Tamotsu Murakami making Airship in Barrow, alien artwork under close scrutiny from a responsive new audience

Sayaka Akiyama

Top image: The exhibition ALUKU was officially opened by Bob Pointing Chief Executive of West Lakes Renaissance, our sub-regional regeneration agency (pictured left) who is well know for undertaking his own daily domestic walking model around the town.


Sayaka Akiyama (Japan)

Sayaka was the second artist from Japan to come to Art Gene. Our Research Residency Programme began a year earlier with Tamotsu Murakami. Both artists’ residencies were coordinated by Nori Mitzuki who traveled to Art Gene towards the end of Sayaka’s residency and was able to attend the opening of her exhibition ALUKU in the Art Gene Gallery.

We were drawn to her practice of mapping and recording her explorations of the places she lives or works, something which mirrors Art Gene’s ongoing methodology and the interests of our associates where a deep understanding of place is an essential first step in the research which underlies our on-going work in Re-Visioning the social, natural and built environment.


My work probes the ‘footprints of time’ within everyday life. Things which happen or exist in the places where I walk, the people I meet, the echoes of my senses — I wish to make my works using many different coloured threads, tracing the lines of my memories.

Sayaka Akiyama


ALUKU (walking) began in 1998 at the Kyoto Junior College of Art and Design when Akiyama, who was a student at the time, attached a “Human Manpokei” (Human Walk Recorder) to her body — a piece of paper and thread that recorded the rhythm of a walk she made of six rounds of the college grounds.

Since then Akiyama has traced her “footprints in time” in Sagamiono, Kyoto, Stockholm, New York, Monflanquin, in the Gascogne region of south west France, Geneva and now, in Barrow-in-Furness.

Her finished works, a record of her day-to-day movements stitched in various coloured threads on paper maps, document how she establishes a life for herself in new places, both in Japan and abroad.

Akiyama’s work, writes Mika Kuraya, curator of The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, “maintains the feeling and pace of a solitary human being walking as well as the rhythm of a human hand tracing the path with a needle at a similar leisurely pace.”

Sayaka Akiyama was born in Hyogo, Japan in 1971. She studied at Kyoto Junior College of Art and Design where she received a BFA in 1999, and Joshibi University of Art and Design, Kanagawa where she received an MFA in 2000. Akiyama’s work has been shown in numerous museums and galleries in Japan, including The Ueno Royal Museum, Contemporary Art Factory and Sumida-ku, Fuji Television Gallery, Toyko, Joshibi Art Museum, Kanagawa, and Stella Hall, Osaka.


Image above: My Domestic Walking Model (Barrow-in-Furness) by Sayaka Akiyama, (detail)

Exhibition Opening

Akiyama’s work derives from her sense of self-awareness, her physical nature and sensitivity. By actively linking herself to other people, lands, and the environment she “freeze-packs” the incidents that she encounters . Using her own handmade paper she embellishes her works with text, thread and materials taken directly from the environments she encounters. Some of the mud from Barrow’s coastline continues to travel the world in her artworks which function as ‘visual diaries’ recording time and place.


Workshops and Events

During her time in Barrow, Sayaka made paper artworks with local school children which were exhibited alongside her own pieces in the Art Gene Gallery. We created a special opening event for the schools involved where they could see their works in the exhibition and also invite their parents, grandparents and friends to see what they had been doing and meet Sayaka.

Sayaka conducted a traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony for the children and invited them to take part in the ritual before sampling the bright green tea.

During her Residency at Art Gene we introduced Sayaka to other regional Arts Organisations and she made a presentation towards the end of her residency at Castlefield Gallery, Manchester


From Barrow to Tokyo

Following her residency and exhibition Akiyama was invited to exhibit the works she had created at Art Gene in the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOT), Tokyo 2007 in an exhibition entitled From a World as Large as Life.

External Links

Mot Art Museum
Art Tower Mito 
Tokyo Art Beat


My domestic walking model (Barrow-in-Furness) supported by
The Great Britain SASKAWA Foundation
The Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation Fuji Xerox Co., Ltd.,
Corporation Coordination: Norie Mitsuki

Image below:  Some of the many diaristic pieces Akiyama created during her residency

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