Interview With Shige Moriya of CAVE

CAVE is an artists’ collective, gallery-performance space and arts organization. Founded in 1996 and organized as a non-profit organization in 2004, CAVE is now one of the longest running experimental art spaces in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, NY.

poster for

"Floating Point- Waves" Performance

at CAVE Art Space
in the Bushwick area
This event has ended - (2008-06-03 - 2008-06-04)

In Interviews by Ann Adachi 2008-06-19 print

A scene from 'Floating Point-Waves' (2008), performance by Ximena Garnica and Shige Moriya.

I’d been in and out of CAVE–an artists’ collective, a rehearsal and performance space known for organizing the New York Butoh Festival–to visit friends who lived there, and to help out on a couple different performances. Only recently, I learned that artist and producer, Shige Moriya, had started the space as a project only three years after he first moved to New York from Japan. CAVE’s studios, living quarters, and loft spaces were built by its initial members.

You were first working in southern Japan as an artist, right?

While helping out my friends’ art projects, I somehow got myself involved in making art, without being aware that I was making art. We produced events for corporate companies and decorated storefronts. In the early ’90s the economic bubble collapsed and there were no jobs. At first I was thinking of going to Tokyo, but I got lucky and landed an opportunity to work for an art gallery in New York.

You opened CAVE in 1995, only three years after you moved to New York. Did you always want to have a space of your own to show art?

I had a strong desire for a space where people could come together and share. Learning, I think, happens through exchanges with other people. I wanted a situation where people could learn from each other and grow, but I didn’t seriously start considering about running an art space until I met some friends here who wanted to rent a space with me.

It sounds like CAVE turned out to be exactly what you wanted, a place where people hang out and see and present art. There’s always interesting people: artists, film critics, dancers, video artists, etc. Some people I met had moved from Japan to live at CAVE as the artist in residence. I imagined that CAVE served as a supporting institution for Japanese artists’ in New York. Did you have the residency programs from the beginning?

There were three main members who produced this space. We were looking for a studio space for each of us, plus an exhibition space. When we saw this space, we immediately knew that this was it. We started this place with a concept of having a living space that was at the same time a place where we could show our work. At that time we had about eight exhibitions per year. We divided the space so half of one exhibition involved artists from outside of the space, and half were works made by the residents. Holding performances during openings was a regular event.

Photo: Ann Adachi

Were most of the artists in the exhibitions Japanese?

I always curated shows based on project concepts and aesthetic judgments; not by ethnicity. Of course I ended up inviting many Japanese artists since I knew many Japanese people.

So you didn’t have it in mind to build a Japanese community.

No.

Since it’s a gallery, the goal here was to sell work, right?

I thought it’d be nice if they sold, but my mind is not really oriented toward business. I wonder what it would have been like if I was good at it, though. There were many installations in the shows. I was basically showing works that I liked.

What are the concepts you had for curating?

I like works that create conversations, something that allows one to hang out in front of the artwork or dwell around the piece. The kind I like have the power to change us internally; not from the outside, but from the inside. With anything, it’s no good once it gets stuck. When something is idling, it gets spoiled or rotten. There needs to be a daily revolution. If you look at history books, revolutions only happen once in a 100 years, or 50 years. These revolutions change the outer layers, the system. People will adapt to the new system, but since only the outer layer has changed, it seems to me that in a little while, things go wrong again. That’s why one needs daily changes, a personal revolution.

How does one put that into action? Are there practices?

It’s very important to make something everyday. When you are making something, questions are born. It’s important to keep raising questions. Life becomes harder when one raises questions; but if there are no questions raised, there are no answers. When I was younger I sought answers, but when I think of that now, I realize that there were no questions there. I just wanted answers. If I asked myself why I’m looking for these answers, there weren’t any reasons. By posing firm questions, answers will emerge. That is my creative process. Since there are no right answers, and they change time to time, one has to work on it constantly. I wouldn’t know about these changes unless I’m in touch with them everyday.

So answers can change? It’s something that changes by nature, right?

There are no complete or perfect answers. Things are always moving around.

There’s nothing to win over?

Right. You may come up with one answer to your specific question, but by the time an answer turns up, there’s already another question raised.

What are these questions?

To tell you the truth, it doesn’t matter; any questions are fine. Why do plants grow when you water them?

Shige Moriya, 'The things we step on' (2006). Mixmedia.

So how do you use art to tackle these questions? What does it mean to pose questions through making video works?

For me, artwork is a nodal point where people communicate or relate to a certain subject. Osaka or New York both have so little nature. I believe that the vast nature can teach me immensely. This is why I relate to handcrafted works that use natural materials or imitate natural shapes. I am able to discover the influence in nature that touched the artist through these artworks; and I hope that other people will discover something new through my work. There is a realization that you are connected with this person through mutual awe, or observation. I love these types of conversations; even if you are not literally speaking with someone, there’s communication indirectly with someone I don’t know. It feels very good. I think I had unnecessary or not pleasant thoughts when I was younger. I was worried about finance, about my future, or wanting a cute girl next to me. I was conscious about what other people thought about me, that I should dress better or that I should become more successful. I don’t know if these are unnecessary thoughts, but when I look back on it, I don’t think it did me any good.

Somehow I have this image that you were like your present self throughout your life. Down-to-earth, sincere, hardworking…

[Laughs] People change.

Did you change once you came to New York?

I did start realizing that these unwanted thoughts were in my head once I moved here. Japan is a place that won’t let you reflect. Society is structured in a way that makes it hard to think outside of what you see or do. When I was in Japan, I didn’t know how to live seriously. Taking things seriously seemed foolish or uninteresting. I wanted to lead an easy life. Once I moved here, I thought, “Oh, there are other ways to live.”

Ann Adachi

Ann Adachi. Born in New York City, 1983. Began classical piano studies at age six in Nasu, Japan, and continued lessons after moving to Olympia, Washington. She studied composition at Brevard College in North Carolina and Berklee College of Music in Boston. She combines performance art and video, as well as acoustic and electronic compositions in her performance pieces. She also plays in acoustic ensembles that base their compositions on intense listening and improvisation. Her collaboration with Gregory Reynolds(saxophone), Light in August, has toured in Seattle, Japan, Boston, New York and Baltimore. Currently she divides her time working at a nonprofit video art archive, observing and making. » See other writings

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