“The word ‘Aitai’ means I want to see you or I want to meet you or I miss you. It phonetically sounds the same sounds as ‘I Tie’,” New York-based Japanese visual artist Tomoe Tsutsumi explained to me recently. Tsutsumi was a 2010 artist in residence at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and a 2010 MFA graduate from Parsons School of Design.
In the wake of Japan’s devastating earthquake and accompanying tsunami, it’s hard to feel anything other than helpless as we watch our televisions and listen to live reports from Japan, especially for those longing for loved ones back home. While Japan desperately struggles to stabilize its four nuclear reactors and account for thousands of displaced, wounded, and missing citizens, Tomoe is doing her part, here in New York, to connect with her native country.
On Saturday, March 26, Tomoe teams up with Ships Gallery in Manhattan for a two-day benefit exhibition to raise relief funds for Japan. Born and raised in Tokyo, Japan, Tsutsumi lives and works in Ridgewood at the border of Brooklyn and Queens. The exhibition, titled I Tie, Aita, will feature work reminiscent of a project Tomoe recently completed at Skowhegen.
The artist explains, “My intention [at Skowhegen] was to connect people in the group and have a better and stronger community, as well as, to see what factors were shaping the community in which I lived.”
She further explains, “One example of how certain factors contributed to the social dynamic in the [Skowhegen] community might be an Asian food exchange that happened. Of the 65 participants at Skowhegan, 10 were Asian along with 1 resident faculty, yet the cafeteria didn’t provide any Asian food. At one point a participant brought a package of instant miso soup. Then another participant brought big box full of Asian food such as instant Ramen noodle, Kimchi, instant rice and snacks that her family had sent to her from California. A group of participants decided to cook an Asian meal together. This exchange was not only between the Asian participants but included anyone in the group who missed Asian food. The meal was cooked and enjoyed by a small group of people who exchanged not simply the food items but also a shared cultural experience.”
Building off of this ‘exchange’ program, I Tie, Aita will feature not only Tomoe’s documentary videos, but will also feature an installation and a performance — all of which will represent Tomoe’s artistic exchange programs. Additionally, attendees will be encouraged to participate in Tomoe’s new exchange program which will raise funds for disaster relief in Japan. All funds raised will be donated to the Red Cross Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami relief fund.
The opening reception for I Tie, Aitai is Saturday, March 26, 6-8pm at Ships Gallery, 277 East 10th Street, New York, NY 10001.