Shrimps, Sounds, Lines

Aki Sasamoto at Para Site

June 4, 2024
By Nicole M. Nepomuceno


For Sounding Lines, her first solo exhibition in Hong Kong, Aki Sasamoto created an installation of whimsical large-scale fishing lures and metallic kitchen tools. Hand-carved from wood and painted in vivid red and iridescent green hues to resemble worms, shrimps, and fishes, the lures were suspended from a network of metal springs throughout Para Site’s exhibition space. As the springs rippled at irregular intervals—triggered by automated metal rods—so too did the whisks, wire strainers, ladles, and knives that were attached to the bottom of the lures with hooks and strings. The sounds produced by these oscillations resembled the sharp zip of a fishing line being cast out into the water, while the sudden, erratic movements of the installation mimicked ripples in still water.

During Hong Kong’s Art Basel week, a sea of raucous spectators encircled Sasamoto’s installation, awaiting her performative activation of the work. As if trying to interrupt the collective chatter and buzz, Sasamoto began her eponymous performance by swinging two whisks suspended from the lures like pendulums. Holding a bright red bucket filled with household objects in one hand, Sasamoto walked into the middle of her installation.

Performance view of Aki Sasamoto: ‘Sounding Lines’, 2024, Para Site, Hong Kong. Photo: Felix S.C. Wong.

Quickly, the artist proceeded to pick up a long, thin red rope that lay flat on the floor. Still holding her handy bucket, Sasamoto walked backwards toward one end of the rope, straightening and adjusting it. The audience finally quieted down and made way for the artist and her line. Walking back into the center of the exhibition space, Sasamoto unloaded the contents of her bucket onto the ground: a white mini toolbox full of actual lures (much smaller than those in her installation) and a large, bright orange wooden shrimp lure. She walked toward a window which had been tinted with blue plastic panels. Placing her red bucket upside down on the floor and using it as a step stool to reach the blue panel, she made a quick sketch of an irregular table that categorized the different attributes of her fishing lures. She described what she drew to the audience: “This one is beautiful, but I never use it.” In the top row of the table, she drew musical notes and said: “I have ones with sounds.” Once she had sufficiently annotated the blue panel, she removed it from the window and placed it on the floor, where she propped it up on one side with her toolbox.

Sasamoto proceeded to meander through her installation, activating it by pulling on ropes, springs, and whisks while continuing to talk in detail about the unique functions, designs, and movements of the fishing lures and baits. Soon, it became clear that Sasamoto was using these inanimate objects to talk about the people in her life. She described a pair of lures—a worm and a fish—as her ”long and slimy” colleagues. She personified the orange shrimp lure from her red bucket as a friend who was drifting away from her, and described an orange fish lure as her partner: “very stable.”

Performance view of Aki Sasamoto: ‘Sounding Lines’, 2024, Para Site, Hong Kong. Photo: Felix S.C. Wong.

In her performances, Sasamoto typically uses everyday or found objects as metaphors to consider human experiences and emotions. For her performance at Para Site, Sasamoto used the fishing and cooking instruments in her installation to this end, reflecting on such topics as relationships, the importance of choosing the right partner, and reconnecting with distant friends. The title of Sasamoto’s exhibition and performance, Sounding Lines, refers to the long cables attached to lead weights which are dropped into bodies of water to determine their depth. This measurement informs fisherfolk of their position in the ocean. Throughout her approximately 20-minute-long performance, Sasamoto extrapolated from this wayfinding device the desire to situate oneself. Sasamoto seemed to ask: “What is our position within our social environment? What is the depth of our relationships?”

Performance view of Aki Sasamoto: ‘Sounding Lines’, 2024, Para Site, Hong Kong. Photo: Felix S.C. Wong.

Although Sasamoto’s personal reflections and provisions of information about fishing techniques seemed arbitrary and disjointed, visualizing invisible connections is a staple of her improvised and non-tangential performances. At Para Site, the artist did this by drawing diagrams and tables. For her most compelling diagram, Sasamoto illustrated on another blue plastic board the “three essential relationships to live a longer life” through what she called “harmonics.” Referencing standing waves in physics, “first harmonics” implies weak ties with colleagues or strangers that one may meet at a bar, while the strongest “third harmonics” signals bonds with “quality friends.” Sasamoto’s performance was as much about interpersonal vibrations as it was about fishing. For the artist, to understand someone else is to be on the same frequency.

Sasamoto returned to the orange shrimp lure—her friend with whom she hadn’t spoken for five years. She hung the shrimp on the wall and placed the red bucket over her head, shielding her face as she ruminated on the cause of their weakening ties. Gingerly, she unhooked a whisk from the installation, spinning it in one hand. Sasamoto did this to send waves to her quality friend, to get him back. “Because we move, the world moves, the distance changes, and I have to calibrate my harmonics.”

Performance view of Aki Sasamoto: ‘Sounding Lines’, 2024, Para Site, Hong Kong. Photo: Felix S.C. Wong.

Sasamoto’s performance suggested that one does not exist in isolation but is intimately tied to those around them. To live is to be attuned to varying interpersonal frequencies. “The movement tells it all,” Sasamoto concluded as she vigorously swung a metal spring. “The movement tells you where the planets are.” She whipped the spring rapidly. Its waves grew larger and larger. “The movement tells you the constellation.” Her sentences were punctuated by the spring’s ringing vibrations through time and space. “The movement tells you where to go next.”

Performance view of Aki Sasamoto: ‘Sounding Lines’, 2024, Para Site, Hong Kong. Photo: Felix S.C. Wong.

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