He’s a three time former IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, pinned both members of Guerrillas of Destiny in a one week span, and now he and partner SHO head to Lowell Massachusetts Friday night to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championships. YOH has lofty goals, and ‘Stargazer’ is an appropriate nickname. It’s something that applies to the man’s art as well, and NJPW1972.com caught up with YOH at his art installation in Tokyo’s Art Complex Center to talk about his creations and hopes of tag gold.
–So we’re here in your installation in the Art Complex Center. It’s called ‘YOH’s room (no bath)’. Can you sum up the piece?
YOH: It’s a toilet. The theme of the piece is the idea of ‘my room’, and that’s running through here, that image. When I did an exhibit in Yutenji earlier in the summer, people were drawn to the piece called ‘poo’.
YOH: A staff member from the Art Complex Center came to the Yutenji exhibit, and asked me if I’d like to do something there. I accepted, and suggested I do something with a toilet. That’s what led to this.
–So the toilet was your idea?
YOH: Right. I thought it would be pretty interesting to be an artist who specializes in toilets. Truth is, I’ve always liked poo. My mum came to visit my Yutenji exhibit, and she said ‘come to think of it, you’ve always been interested in shit’. She’s right.
YOH: Maybe some day I’d like to have my work not just in galleries, but in businesses or restaurants. Using things like stars and toilets as the basis of my work, it has a lot of different uses.
–I suppose it can be applied in a lot of different situations.
YOH: One thing about me is I’m not particularly great at drawing. So I’m better at expressing myself through sculpture, or through modern art. Marcel Duchamp, who’s kind of a father figure to modern art, he used toilets as well. The art world used to be all about only recognizing things that you’d made yourself. But he had a piece called ‘Fountain’, which was a urinal with a signature on the side, and there was a huge buzz around it.
–You were inspired by that?
YOH: I only found out about him after I started working with toilets. I was doing a piece with a technique called silk- screening, and then flicking paint over the top. My art teacher saw that and told me about this guy Duchamp. So I think I was probably him in a past life (laughs).
–What do you want visitors to the gallery to look out for?
YOH: I hope people don’t just see it with their eyes, but close their eyes and take in the sounds, the smells, the sensation of it all. If you look at this paper, with the paint on it, it’s brown, right?
YOH: That’s actually coffee I died it with. Coffee has a deodorizing effect, you know? And people have this idea that the toilet is a dirty place, but it isn’t. It’s a place of purification. I want people to consider how they feel, what they might think if they use this.
–Do you have any more art ideas?
YOH: I do, but my tag title match in Boston is coming up, so that’s the focus right now.
–You pinned both Tama Tonga and Tanga Loa during the last tour and now you and SHO are challenging for the IWGP Tag Team Championships on September 27 in Lowell.
YOH: Right. I think the timing worked out perfectly. I got two wins in a short period of time, so I think I can keep that momentum and those good vibes coming. If the title match didn’t happen until Ryogoku or something like that, it’d be hard to keep that momentum strong I think.
–You’ve got the winds at your backs heading toward the title now.
YOH: Right. YOSHI-HASHI likes to talk about ‘instances’ and I like that. Before now I wasn’t really thinking about the IWGP Tag Team Championships. I was more thinking about us taking back the Junior Heavyweight titles, winning the Super Junior Tag League for the third year straight, going on to enter World Tag League… but not the heavyweight belts so soon.
–You’ve moved about three steps forward in your plan already.
YOH: Right, it all changed in an instant and now we have a chance at the titles right away. It’s like with art, you might slip with the paintbrush and end up creating something entirely new and amazing instead.
–Has your approach to wrestling changed since becoming more active as an artist?
YOH: Absolutely. I’ve become more flexible. It’s like in both the (GoD) matches, I was able to think clearly ‘now’s my chance!’ and come up with something that got me the win. I’ve become much more of a clear thinker ever since I started working with toilets. That’s what I want to say to people: if you’re ever feeling lost, go to the toilet. Listen to your loo; it might tell you something.
–Any final thoughts on your tag title match?
YOH: The toilet’s a fountain. Not like Duchamp’s ‘fountain’ but a fountain of ideas. When I sat on the toilet in YOH’s room (no bath) an idea hit me of how to take those tag belts. Roppongi 3K are the best team in the world, and we’re going to come back to Japan as champions!
Fighting Spirit Unleashed Boston
Lowell Memorial Auditorium
Friday, September 27 2019 7PM start
YOH’s Room (no bath) is on display at Art Complex Center in Shinjuku, Otamachi 12-9 until Saturday October 26.