28 December 2015

Paste Modernism 4 at Ambush Gallery - Spotlight on Mie Nakazawa

Words: Saskia Edwards
Images: Jonathan Rae

I think we’d all like to think that we’re better people than we are.

That we wouldn’t treat someone differently based on their name or face.

But, in reality, we probably do. Our perceptions in life are so steeped in societal preconceptions. 

It’s like you’re looking out a window that has many layers of glass that before you can even see the other side, everything is already warped. It’s like filter, but instead of making you look tan, it’s more racist, sexist and ageist.

“My name’s a Japanese name I think when people call me sometimes, they speak very slowly and I think they get a shock when I speak fluent English - so I was playing with that - people’s assumptions with name and face,” says artist Mie Nakazawa.

She looks at this in a piece she submitted to Paste Modernism at Ambush Gallery in Sydney. Paste Modernism is a collection of some 500 artists’ paper works, which are wheat-pasted to the walls of the gallery. It’s like a kind of paste-up cavern.

Mie - an illustrator, photographer and lithographer - looks at the biases we harbour.

She says: “I think it’s a big problem in Australia where we assume by nationality, name or what we look like, what someone is or who they are, it’s not always right.

“So I’ve got a photo of a redhead freckley friend and I’ve actually put my name underneath, which is Mie Nakazawa.

“And so the name and the face don’t go together and I think a few people get confused about this.”

It seems like this is something that Mie wrestles with - her own intrinsic prejudices. You get the impression that she wants to improve herself.

“I find myself sometimes judging people without thinking about it and I don’t like that.

“So it’s making myself more conscious and also making other people conscious.

“We see it in Australia - a Chinese person will come here and change their name to Geoffrey Smith - they are consciously doing it so people won’t treat them badly.”

One part of this bias that Mie is interested in is ageism and the contrast with what she saw in Brazil compared to Australia. 

“I saw that the age division wasn’t as strong over there, like you went out to a club and there would be a 50-year-old dude rocking out with you and everyone seemed to accept each other more age-wise and respect each other.”

Mie has looked at faces in another way - through buildings. She examined the contrast between buildings’ facades and the ugly concrete innards of those structures.

“I started investigating the facade of buildings and the fronts of buildings and how the front is always beautiful and you go further into the back and it can be uglier and uglier.

“So I started exploring the face of people and how it’s just a front.”

I think Mie will keep looking at this idea of the face. After all, she says she “has no choice” but to be an artist.

And it's not something that's going away. While we all hope that we’re better than our biases, our societal indoctrination and prejudices, we all still struggle with them. In the end, everything we do in life is just an internal battle between our good and bad inclinations.

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