More about Tomoko Mukaiyama

Tomoko Mukaiyama is a Dutch-Japanese pianist, visual artist and director based in Amsterdam. She studied piano in Tokyo, Indiana (US) and Amsterdam, after which she made her concert debut in 1990. A year later she won the prestigious Dutch Gaudeamus competition.

As a pianist, Tomoko is praised for her vivid interpretations of historical as well as modern compositions. Many prestigious orchestras and ensembles throughout the world have engaged her, including the Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt, the London Sinfonietta, the Ensemble Intercontemporain and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Tomoko’s unique approach to the piano has inspired many composers, such as Louis Andriessen, to write new work for her.

Yet Tomoko pushes on the boundaries of the classical music world. As a pianist and visual artist she has a fascination for unconventional contemporary art projects and plays with the conventions around her instrument, her profession and performance in a broader sense. She uses her experience as a concert pianist to give a new dimension to the concert space, as well as to performance and installation art.

As a multimodal artist Tomoko develops art installations and performing arts projects that combine music with contemporary dance, fashion and visual art. She has collaborated with film directors, designers, architects, dancers and photographers, such as Marina Abramovic, MERZBOW, Jiří Kylián and Michael Gordon.

Among Tomoko’s stages are the Royal Concertgebouw, Sydney Opera House and the Yokohama Triennale. The core of her work is communicating with the audience. She creates a wide variety of projects in different kinds of spaces, always striving to present her art projects in a specific and communicative form, moving between performing in more prestigious venues and creating musical experiences for the intimacy of one.

Tomoko’s work builds on the study of the absence and presence of the composer, the audience and the pianist. She gave new dimension to the concert space with her project for you (2002) which premiered at the Yokohama Triennial (2002). She performed on the piano in a concert hall for just one visitor, who won the unique ticket in an auction. The intimacy of this performance made for an intense experience for the listener, who was confronted with the music, the pianist, but most of all, himself.

For the Biennale of Sydney in 2006, Tomoko presented an installation you and bach, made for the Sydney Opera House. you and bach is an installation that contains a midi piano, glass, sound and light. It is presented in a distinct concert environment, but she, the pianist, shows everything but herself. By making visible the modern disembodied experience of musical performance, the work becomes the trace of its authorship that, in turn, by virtue of it’s recording, becomes the potential site in which you meet yourself and others.

In Show me your second face (2007) Tomoko transformed herself and the piano into a fashion sculpture. Her music installation Mo-Ichido (2008) included the experience of scent by integrating organic odours and video. Tomoko’s installation performance wasted (2009) which premiered at the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial, made of some 12.000 silk dresses, challenged the transience of the feminine virtue of fertility. A piano concert with multimedia reached out to audiences to participate or engage with this installation through a personal ritual. The work successfully toured five locations all over the world, and led to a documentary film called Water Children (2011) that was shown at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam and movie theaters across the Netherlands.

One of Tomoko’s signature works is the Multus (2012–) concert series, an ever-extending performance of the minimalist piece Canto Ostinato that is coloured by the artist’s personal view through its visualization with other disciplines such as video and light art.

Always looking to extend her perspective on art in all possible forms, more recently Tomoko has been moving toward the performing arts. She created the dance work SHIROKURO, presented during the Holland Festival in 2013, with choreographer Nicole Beutler and light designer Jean Kalman.

One of Tomoko’s most large-scale productions to date is La Mode (2016). This installation performance investigates and deconstructs the identity of our present time, consumerism, materialism and fetishism in the world of fashion. The piece consists of various art forms including music, dance, architectural installation and fashion imagery.

GAKA (2018) is a ritual performance in which dance, music and stage design equally contribute to an aesthetic experience. It was premiered during Oerol festival and travelled to the Museum of Art, Kochi and Kozu island in Japan. In 2020, Tomoko directed the first her film based on GAKA, which premiered at the Cinedans festival.

In collaboration with Maison Hermes le Forum, Tomoko’s latest large-scale project has been Pianist (2019), where the artist has consecutively performed 24 times in a 24-day period concurrently exhibiting an installation made out of a forest of piano’s. The concert was postponed every day by an hour, meaning that the concert could be experienced in each moment of daylight throughout the month. The physically and mentally challenging project had invited the audience to take part in an open-ended, limitless adventure overflowing with possibilities.

During the pandemic in 2020, a live streamed series A Live (2020) Together with cinematographer Reinier van Brummelen, Tomoko presented a new way to experience live performance at Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ and Van Gogh Museum, sharing space and time with current technology.

As part of the opening commemorative project for the Hachinohe Art Museum, which reopened in 2021, Tomoko created and performed a musical performance piece gift, with the theme of “loving yourself, your partner, time and place”, with the Hachinohe citizens who are not usually involved in the stage.

Tomoko collaborated with cinematographer Reinier van Brummelen and Japanese most sought after dancer and actor Mirai Moriyama in TWO – in transit Hara Museum (2021). The music cinema was produced, filmed, edited and streamed to coincide with the closing of the Hara Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo. This music cinema was also released on the Dutch national broadcasting NPO and the special website of the Japan Foundation, and was viewed by a wide range of people.

In the near future, Tomoko Mukaiyama will collaborate with various artists in different parts of the world with the intention to expand the boundaries of interdisciplinary performing arts.

The Tomoko Mukaiyama Foundation operates as producer of the projects of Tomoko Mukaiyama. The foundation received a multiple year grant of governmental support by the Dutch Performing Arts Fund.

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