? Maybe it’s an artwork in an office space, as a giant room divider? Maybe it’s in artwork hanging in a national park information centre?

I touched that thing endlessly to make it, but for some reason, you’re not allowed to touch it once its done. 作る最中は触るばかりのに、出来上がった作品は触っちゃダメだ。不思議だなぁ。

I don’t know but I’m getting the feeling that making artworks needs to involve an act of generosity, of adding value to peoples lives. Not the unconscious act of telling people they are not worthy because they are not “art people”.

Because in the end, we are all born artists and you show me one person out there whose first natural instinct is to NOT touch the artwork.