The trembling of hope—on Ozawa Kazuya’s “objects”

Mori Keisuke (Curator, Chiba City Museum of Art)

Objects that are somehow vital, possessed of warmth yet thoroughly distant.
Such are my impressions of the numerous pieces titled “objects” that woodwork artist Ozawa Kazuya has produced from 2016 to the present while pursuing his principal occupation as a furniture maker, initially in Fujinomiya and more recently at his studio in Fujieda. Perhaps my own preconceptions also had more than a small influence on this. These “objects” are constantly hovering on the boundary between art and craft, or between artworks and furniture (or equipment).

   Needless to say, the position of the boundary between art and craft is a philosophical issue in which seekers of knowledge and others have hitherto taken an interest. Citing artists of the Renaissance period, the art historian and archaeologist George Kubler recognized commonalities between use and beauty while also emphasizing their differences. According to Kubler, a thing is a work of art only “when its technical and rational functions are not pre- eminent,” whereas “[w]hen the technical organization or the rational order of a thing overwhelms our attention, it is an object of use,” or in other words a tool.1

   What is particularly interesting not only with regard to Kubler’s understanding but also with regard to the wider discourse on the boundary between art and craft is that much of the thinking—and certainly, this had an influence on philosopher Immanuel Kant’s concept of “the thing-in-itself” (Ding an sich)—centers on “objects.” One could say that the fact that the organic forms of Ozawa’s “objects” certainly possess a feeling of vitality while at the same time calling to mind a bulging bag with handles (U/Object_Post, 2017) or a portable media player (Disk1, 2022) is proof of a connection not with this boundary but with the ambiguity that spans it.

   For Ozawa, who during his time at the Shizuoka University of Art and Culture was in an environment where students learned how to create a wide variety of space from cities to furniture, encountering the furniture of George Nakashima probably became a major guiding principle for his life thereafter. From the objects of furniture with which he had until then devoted himself, spending much time on the creation of each piece, another “life” spilled out. For Ozawa, perhaps this is what an “object” is. A thing fluctuating between art and craft, use and beauty, existence and nonexistence. For the rare existence that is an “object,” it is no exaggeration to say that such a nature is its destiny.

   I first encountered Ozawa’s Disk series (2022–), then being exhibited as new works, around a year ago, when early-blooming Kawazu-zakura cherry blossoms were coloring brightly the scenery along the river running through the middle of Fujieda. In a room at the former Takane Kindergarten, which had already closed and where memories of the clamor of children had also faded with time, several works from the Disk series were presented on pedestals whose sides were painted red, green, yellow and blue, and on top of which sheets of clear acrylic had been laid. In an unassuming statement posted at the venue, Ozawa wrote in an almost pleading manner that the “things” he creates are like “Jizo statues standing in a row” and represent a “transitory stronghold.”2 The Disks, which called to mind both people’s heads where memories are stored and the equipment used to replay and communicate them externally, almost resembled a flock of small birds using the former kindergarten as a roost to rest for a while. This indicates, in other words, that the “objects” through which the artist expressed the word “transit” had been given existence by virtue of “moving.”

   The philosopher Martin Heidegger is another figure who contemplated the boundary between works of art and equipment via “things” through deep insight into the “truth” with respect to works of art. Heidegger assigned to equipment “a peculiar intermediate position between thing and work.”3 Heidegger, who revealed the “equipment-being” that was at the root of equipment through a painterly analysis of a pair of peasant shoes painted by Vincent van Gogh, wrote of the experience of a work of art: “In the nearness of the work we were suddenly somewhere else than we usually tend to be.”4 Ozawa’s “objects” continue to move, demonstrating an intention to try to be in several “intermediate positions.” And in contemporary society, where the sacredness that once existed has been lost and where each individual life is tormented, “objects” as heterogeneous objects/things are seeking after the possibilities of art that for a fleeting moment, as demonstrated by Heidegger, tries to take us to another world. That this confrontational experience that makes life tremble becomes a “salvation” for people and even for the creator, Ozawa, himself, is something simply quietly hoped for.

1. George Kubler, The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things (1962; New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 15–16.
2. Ozawa Kazuya, “Dai-san butsu” [A third thing] (Artist Statement) (accessed March 1, 2024)
3. Martin Heidegger, “The Origin of the Work of Art,” in Basic Writings, ed/trans. David Farrell Krell (Harper San Francisco, 1993), 155.
4. Ibid., 161.

Translated by Pamela Miki + Associates