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Q&A with Artist Ken Kagami :: Art, Humor, and the Obscene in All Objects

Q&A with Artist Ken Kagami :: Art, Humor, and the Obscene in All Objects

By Tasos Gaintatzis & Marina Legaki

All objects can be a victim to Ken Kagami‘s art; tennis rackets, cartoon characters and toys, sports equipment – everything that expresses a sense of innocence can offer Kagami the opportunity to combine them with excrement and genitals, transforming them to a perverted, inverted world of fun and taboo. In his world, you can see Charlie Brown and Snoopy having sex, toy dogs that poop everywhere, or your favorite toy submitted to a S&M ritual. All those fun materials offer an infinite number of “forbidden” combinations, but it is remarkable how all these adult elements are toy-like themselves, to the point where they themselves end up being quite cute.

Kagami’s work spans from performances to installations, paintings, drawings, and publications. He has exhibited in Japan and around the world. His style is simple and straightforward – his sculptures are clear, but he is not crossing the line by exhibiting pieces that could be described as disturbing and distant. He’s managed to keep his work at a level that viewers can guiltily relate to, by presenting a distortion of the materials and objects that could have crossed our minds. It’s a celebration of Pop culture. In his effort to present a curated selection of items that represent his taste, he opened a store in Tokyo, the Strange Store, a store that he said has never existed anywhere before.

TASOS &  MARINA: What was your childhood like? Have you always known you were going to be an artist?
KEN KAGAMI: When I was a child I did not think I would become an artist; but, I always enjoyed making things dealing with shit, penis (chinko), etc...in a childish manner. I work similarly now.

Can you tell us about your obsession with Snoopy?
I use the image of Snoopy because it’s both an easy character to draw and to customize.

How much time do you spend on Instagram?
I now spend quite a bit of time on Instagram, updating my account daily. This has become my custom, but when I become bored [with it] I will quit it immediately. That is my character.

What aspect of your work is most important to you?
Humor.

When and how did the DFW collective start?
4 or 5 years ago I asked my friend, a DFW member and founder, if I [could] be included.

Have you ever experienced some kind of censorship towards your work?
Not yet. But some time ago, when my gallery was arranging shipping for an exhibition outside of Japan, the customs office asked my gallerist to come and explain my art; the work was made with toy penises and toy shit. Also, I presented a work consisting of an ET doll with a prominent penis holding on to a cross in Beijing. A Christian came into the booth and we made this person very angry.

You opened your own second-hand items store, “Strange Store,” can you tell us a little bit about that?
I opened the Strange Store because I wanted to have shop which was completely my style and in which I can do whatever I want!  I do not know of any other such space in Tokyo thus far...

How important are your publications in your personal work?
Publications are not too important for my work… but I like books so when I have a reason and the opportunity, I am happy to publish. I always enjoy publishing stupid books.

What does pop mean to you?
Fundamental material.

Kagami’s cover art for Milk Man by the band Deerhoof.

What was the last piece of music you listened to? When and where was that?
I was listening my daughter’s song last night and I was sitting in my chair and listening to it right before my daughter fell asleep.

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Keep up with Ken on his website kenkagami.blogspot.com, and Instagram @kenkagami.

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