Amia Yokoyama

Amia Yokoyama (b. Illinois, USA) is a multimedia Los Angeles-based artist and educator who works across experimental animation, video, ceramics, sculpture, and installation. She received her MFA in Experimental Animation from CalArts and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2017. Amia has exhibited her work at Sebastian Gladstone Gallery (Los Angeles, CA); Jeffrey Deitch Gallery (New York, NY and Los Angeles, CA); The Craft Contemporary Museum (Los Angeles, CA); In Lieu Gallery (Los Angeles, CA); The Japanese American Cultural Center (Los Angeles, CA); The Brand Art Center (Los Angeles, CA); Deli Gallery (Mexico City, MX); The Drawing Center (New York, NY); Anthology Film Archive (New York, NY); and more.
April 2, 2024
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Your practice takes on many shapes, both digital and sculptural. What determines the medium in which you express an idea? Is there an intentional decision-making process, or does it come more organically in the studio?
Every decision is intentional. The source of that intention can change or be an amalgamation of more than one way, be it a conceptual push, a research-based necessity, or an intuitive call. I assemble the full committee of my trusted ways of knowing/questioning/understanding within me to facilitate the decision-making process. Similarly, it’s hard for me to imagine working with just one medium. My brain works more like a constellation, where multiple things come together to form something significant. Each material is like a word in a sentence. They are related, and supportive, and offer different ways to look at the overall idea or theme. Ceramics is taking center stage right now.
With ceramics, I usher the clay and minerals through multiple stages of metamorphosis. It requires a dialog with earth, fire, water, and air. It’s chemistry. But it also provides an access point to political histories, ancient cultural rituals and signification, bodily relations, poetry, geological processes, and physical materiality that are all important to my world/my work. With the holograms, I am engaging in a process of image-making that bounces between 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional. Holograms are a way to capture three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional surface; they give a simultaneous experience of both at the same time. It’s an object that is both “there” and “not there”.  It relates to my process of moving between sculpture and animation (the material and the immaterial). I am interested in how the three-dimensional (physical sculptures) can be uploaded into the digital plane and how imagery from the digital plane can be exported out. I am interested in this pushing and pulling, back and forth through two different manifestations of a three-dimensional experience. And I am exploring what happens when something exists in multiple dimensions at the same time. 
What is lost and what is gained through this push and pull? What is discovered within the essence of a thing when it goes through this transformation, and what is created as a byproduct of the process? Like the life stages of a newt…It is born into an aqueous life in its aquatic larval stage, then when it’s a juvenile it becomes terrestrial and wanders the land for a few years as an Eft, before finally transforming back into an aqueous animal to finish out its life in the water. I grew up playing in wet forested terrain and as a kid, I observed a lot of amphibious animals, which may or may not be why my artistic practice follows a similar life cycle to the newt. The conception of an artwork is conjured up somewhere in the immaterial realm, it lives there a bit, then I have to turn terrestrial, turn to clay, interface with physical material, roam, and consider an idea while playing with the stuff of solids and forms and bodies being pulled by gravity and weight and heat, I spend some time there before returning to the immaterial, which for me is video and animation. It’s where I can explore my terrestrial discoveries more fluidly. It is a necessary life cycle. 
Science and poetry play an important role in your practice. Can you speak a little about how this influences your process?
The idea that science is not poetry and poetry is not a type of science has always been lost on me. And if we must consider them to be compartmentalized modalities of understanding a truth within and/or beyond, then I do not think one can exist without the other. For me, it is the practice of searching for a truth that is endlessly veiled behind complex systems of relation. It is the observation of the overflow from the follow-through of a feeling, hypothesis, or desire to go deeper.
You’ve spoken about how clay has been a part of your life since childhood. I’m curious if there’s an origin story to your involvement in filmmaking—how did that become a part of your practice?
I’ve always loved animation for its ability to fully express a living, moving world that’s liberated from all sense of limitation that we, as physical beings, might suffer from. It is a practice that seems to levitate above the frustrating constraints of time, space, and matter, while at the same time, not ignoring or acting in opposition to it. I was seduced by its freedom. The ironic part is the process of animation, is quite taxing, tedious, and full of frustrations. So much work goes into creating a sense of liberation and effortlessness. 
Animation is a “time-based media”, and my favorite part of the process is how it changes my relation to time. There is a funny exchange of time for time… a time, as something that is spent and labored, in exchange for a time, which is felt and contains meaning. In animation, a second is broken into fragments, and each fragment is instilled with buckets and buckets of intention and effort. Everything is touched. In the animated world, time is moving vertically as much as it is moving horizontally.
The slime girl is a recurring figurative motif in your work. Can you speak a little about what they represent to you?
They are an archetype that shows up across various anime, manga, and internet lore. Often depicted as erotic, abject, and fetishized characters, they embody borderless beings that use the consumption of human fluids to increase their collective life force. They are an amalgamation of bodies overflowing with desire and excess, the portion of their bodies that does not form the shape of a woman literally collecting at their feet. They are beings with leaking boundaries. Cartoonishly literal in their metaphorical meaning, they are a continuous self that is multiplying and extending out into the infinite. A body that is not an end nor a beginning. A self that does not settle instead collides, splits, absorbs, shifts shape, and extends. 
They are inquiring into what makes a body, as well as what makes identity, the power of the erotic and waywardness, and the failure of static definition. They explore both how the body can be objectified and how the object can be embodied. They aren’t quite a girl or human but hover somewhere in the in-between realm of thing, virus, person, monster, phantasmic desire, or abstracted personhood. Never arriving at being fully contained, unapologetic in their exaggeratedness. Constantly undergoing a process of actualizing and self–making, while existing as a fetish object. They return the gaze while flickering between their conflicting meanings. 
In addition to porcelain’s loaded history and entomology, porcelain is an adjective that has historically been used to describe flesh. In Ornamentalism, Anne Anlin Cheng says, “This is flesh congealed into porcelain and porcelain invoking the possibility of flesh.”. Porcelain skin is fragile, resilient, perfect, pure, and possessable. It is one of the obvious entry points into the porcelain figures in my work. Porcelain becomes the flesh of my figures.  Cheng goes on to say, that the ”ornamental personhood of Asiatic femininity is a rare and valuable opportunity to consider alternative forms of being, not at the site of the free, natural, modern subject and his or her celebrated autonomy, but, contrarily, at the edges and crevices of a non-European, synthetic, aggregated, and feminine body.” As my work progresses, these figures are still present as part of a personal mythology. It’s an additive process and my world is always evolving and expanding. Kind of like moving from a portrait to a landscape, or from a portrait to the microscopic–in both cases, the figure is still present, but the vantage point is zoomed way in or way out.
What are you investigating these days? Is there anything we can look forward to seeing in the future?
I am investigating devices of illusion and the history and mechanism of magic. I have been thinking about the idea of the spectral, both as something that can be fabricated and something that has no explanation. Similar to my interest in holograms, I am interested in the intersection of what is “there” and what is “not there”. Or how something can be simultaneously both. It’s reaching outside of possibility and all its parameters to access new ways of seeing. 

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