Even after she received recognition for her style of expression, Katayama did not plan to become a full-time artist.
However, meeting the late Takashi Azumaya, who was an independent curator and served as a judge for the Gunma
Biennale for Young Artists, gave her another push in that direction.
“I had already started creating my works by that time, but I couldn’t show them to anyone. I couldn’t even explain
to myself or understand what the creations were. I needed someone like him who was supportive to me by saying,
“keep going” as a response to my enormous enthusiasm to create anyway, and let me continue on my way.”
With encouragement from Mr. Azumaya, Katayama went on to the Master of Fine Arts program at Tokyo University
of the Arts. There, she took photography classes at the suggestion of her professor, Motohiko Odani. She also
began musical activities while in school.
“I tried to find a part-time job to help pay my tuition, but I was refused every time. I thought, Why??? I eventually
thought that I had no choice but to work as a hostess, and knocked on the door of a hostess bar. The bar manager
decided to let me to sing on stage because I reminded him of his deceased wife. When I sang, I was ridiculously
off key but it became something distinctive. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was carrying out
activities as a musician.”
Even as a student, Katayama had opportunities to engage in self-expressive activities in these ways, however,
she still did not consider making a living as an artist.
“I just couldn’t keep up with the high level of artistic awareness held by other students at Tokyo University
of the Arts. Even after graduating, I continued trying to land an office job, making visits to the employment
center in search of a job. I was looking for a company equipped with an elevator and western-style toilets [laughs].
But nobody was interested in hiring me. Ironically, the only offers that I got were those related to art.”
Katayama said that she was still job hunting even after participating in Aichi Triennale 2013. It seems, however,
that she has finally accepted that she is going to live as a fulltime artist carrying out self-expressive activities.
I asked her about art as a form of communication.
“I think I’m suited for it in that it’s an unobtrusive, unconfined and freewheeling communication style. For
example, some people who see my work say it looks sad or lonely. I didn’t make the pieces to express those things,
but people project their own emotions on them, and see that kind of thing in them. Now I see, in a sense, I’m
at the point where I now think that, in a sense, is communication, too.”
It was the words of Kazue Kobata, her mentor at Tokyo University of the Arts and a translator of Susan Sontag’s
works, that triggered this way of thinking.
“She advised me, ‘Just make sure to read books. Then, you can become ‘friends’ with people who lived one or
two hundred years ago.’ I can now take pride as having the chance to become one such person through my self-expressive
activities. I’m not good at direct communication with people, so I think this form of communication agrees with