Breathing is Becoming Impossible

All the warning signs are starkly apparent. Buildings are teetering, on the verge of collapse.Smoke from California forest fires is spreading across the heartland. The toxins make it difficult to breathe, let alone to dream. The homeless are helter-skelter waves of dispirited souls wandering nomadically like tribes in the Sahara. We shy away from looking at them, fearing being engulfed in their disquiet. An “implacable darkness” looms over us, as The Road author Cormac McCarthy suggests. “Borrowed time and borrowed world and borrowed eyes with which to sorrow it.” Worried by the post-apocalyptic, but still confronting heated over-consumption, environmental decay, and corrupt power systems, Amy Yoshitsu rises above the fear and hopelessness.
 Believing the “refuse” created by paternalistic and dehumanizing “ideologies” victimizes us, this multidisciplinary artist deconstructs “the  interconnections between power, economics, labor, and race.” Equally worrisome to her, factories, highways and office buildings are deteriorating, indicative of “unsustainable global practices.” Living amidst the menacing wave of gentrification in Berkeley, California, Yoshitsu is a Harvard graduate in Visual and Environmental Studies, and a former Artist-in-Residence at the Esalen Institute. She takes the “dislocations” from “unsustainable global practices (racism, corrosion of structures, poverty) personally.” Immersed in the “sculpture of the streets” (she sees sidewalks and roads as “collective paintings”), Yoshitsu’s been dramatically impacted by the recent spate of California wildfires.
How can she create outdoor installations if the air is toxic? Or take photos for the 3D collages in her 20XX series–works installed in public places that add “layers of meaningful color to the concrete canvas?” Confronted by “the darkness…so many days my throat hurt,” Yoshitsu faces other challenges. Pained by the rising tide of anti-Asian assaults in the United States, Yoshitsu works in a McCarthy universe of tangled steel, collapsing infrastructure, and battered interpersonal relationships.There is no safe ground. No shelter. She sees “cracks,” alienation from existing “cultures,” and to combat “echo chambers” (dogmatic thinking) Yoshitsu returns to the sidewalks and parking lots of concrete canvases.
It’s her “psychogeography.”
An avenue out of ruins and nothingness, Yoshitsu’s multi-sculptured installations are assemblages of refuse, contorted shapes–and a foreboding wasteland of devastation. What we have wrought. Describing the methodology of the 20XX collages, she says, “I meticulously cut skylines and separate sidewalks from structures. The collaging is like creating my own psychogeographic map. I sew together pieces of wayfinding in Philadelphia, scaffolds from buildings in Jodhpur, and window frames of Oakland apartments. Numerous seams eventually create micro-conversations between aesthetics and neighborhoods to form a free-standing assemblage.”There are numerous billboards in her work to depict subservience to our IPhones, the clatter of intrusive messaging. Confusion reigns, and instead of Hope, there is only Yoshitsu’s writing: “keep contending…with conflicting concerns…the reality that there may be no favorable outcomes.”
Deterioration is further dissected in The Society of the Post Consumption. A sewed amalgam of painted burlap, tangled red cables, and hardware cloth, Society jars us with its waste materials, plastics, and vision of excess (Pain Reliever is equally discordant). All is contorted, an undefined mass evoking tension and Disturbia, entanglements leading to unsettling confusion. As Yoshitsu explains, “,,,wrapping fiber around hardware cloth, or creating paper sculptures through stitching…I inject movement, approachable textures and therefore emotions into hierarchical hard and rigid systems.” Sewing as an antidote to the dangers that threaten our very existence?  Yoshitsu alarms us, hopes we will pierce through the gloom. Will we? She has strongly and imaginatively issued her warnings. It is now time we heed them.
Written by Edward Kiersh

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