With your year long Carla subscription, you will receive a new issue right to your doorstep every 3 months.
Our advertising program is essential to the ecology of our publication. Ad fees go directly to paying writers, which we do according to W.A.G.E. standards.
We are currently printing runs of 6,000 every three months. Our publication is distributed locally through galleries and art related businesses, providing a direct outlet to reaching a specific demographic with art related interests and concerns.
To advertise or for more information on rates, deadlines, and production specifications, please contact us at email@example.com
“I have recently learned about Planaria, a small animal species that self-reproduces and regenerates. You cut off a piece of these simple creatures and they grow a new piece all-together. Once the piece has been cut off there is an electric charge which goes out in the shape of what is to be regrown, this diagram is then filled by the fat of regenerating tissue—do you hear what this means? Until we can conceive the shape of what has not yet been we cannot fill it. Until we can feel beyond what we have been given what we have been given, what we have found, what we have been told is right and so forth, until we can feel a need and desire for what does not exist, how can we decide over a future or even think of providing it? This is the function of poetry. This is the function of dreaming. Our ideas follow our needs and desires, our ideas follow vision.”
During a recent conversation, I was read the above quote by Amia Yokoyama, a sculptor, animator, and friend. Throughout our friendship, I’ve been awed by her sense of scope and by her thirst to observe and understand the depths and heights of the universe. This is clear in what she makes and how she makes it. While Amia works within a cohesive language of form and color, she intersperses nuanced personal reflections and dialogue into her exhibitions, constantly keeping me guessing what might show up next. She recently created a series of untitled holographic works—Untitled (green) Ed 1 (2022) pictures a holographic cluster of her familiar, fluid ceramic figures. The image is lined with a thumby and elaborate ceramic frame that resembles fossilized plant matter. I am struck by the juxtaposition between what is clearly there— the weight of the frame, its textures and scale—and what appears, but what is not quite present. As much of her work takes either the form of sculpture or video animation, the medium of the hologram—a kind of screen that cradles an image of a physical sculpture—feels like a perfect marriage between these two mediums. It acts as an inquiry into a more immaterial place, seeking a connection to worlds beyond the one we all share here and now.
Yokoyama’s new hologram works allowed me to approach some of my favorite of her previous works with fresh eyes—namely, her 2020 installation at the Brand Library & Art Center, Initial Conditions, a two-channel animation featuring objects that wriggle and remake themselves in a kind of alien non-space. With these revelations in mind, we picked up on our ongoing conversation about hybrid materiality, the theory of the holographic universe, and how to imagine new possibilities.
Yves B. Golden: As I understand it, your sculptural work comes from a lot of research—from religious iconography to scientific quandaries—while also reflecting and refracting your past and present experiences. Where do you typically start in the studio?
Amia Yokoyama: I definitely think about religious iconography, but additionally, cosmology, and mythology. What could be called “real science” as well as science fiction [both] influence my work, partially because I think something that they have in common is the way they attempt to explain what seems to be unexplainable. Within those attempts to try to explain, there’s a lot of falling short, a lot of failure. There [are] a lot of breaking points in that space that I find to be fertile ground for my practice.
YBG: What propelled the leap to holograms?
AY: The two main branches of my practice have always been ceramic-based sculpture and animation. Then there’s the stop motion and 3-D CGI animation—working within three dimensions but in a digital space. When I began making work, I was interested in how the 3-dimensional physical sculptures, for example, [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 very different manifestations of 3-dimensional being.
Holograms are this “futuristic” technology from the 1940s that embodied the potential to achieve the impossible—albeit an illusion.2 [It was] like a photographic fad, I guess you could say. It’s related to photography in that it is a print, and there is a capturing of an image happening. Holograms are a way to capture 3-dimensional space on a 2-dimensional surface, and in animation, I’m constantly in that sort of language, [thinking about] how to describe 3-dimensional space or a to fully [flesh out a] 3-dimensional world within a 2-dimensional surface like a screen or a projection. With this technology, rather than capturing a singular light field, we are capturing an entire light field of a 3-D object and basically communicating or recording that higher dimensional information onto a 2-dimensional surface.
YBG: What is higher dimensional information?
AY: So, 2-dimensional information is confined to a plane, a screen, or a 2-dimensional surface, while 3-dimensional information is up, down, left, right. Then, 4-dimensional concepts are where things get extra freaky.
YBG: For sure. So when you mentioned that you digitize all your sculptures, you said that the programs you use allow you to think in new ways about scale and more. How else does that process of archiving your work impact making new work?
AY: Essentially, every sculpture that I make I scan with basic 3-D scanning technology. What happens when I scan the object is this “wow” factor. Like, oh my gosh, I just captured this 3-dimensional thing in the digital sphere! Additionally, there’s all the places where the software kind of fails to capture it and glitches out. It can’t quite capture reality as we perceive it. The software brain has to invent what would go there, filling in its own blanks. I like pushing software into a place where it fails. These moments of failure become liberated spaces for us to flourish.
When I transfer something from the physical to the digital, I can play with the scale or the other basic things you can change within a digital animation software. When you open it up, you have scale, position, rotation, and opacity—those are the basic building blocks for how to manipulate an image or an object digitally. So, by increasing the scale or the rotation, or even the opacity, I can go inside and explore the interior spaces of these sculptures. And in some ways, they can become entire landscapes or entire worlds within themselves.
YBG: This process feels so collaborative and spontaneous. It’s so resourceful. Do you think that working at the margins of technological, but also scientific, error evidences something larger about how you perceive the world and what’s possible? Observable? You take the sculptures back into the digital realm and now you’re into holograms. There just seems to be something driving this exploration further.
AY: I’m playing with a lot of materials and technologies, but also [with] theories like the [principle of the] holographic universe. This is the theory that our reality, as we can perceive it, is a projection from a lower dimension. Like I said, a hologram captures the full light field of a physical object and embeds it into a 2-D surface. The theory of the holographic universe is saying that this is actually happening, and that this very well may be what our world is—what we are experiencing as three dimensions is actually a projection or recording from [another] dimension. I love playing in these spaces that attempt to explain something so, so, so big. So, yes, imagining beyond this dimension and creating these worlds in my art influences how I interact with everything.
The world can feel like so much more and sometimes feels like so much less than what it is giving.
YBG: Now there’s a fridge magnet!
AY: Right?! I love when science [gives us] a really poetic way of describing something huge. There’s that kind of breakdown of hierarchies where feelings, perceptions, quantum physics, etcetera—they’re all happening at the same time. They’re intertwined.
YBG: In what ways do your reproductions of the self or your experiences go beyond the figure?
AY: The figures [in my work] represent a human and are hyper-feminized, but they actually behave more like a fungus or a virus. They are these kind of borderless, or semi-solid, oozing beings. They seduce their prey, absorb, and destroy human beings by feeding on their bodily fluids. Then they reproduce in aromantic ways. It’s similar to the way a virus can multiply and take over, or the way a fungus can grow on the surface of a decaying body. I also use some animals and iconography from different Japanese myths. I incorporate this and weave it into internet myths. I enjoy remixing or almost collaging different levels of mythologies or fictions with reality in my sculptures.
YBG: I love how your figures mirror natural functions at their most abstract level, because when I look at them, I see something very extreme and primordial in the glazing and the textures. There are no real hierarchies between the organic and technological parts of your practice. Specifically, with the oozing femme figures, you’re playing with what their bodies signify—like a shorthand. On a surface level, they’re just fetishy, but adding this layer of the macrophage-like life cycles they have—or their colors or textural qualities—makes them so superficially inviting, and also very dangerous.
AY: Right! Another thing I feel ties the holograms to these slime girl figures is [their] cellular qualit[y]. Also, similar to mythology and tradition, the more mythology reproduces itself by being told over and over and over, the more potential there is for it to change and evolve slightly. If a hologram is fragmented or broken up into little pieces, each piece will hold the image of the whole object. The best example is like if when you shatter a mirror, you could still see a full reflection in each piece, just smaller.
YBG: I want to go back to something that you said just now about your sculptures, about their bodies, the oozing boundlessness…
AY: The fluid’s not really one thing in particular, but it can be. It is evading being named at all times, and it embodies this kind of unstable, ever-changing abstraction that we’re all made up of, or that I feel made up of.
YBG: Is the fluid we’re talking about the “gender” fluid?
AY: The femmes I create are made of something that performs self-regeneration. There [are] many of them and they are literally multiplying as I make them. They’re growing out of themselves, cloning themselves. Sometimes, there might be a clump of them together, and that mass equals the same scale as a singular one in another sculpture. Their self-regenerative properties are what I really like about them. On a cellular level, they can absorb another body, and this is where they get their vital life force from. It’s like osmosis, a macrophage, or a planaria.
YBG: It seems like there’s such a play in your work and in how you think about wholeness. We spoke about how the whole is composed of many singulars and this idea of the shard of a hologram being able to codify the whole image, the entire light field of an object. I can tell you’re toying a lot with this macro-to-micro lens. You’re always bouncing from the whole to the parts and back again.
AY: Yes! The original attraction to holograms came from the fact that they are physical objects that embody functions of the digital: a 3-dimensional thing that you can see but is not there. I love that they encode light in such a way that they can be fractured and each piece still contains information of the whole—so, thinking about a whole or a truth that cannot be destroyed through breaking or fracturing. I love a process that can assemble and disassemble and assemble again.
I feel like a huge part of my practice is me just wanting to sharpen my tools of imagination. In Audre Lorde’s quote, and in talking about the planaria, she describes wanting us to imagine deeper, to project what isn’t there so that it can be possible. We need imagination and we need vision and we need dreaming and we need poetry in order to fulfill anything, in order to build anything new.
Amia Yokoyama is a multimedia Los Angeles-based artist who works with experimental animation, video, sculpture, and installation. The imagery in Yokoyama’s work stems from her speculation about the future and exploration of the duality between wonder and horror. Yokoyama seeks to ensure that her work evokes a playful, otherworldly feeling while creating a style that is suggestive of the future and the past.
This interview was originally published in Carla issue 30.