Artist as Storyteller

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Supported by the Seattle Colleges Performing Arts Fund, the Artist as Storyteller speakers series welcomes BIPOC artists, performers, and activists to share their work and connect with students about what it means to be an artist in today’s social and cultural climate. The series emphasizes the art-making and storytelling process as it relates to the individual and community.

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Ken + Julia Yonetani

Moderated by Amiko Matsuo from South Seattle College and Justin Jesty from University of Washington 

Ken+Julia Yonetani are collaborative artists who love life, beauty, dreams and the planet.

Ken and Julia were both born in Tokyo, but from world’s apart. Ken grew up in a typical Japanese household, Julia travelled the world with her ex-pat family eventually settling in Australia. She returned to Japan in her early twenties, and met Ken there not long after.

Ken+Julia met at an Italian restaurant in Aoyama, Tokyo where they were both waitering. Ken got his first full-time job soon after as a broker on the Tokyo Financial Exchange market. Julia kept on studying and eventually got a job as a lecturer in Asian cultural studies at an Australian university. They gave it all up for their passion, art, Ken first and then Julia, and they began collaborating together in 2008. They have never looked back.

To try and summarise it in a few lines, art offered to them, to borrow the words of Roger Lipsey, “a transient experience of intensity, of a larger world and larger self.”

Ken + Julia Yonetani exhibited in such venues as the National Gallery of Australia, the National Museum of Singapore (Singapore Biennale 2013), Abbaye de Maubuisson in France, Art Gallery of NSW and Art Gallery of South Australia. They have undertaken residencies in Finland, Portugal, Germany, Mildura and Sydney. In 2009 they represented Australia at the Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art. One highlight was their first survey show in Europe Un autre rêve (Another dream) at the 12 century Abbaye de Maubuisson in France (November 2014 – August 2015). In the Singapore Biennale, their large installation work “Crystal Palace: the great exhibition of the works of industry of all nuclear nations”, comprising of 31 uranium glass made chandeliers and taking up over 200 square meters, was placed on numerous pick of the biennale lists. Clara Choy of the Straits Times concludes:

“I cannot help but admire Crystal Palace’s guts…Its masterful treading of the border between beauty and panic. One way or another it has altered me. And that is the most any piece of art can hope to do.” (12 Nov 2013)

See more of Ken+Julia’s work here.

Watch “Welcome to the Anthropocene,” a short film which documents a collaboration between artists and scientists which culminated in a 2017 exhibit by the same name in Tasmania: