#16 Tatzu Nishi

Interview with Tatzu Nishi

After graduating from the Musashino Institute of Fine arts, Nishi furthered his study in Germany. Nishi, who resides in Berlin, has embarked on art projects that involve and transform historic landmarks and public property around the world. His original and imaginative 2012 project, Discovering Columbus, involved constructing a living room around the Columbus statue at Columbus Circle in New York. We asked Nishi, for whom this is the first time exhibiting in New York, about his feelings on this project, his thoughts on art in Japan as an artist living abroad, as well as an advice for the young people in Japan.


– You have exhibited your art pieces all over the world. What is your impression on New York City, the city that houses the Columbus statue that you based your public art project on?


I came to New York one and a half months ago, and as soon as I got here I fell in love with this city. My friends have taken me to gallery openings in Chelsea, famous restaurants, as well as other notable attractions, in which I felt the vibrant, dynamic nature of New York. The biggest difference between New York and Tokyo is that people in New York all look lively. The combination of New Yorkers and tourists from all over the world may contribute to this liveliness.

–Your projects tend to capture the airy feeling distinct to each space. What points do you focus on when you take a look at potential sites for your projects?


I usually do not do research on the cities in which I am going to have my exhibitions beforehand. First of all, I take a walk to get the sense of the cities. Not having any preliminary knowledge about the cities allows me to find objects and phenomena that only outsiders can find.

Even for projects where I use monuments, I do not do any preliminary research: I go see the monument by myself. So I am not aware of who the monument depicts, and why it was built. When I am searching for a spot for my project, the monument’s biography is secondary. The form, location and surroundings of the monument are more important to me.

My encounter with the Columbus statue was not an exception: I did not know about what this is commemorating. This monument has enough space around it to build scaffolding, and is twenty meters off the ground. These were main reasons that I decided to use this monument for my exhibition. I wanted to elevate the viewers to the level of this notable individual, who was previously only visible from ground level. I later found out that this is the statue of Columbus: the change in elevation allows each individual to have different insights, and discover Columbus as a person.

– Do you find any difference of the responses from the audiences to your public art projects by country?