The Normality of Being
Gregor Jansen

Football fans are generally and sociologically, when seen in the social network of a complex ornament of the masses, simple beings. Nevertheless, in terms of numbers, they are often compared with museum visitors. German garden allotments, mostly lovingly cultivated and neatly fenced off mini-domains of city dwellers, are sometimes similarly compared. The combination (the geometric play and formal and conceptual layering of both simple entities) results in a new, elaborate and unusual construct, a layering, interlocking and fraying of content-laden surfaces, which is bizarre, beautiful and peculiar, artificial and artistic.

Yukako Ando chose this form of interlocking depiction for an exhibition in Aachen, which had a very real connection to the content of her image. The construction of a new football stadium (the legendary Tivoli) on what was a long established garden allotment colony on the outskirts of Aachen, which subsequently had to move, resulted in this abstract conf lict between the two interest groups. One of the parties is shrill and sometimes fanatical while rare, exotic plants represent the other. Immediately, a wonderful symbiosis between nature and culture is created.

It is the real places that are intriguing in Ando’s works. Originally from Osaka, Ando studied art in Düsseldorf in the late 1990s. Since then, she has worked at the threshold between the foreign, strange, surreal and playful and has closely observed the urban absurdity and solitude in Someplace. Her interventions and installations usually deal with existing real-places of fate, experience and life, but also with being and feeling foreign. Life reveals itself as a continual, row of situations with countless bizarre incidents, emotions between setting-up and living, between residing and social relationships. Ando’s Duisburg dwelling-installation “S-t-e-f-a-n” (2006), in which fiction, longing and reality strangely melt together, is wonderful.

For the exhibition with Wolfgang Lüttgens in Cologne, the two artists decided on the collective title “range”. On one hand, this title reflects how the artists explore and adjust their own radius of activity, while on the other hand, it refers to their actual sphere of activity on site, in which new artworks assert themselves, unfold and confront the viewer. Ando’s works are also often site specific. In the stairwell of the Japan Foundation, she laconically created a clear unit of displaced plasticity with extended bungee cords. Her stupendous wall-work “picnic” right next to the small indoor pond and splashing water is precise – it is straightforwardly beautiful and simple. No tricks are used, but still it remains open, what effect the tension of the bungee cords will have on the drinking cups. They allow us to understand how things come together, keep their distance and, in spite of that, interlock. Four colours – stretched in a room – and there you have it: A wall picture in and for the space.

Similarly, Ando’s small intervention “Lace-ups”, exhibited at Raum Oberkassel, Düsseldorf in September 2010, has great charm. In a tiny room with a fireplace, she placed a pair of her own Chucks with super long laces. The focal point however, was the continued crossing-over of the laces on the floor, which evoked a meaningless, absurd but humorous personal and ultimately tragic-comic situation.

Yukako Ando’s works result directly from that personal experience of perceiving reality as a complex, sometimes difficult to bear, tragic to ludicrous environment – possibly based on her experience as a Japanese living in Germany. Ultimately, reality and fiction are blended into equal parts of her and our feelings. In this unity, the platform of a world that can only be experienced subjectively is cultivated.

In the same way, Ando repeatedly works with newspapers, covering up or painting over large areas, leaving and extracting only small, quite particular elements. It is worth mentioning that, for both graphic and aesthetic reasons, she only ever uses the Süddeutsche Zeitung and Die Zeit – other newspapers don't provoke her interest. The page of a newspaper is whitened; only the moment of the illustration is extracted, isolated. Regardless of whether this is image or text, the fundamental singularity of the moment for Ando, becomes apparent – a particular “snapshot” of that moment becomes obvious. She is interested in the irritation ‘in between’ – in the context. Whether it is Adenauer or an advertisement in text form, the ball as small cosmos or a text like BIG STORY, we are thrown back on ourselves and have to make amendments. We play with the gaps, the blank space, with that which has been left out. In this way, a large area is left open for imagination on the pages that as a medium of information in time and space are both simultaneously cutting edge and radically outdated.

Ando’s sculptural works are also remarkable. For example, “dialog” (2010) with its two billiard players, lying opposite each other hiding – a little shy, anxious and anonymous, warmly wrapped up in their blankets. Yes, they want to hit the egg, but is it a friendly or rather a hostile encounter?

Who dares to go first? However, the egg is also a symbol, for it wobbles and doesn't roll in a straight line like a ball that can be cued in any direction and then accurately runs its course. In a certain sense, precision with an egg is not possible. However, this is just as much real life as it is good art.

Normality determines existence and usually only a tiny shift, an unfamiliar change, determines the magic of the least magical normality or reality. Yukako Ando allows us to feel this and forget our everyday lives. Through Ando’s interventions, the windows to the world have just been re-opened or partly closed, or are waiting, like in the tension on the wall, for the release of tension in our heads. They are very definitely constructions and even if we knew this before, it is a long time since we saw them this delicate and beautiful.

from the catalog “range” 2011
Gregor Jansen