Using 300,000 clear plastic straws made specifically for the task, Japanese designer/artist Tokujin Yoshioka has completed his first installation in Sydney at the Sherman Contamporary Art Foundation. more space spoke with Tokujin about the process behind this ephemeral yet playful work.  

Interview with Tokujin Yoshioka

HD: Tokujin Yoshioka: Waterfall is a continuation of the installation Tornado launched at Design Miami  in 2007. With 300,000 clear plastic straws as your starting point, can you please describe the way you approached this show?

TY: I guess what is expected of me so I wanted to surprise people and I wanted to go against that a bit. I never visited this space, I had to imagine the space from the photos I was sent and I estimated it while I was in Japan. What is going to affect eventually is not just this space but the environment around this space and outside the gallery. After the research we developed the documentation and continued the conversation with Dr Sherman and then decided how to come up with the Waterfall installation. After that I calculated the number of straws, it's quite a lot of straws. Three days ago when I arrived here I decided what I would do. Until that moment I didn't know exactly what would happen.

HD: There is something exciting but also a little bit scary about that.

TY: I am very confident because I have the past experience so I can imagine what it will be like.

HD: Over the past 5 years you have very successfully worked between art and design for companies including Lexus, Kartell, Driade, Hermès and most recently Cartier. How do you describe what you do, and are you an artist or a designer?

TY: What I create is just a creation. So I wouldn't define myself as a designer or an artist, or whether this is art, or architecture, or design. I really believe that it is something for people to decide. For example with the glass piece Waterfall, the design world says it is not a design. But the art world says, is it not a table? (laughs) But for me, I don't mind. It's not really important.

HD: Both your production work and your art projects feel very connected by their material approach and form – for example the Tokyo-Pop series for Driade and the first series of Honey Pop. How do your ideas from design projects with manufacturers feed into your installation work and vice versa?

TY: Maybe it's not a direct connection but I always work on many projects at the same time so they do affect each other. What is most important for me is for people to 'feel' through my creations, rather than thinking of something. I always aim to move people's emotions, or excite and uplift their feelings. Without any condition, the feeling is the most important. I think this is a universal language because to feel, children can do that and people who are not into the art world. Without boundaries I want to create something that moves everyone's feelings.

HD: As the world gets increasingly complex, do you think the role of the designer is changing in tune with people looking for things that are more uplifting, that go further than function or fashion and engage with us in a more meaningful way?

TY: In the past we felt well and we felt the happiness by having the richness of materials or physical things, objects for example. Now in the most developed societies we are filled with all these things but we are shifting to more spiritual thinking and we need the richness of emotion or feelings. It is true. On the weekends, or on holidays, maybe people don't have the urge to go shopping and spend money on objects, but rather spend time experiencing something. So the value of time has changed. For designers to produce these objects is not so important, but maybe to produce an experience and for people to have that quality of time. What I hope is that interaction with my creations and a person's memory will lead to another creation. That is what I always expect.

Tokujin Yoshioka was interviewed by Heidi Dokulil at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation on Thursday 6 October, 2011. Translation by Mina Teramoto.

The Tokujin Yoshioka: Waterfall installation was sponsored by Space Furniture.