Kathy Aoki: #WishYouWereHere
June 23 – September 9, 2018
In June, remnants from the iconic Hello Kitty Monument – Yukon Territory will be on view at the ICA in #WishYouWereHere, opening June 24th. According to the Santa Clara-based artist and historian Kathy Aoki, the Hello Kitty craze and fandom has only escalated over the years, so much so that in 2007 her likeness was carved atop a mountain region and the Hello Kitty Monument was born. This video shows the inspirational monument and it's booming popularity along with a glimpse of Hater Girl in the left hand corner (reports are coming in that Hater Girl *might* even activate the ICA). Didnt get to visit the monument? You'll get your chance to get that iconic selfie soon.
Posted by San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art on Thursday, May 24, 2018
Bay Area artist Kathy Aoki is equally amazed, mystified and repulsed by the global obsession with the fictional pop icon Hello Kitty.
The anthropomorphic cat-like character, produced by the Japanese company Sanrio, is the quintessential emblem of cute. Originally aimed at pre-adolescent girls, the current appeal of Hello Kitty knows no limits, spanning continents, cultures, ages and genders, with its fan base continuing to grow each year. The Hello Kitty brand is found on 50,000 products in more than 70 countries, ranging from school supplies, fashion accessories, television series, comics, music (Hello Kitty has her own branded album, “Hello World”), video games, theme parks, a feature film and on June 30th, West Japan Railway Company will launch a Hello Kitty-themed bullet train. So, in Aoki’s mind, it didn’t seem so far-fetched to imagine that there might be a Mt. Rushmore-like monument erected to celebrate this ubiquitous creature. In fact, before beginning work on the Hello Kitty Monument project, she searched the web to be certain this fantastical idea of hers had not actually been realized.
Since first conceiving of the Hello Kitty Monument, Aoki’s fictional narrative has gotten more and more complex, beginning with Cartoon Network Artist Tarik Felsic’s conceptual napkin drawing in 2000, to the monument’s destruction in 2011, to make way for a condo complex that would “support the developing quantum data crystal industry.” The numerous details of the monument’s history are condensed in an illustrated timeline and audio component that Aoki has created for the “Visitor Center,” along with large rock fragments rescued from the demolition site. The selfie social media component further embellishes the parody, allowing ICA visitors to document their visit to the Hello Kitty Monument with a specially created geotag for the Yukon National Park location.
The subject of “cute” has been an ongoing theme in Aoki’s work for many years. However, the Hello Kitty Monument project goes beyond the notion of cute. In her sarcastic parody and false celebration of this world-renown creature, Aoki questions the cult consumerism associated with the Hello Kitty brand and how this mass idolatry has resulted in a $7 billion industry that knows no bounds. Aoki challenges us to consider what it is about this pop icon that is so attractive and fulfilling to consumers. How can a cartoon character make so many people so happy?
Kathy Aoki received her undergraduate degree at the University of California, Berkeley, and an MFA in Printmaking at Washington University in St Louis. Aoki’s awards include fellowships from Kala Art Institute, the MacDowell Colony, Headlands Center for the Arts, Djerassi Resident Artists Program, Val Paraiso, and Frans Masereel Centrum. Her work is included in major collections across the country including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, SFMOMA, the Harvard University Art Museums, and the New York Public Library. Aoki lives and works in Silicon Valley and is an Associate Professor of Studio Art at Santa Clara University.
Kathy Aoki: #WishYouWereHere is supported by a grants from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Silicon Valley Creates