Art Action UK Virtual Artist Residency 2021

Rika Nakashima

Rika Nakashima explores the non-binary relation between the public and private and investigates the cathartic function of art through gestures.

Rika Nakashima

Artist Statement

In my art practice, following the inspiration I drew from Hannah Arendt’s writings, I focus my work on the state in-between the public and private realm. I believe there is no “public” and “private” as such but a complicated relationship between them, which can be determined by different spatial structures and timeframes. Even though the private is meant to stay detached, if it has been exposed in public, it sets the stage for revelation.

During the residency I held two shows in Tokyo. The first titled Bodies On The Matter: a yoga studio project took place at Tomotoshi Art Museum. The space was arranged as a private space for a yoga class. Visitors were asked to sit behind the curtains on a mat with a yoni symbol attached to it. Since the early 2000s in Japan, the number of people who practice yoga has reached 16 million. However, most of the yoga classes in Japan are meant for women; some places are even apparently dedicated to them. It happened, among other reasons, due to the promotion companies of so-called diet yoga targeted at specific social groups. One might even say that in Japan, modern yoga belongs to women. In this project I address this new cultural trend, at the same time, create a new practice by referring to Kali, a Hindu goddess associated with destruction, dissolution, and rebirth. Kali has a ferocious personality. She likes blood and usually is regarded as a symbol of destruction and murder. The purpose of modern yoga is often meditation for reaching mental stability. However, the yoga instructions for this project were designed to work out the "anger" in a female body. Audience was invited to listen to an audio instruction and together with it to do a simple exercise.

Practice of shavasana  / Photo: Shiori Watanabe
Practice of shavasana  / Photo: Shiori Watanabe
Practice of shavasana  / Photo: Shiori Watanabe

Besides an arranged room, the project contains three photographs titled "Practice of shavasana." shavasana, or the pose of a dead body, is the last and essential pose in any yoga class, a moment of blessed calm. It is a state of maximum relaxation when the body is left on the ground as if it is dead. I posed myself in that manner in several places in Tokyo. The first is in front of the National Stadium, where I wanted to talk about the story of Zaha Hadid, an architect who was once chosen to build the National Stadium for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and then withdrew her proposal by the conservative Japanese goverment. The second spot was at the Hatagaya-Haracho bus stop, a place where last year, in November 2020, a homeless woman was murdered by a man who lived nearby and was annoyed by her camping out on a bench. The third happened to be on the platform of Shimokitazawa Station on the Inogashira Line. There was a dirty green banner with the words "Fight back together 'Chikan' ( a Japanese term for a molester) in trains!" written on the fence of a construction site near the station. Through this project/works, I've tried to make visible the idea that Tokyo, in its current state, is a place of constant danger and exclusion. Searching for a safe space in the city, it seems to me, our bodies would only find long-awaited relief in the moment of death.

The Tower Spreads(at the Yoyogi station) from I tower over my dead body.  / Photo: Naoki Takehisa
The Tower Spreads (flyers) from I tower over my dead body.  / Photo: Naoki Takehisa

My solo exhibition called I tower over my dead body was held in November 2021 at the Gallery TOH. The project started as The Tower Spread media company undertaken through online and printed sources. The information about the project was deliberately limited to a short statement with the symbolic meaning of a single Tarot card "Liberation, the emergence of the trapped". With that I wanted to provoke people to set their own expectations, to start an interaction with them before the actual visit. Since Gallery TOH is a unique space / place located in the Yoyogi district, in my project, I used particular surrounding features to connect the audience with the place and make their pronouncedly private experience more vivid. On the other hand, I aimed to critique and deconstruct the common understanding of white cube space. This time it was not quite a gallery space but rather in between urban space and  hospital.

Here is the whole archive and review of the exhibition I tower over my dead body. >>>

The Tower Therapy  from I tower over my dead body.  / Photo: Naoki Takehisa

The Tower Therapy's central piece is a sound installation based on hypnotherapy practice. Again, in the middle of the gallery, there was an isolated space. In order to get inside, a visitor needed to complete a questionnaire intended to check whether one can handle such an experience. Behind the curtains, one would sit on the comfortable chair and listen to the therapy navigation (about 30 mins) with additional sounds coming from the enormous speakers that were so big it made the chair vibrate. The sound navigates one's trip back into their childhood and then again to adulthood, through the death by the thunder, reaching the temple and coming back into the real. The gallery space has iconic stairs and a huge window. Therefore the sound installation included the footsteps sounds and the city noise from the outside. The latter was primarily recorded and combined with real sounds coming from an open window in the gallery. After one finishes the therapy, one should be counted as a dead person using the signature on the wall (an imitation of a Japanese public statistic sign at the police station updated daily). This would show as a violent behavior to reconnect the personal deaths into the public. The final piece was an electrical signboard placed outside the window, a creeping line that said “My heart bleeds for accidents resulting in personal injury (or death).”

Dear, suicide attackers from I tower over my dead body.  / Photo: Naoki Takehisa

Both exhibitions deal with the idea of conceptual "death." Forgotten struggles, cancellations, public suicides, and murders are radical examples of private into public situations. With this work, I have tried to question the concept of suicide on a different level from a theoretical inquiry to my own vulnerability towards temptation of this last resort, due to the extreme exhaustion caused by being predisposed to the cluster headaches. The philosophy of death also relates to the current state of palliative care. For example, in Switzerland, these issues have been an essential part of public debates for at least a decade. Nowadays, active euthanasia is illegal but supplying the means is possible. These circumstances gradually change the medical care market and our attitude towards death. Therefore, I would continue exploring the topic carefully through these new practices and public debates surrounding it.

The AAUK virtual residency helped me summarise my work: I contemplated my time in London and my life after returning to Japan. Indeed, the overseas experience helps me observe and assess my work within the global perspective. I believe the latter is reflected in my recent artist statement.

Artists Profile

Rika Nakashima is an artist born in 1995 in Aichi, Japan. She studied Fine Art and graduated from the Chelsea College of Arts in London in 2018, prior to which she attended the Tokyo University of the Arts in 2019.

Her work takes multiple forms, ranging from site-specific installations and performances to public interventions in urban space. She is interested in notions of liminality and in-betweenness of the architecture, she explores the non-binary relation between the public and private and investigates the cathartic function of art through gestures which point towards the social construction of bodies and identities. The use of semiotic tools - texts, signs and symbols, serves as a way of visual storytelling and means to reveal intricate connections between the realms of personal experience and public life, and as the means of approaching the beauty of little acts of resistance against dominant regimes of knowledge and power.

Major exhibitions / events : I tower over my dead body. (Gallery TOH, 2021), Bodies On The Matter (Tomotoshi Art Museum, 2021), s.s.s.s. (roji-to-hito, 2021-2022), A Waiting Room (Goethe Institute Tokyo, 2020),  A City Dreaming (Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, 2020), ALL TOO HUMAN CAPITAL (The Degree show at Chelsea Collage of Arts, 2018) 、 a guerrilla performance event Private Property No Rights of Way (Peckham, 2017) etc.


Artist website:

The archive of the exhibition I tower over my dead body. :

The exhibition review of I tower over my dead body. by Mio Nakajima in the article Bijutsutecho web: (Japanese website)

The website of the project Bodies On The Matter on the website Tomotoshi Art Museum :