Lady Aiko

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 October, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 October, 2009, 12:00am


I was born in a very conservative neighbourhood in Tokyo where all the lawyer families live. It's clean and everybody's nice. But I was always curious about art. After the second world war, my parents' and grandparents' generation had to work hard to create a better life. So they gave up their dreams. My family is, like, super-middle-class. They just keep working. I had a really nice life when I was a child. They say, 'Your generation must change compared to ours.' They have passed on their dreams to me and have encouraged me to do whatever I want. My family are always excited about what I do.


My first unauthorised act involving public space was in college in Tokyo. A friend helped me to do a transmission and I broadcast a TV channel that people within three kilometres of the school could tune in to. I showed my short films and music videos. The broadcasts got local media coverage and, shortly after, I received a letter from the government ordering me to stop because it was illegal.


I was longing for a more chaotic environment. That's why I chose Manhattan. But I first experienced New York city without being able to speak the language. Coming from Japan, the language and culture were barriers and I felt as though I had a communication disability. Street art changed that for me; it broke the wall. I agree with [media theorist] Marshall McLuhan that media is an extension of the body. Street art was my medium and an extension of my body that enabled me to communicate with the city and its people.


The fantasy of reaching random people to communicate my ideas took a new form in New York. The first street art I did was wheat-pasting images of myself naked all around the city. This dialogue continued as I went back to add to the pieces or see what people had written. Through this I finally felt comfortable, that I had found my purpose and New York city was my friend.


With graffiti art I was in a really serious boy's game for 10 years but now I have started to focus on my femininity and sexuality. The relationship between the human body and painting is important to me. It's like my source of energy. When I focused on my own body and sexuality, I stopped thinking about negative things. My paintings became more positive and sexy, about love and life. They are erotic but they can also evoke everyday emotions and memories.


I went to jail a couple of times for my street art. I was in central booking in Chinatown and I can definitely say that's not a good place for ladies. It was really tough. As punishment I had to do some community service and clean Thompson Square Park. I still have to go and pick up some litter to get my immigration status sorted out, and that sucks. Now I am going back to my roots, like where I was born and how I grew up. The nice, beautiful daughter. I guess I'm really into focusing on myself.


I feel good about working with Diesel [who sponsored the recent CULTivate show in Central that featured Aiko's work]. It has given me the opportunity to go places I've never been. Physically, of course, I've never been here [before] and I love the chaos in Hong Kong. I could live here. And I never thought of putting my work in a Chinese hawker's booth. It made me ask 'Is art only something you can buy in a brand new fancy art gallery or can you buy it in a street market?' I feel most people don't go to a fancy gallery. So this was a good opportunity to show my work in a street gallery and ask, 'Is this art?'


My next destination is Shanghai where I will be tagging all over the city [see]. I am focusing on the female body now, it is the most beautiful thing and I like to create using the female body as sculpture. For example, nowadays I use actual women and make them perform as if the girls came to life from my paintings. This also relates to my interest in performance, which for me is the ultimate art form. Looking at beauty is better than looking at sadness or madness, and I think it's better for society - for people - to look at something beautiful and not be sad or mad.


There are lots of rabbits in my work. It's a very Chinese thing. I was born in the year of the rabbit. Each graffiti artist has a symbol. The rabbit is my tag, my symbol, my icon. And I use butterflies. That is a self portrait of myself. I'm a beautiful butterfly and I dream of every woman.

A film about the DIESEL CULTivate exhibition featuring Lady Aiko's work can be seen at