What motivated you to start?
Peter Granser: “In 2013/2014 I decided to go together with my companion Beatrice on two long artist-in-residence stays in the Japanese countryside.
Due to some changes in my artistic practice and in my life in general I wanted to have time to think about how to continue. We spent 7 months in Japan and this time was essential to develop new ideas. Beside many artists, we also met tea enthusiasts, tea farmers and potters and got deeper into the world of tea. Our interest in tea already started in 2009 in China while I worked on my long-term project “Heaven in Clouds”.
So the idea grew to begin an experiment and bring together contemporary art and high-
quality tea. We didn’t want to introduce the traditional chado (the way of tea), but our personal experience.
That was the start of ITO (the Japanese word for thread) to connect these two worlds.”
How do you develop your artistic programme?
Our program at ITO deals with topics such as time, emptiness, nature, existence and consciousness. These topics are essential in my work of the last years, too and everything at ITO is a result of our personal interest and experience.
I see the space itself as part of my artwork, where I give other artists the possibility to exhibit or perform. ITO is a small space and half of the space is reserved for the tea table – a place for contemplation, but also communication. The possibilities to exhibit works are limited to two “Tokonoma” inspired boxes, that form small spaces themselves. The rest of the room can be used, if the artist wants to include it.
We have a strong connection with Japan and also first contacts with Chinese and Korean artists. But of course we show European artists, too.
Could you describe your relation with artists? How do you get in touch, how do you work with them?
We want to give artists the feeling, of being well taken care of and to be understood. They can experiment at ITO and we try to have a family style atmosphere. Everything is very personal. For me it is important to work with nice people in a relaxed but concentrated way. Most of the artists we showed so far, we know in person or got to know them through friends.
What advice would you give emerging artists?
Find your path to walk on.
What do you think is your most valuable or unique aspect?
The intimate and personal atmosphere at ITO and the unusual combination of tea and contemporary art.
What do you consider to be your biggest challenge?
A small space means pretty much the same amount of work like a bigger space. At the moment I work around 12 days a month for ITO. The rest of the time for my personal work. But it merges more and more. To be a bit more financially independent would help to continue ITO over the next years. A patron, who is interested in our program and who wants to support it, would be a big help.
What do you find the most rewarding?
Fortunate visitors and artists telling us, that they enjoyed having such a concentrated exhibition in a very special space. But also the intense collaboration with artists and the deep insight we get into their work.
What does the future hold?
Right now we have a wonderful exhibition with the work of experimental filmmaker Makino Takashi. We built a micro-cinema for two people, which gives an intimate impression of his films.
We just opened last week “A Solitude of Place” by Idetsuki Hideaki. A small house one person can use for contemplation in a hidden garden next to ITO. The next exhibition “A Cup of Noise” – a plant/sound installation by Mélodie Melak – will start June 17th.
And we would love to develop a residency programme in the Japanese countryside in Kyushu. We want to give other artists the experience we had, so that they can hopefully come back with new energy and ideas.