Mako Ishizuka

Recent works

Window drawings

"the Rest" and process

"Swiss Alps" works

Social interventions

Map drawings (modifying)

Imagining (the life on) the other side

2017, act / drawing installation [at EHESS in Paris, France]


It is one of the works that consist from an act of thinking live-recorded as mirror-writings on the windows in a public space, and its trace as drawing installation.


For the group exhibition "Frictions in the globalisation" at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, I developed my thoughts on globalisation, reflecting its various aspects seen from a certain everyday perspective, since the Age of Discovery up to the present.

video on Facebook (18 sec)

how I do mirror-writing

Inverse Perspective 反転する視点

2017, act / drawing installation [by Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, Japan]


It is one of the works that consist from an act of thinking live-recorded as mirror-writings on the windows in a public space, and its trace as drawing installation.


In this project, I linked my own experience to the inspiration received through observations of the cityscape in Kiyosumi-Shirakawa and my exchange with the local people, and expanded my "map of thoughts" onto the windows that connect inside and outside.


Having left Japan to live abroad, I, as a stranger in Tokyo, explored the area with the help of guides/mediators – “assumed strangers” with foreign roots that study, work and/or live in the neighbourhood. Here I studied the way the locals draw lines and cross boundaries in everyday life, to discover the values that are specific to Kiyosumi-Shirakawa, an old neighbourhood where Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo locates.

Taking Notes in Public

2015, act / drawing installation [at Peer in Amsterdam, the Netherlands]


It is one of the works consisting of an act of thinking in public, live-recorded as mirror-writings on the windows, and its trace as a drawing installation.


On the windows facing to a canal in the red light district in central Amsterdam, I made an act to take notes in public, writing mirrored letters.


The idea of fusing the notes with the notion of public/private stems from the thought I cultivated through my installation (Open Letter) (2003): The work is inspired by 17th century Dutch paintings with letter as motif, and the delicate diplomacy between private and public around the windows in Amsterdam (in relation to Calvinism).


Notes in general are often for personal use, cryptic for other’s eyes, written small, and kept private. What if these personal notes are disclosed, written bigger, and open to others? What if to process my thinking and taking notes in public, making use of the mutual intrusion of private and public at this particular part of the architecture?

Collecting Distances

2015, artist's book / project (book production and distribution)

graphic design: Audrey Templier, introduction text: Mats Stjernstedt


The book focuses on the marginal part of my practice 2003-2014, without presenting the work documentatios. At its distribution I aim to make it less “multiple object” but more “personalised experience” with my interventions.


The excerpts of my notebooks are featured to follow my paths to produce some works - the notebooks collect my notes, writings, diagrams, drawings and images from both my practice and everyday life since 1996. it includes the material from ongoing/unrealised projects, and my “detours”. My essays interweave the materials presented.


It reflects my life and its relation to different places in the world since my childhood. Designed to avoid giving a linear/single direction to follow, one can start from anywhere and jump to somewhere, without table of contents or page numbers, but a hand-drawn diagram printed on the back of the cover with grids and code system, which indicate roughly where you are in the field of my practice.

Independent Studies and Rubin's Vase  自由研究とルビンの壷

2016, installation (mixed media) [at Utrecht/NowIdea in Tokyo, Japan]


Rubin’s Vase (an optical illusion that presents the visual interpretation of reversible figures) as a keyword, I dealt with the figure-ground perception of the two complementary fields with shared borders in relation to my practice - life/work, process/result, and reconsidered the inquisitive and creative process that I had been defining as non-practice.


It evolved from my reflection on the margins and footnotes of my art practice through preceding work Collecting Distances, artist’s book where I presented my path of measuring the distances between me and society and the process of how my thoughts develop in everyday life.


The installation consists of elements that seem to exist in relation to other elements, and traces various peripatetic explorations and relationships with the people with whom I continue a dialogue in distance. Not only conceptually but also physically, the installation plays with the space that is not defined as an exhibition room.

Wind Ensemble (in four movements)

2013-2015, act / installation


It is a series of acts that I made ­ I stood up in the landscape of the Swiss Alps, with beer and wine bottles attempting to capture the wind to make them “whistle”. Then I asked the local meteorologist to describe the winds when my acts took place according to their official record.


At the exhibitions, the four images that are relevant to my each act are presented as a slide show with a projector. The projector sits near to the wall, and the images are projected on a sheet of A4 paper on the wall, fixed to the wall on the top corners. It sways with the breeze coming from the ventilation of the projector and the movement of the audience. The caption to describe the intent of the acts and the description from the meteorologist is presented discreetly on the wall, printed on a respective paper and placed on the clipboard.


All the installation materials such as the paper and the clipboard, are found at the exhibition sites, reflecting the manner of the original act in the Alps: spontaneously, and using only the things around.


2014-2015, act / installation


The image shows the intervention: On the bookshelf of my old friend Maivor, a Swedish lady who is 50 years senior to me, I placed my book with pressed plants that I picked during my wanderings in the Swiss Alps. I chose the books from Maivor’s bookshelves that reflect my own life and our friendship, and piled them up on top of my own book to fill the gap between two shelves, as I did when I pressed the plants in the Alps. The text narrates my paths and threads that led to my friendship with Mavior, with juxtapositions of different values and lives, and the temporary interevention I made on Maivor’s bookshelves as a physical and poetic manifestation of the subject of my essay.


The image consists of 121 pieces and nailed. Its height of the book pile is the height of Maivor and mine. The images are printed on ordinary matt papers with ordinary ink that are not of archival quality; in order to make this work itself to age. The text is printed on the blank side of two pages of the books in the pile: the first page of the book on the top of the pile, and the last page of the book on the bottom.

Smultronstället (Where Wildstrawberries Grow)

2013 -, act / sculpture [Appenzell (2013), Maebashi (2016), Echigo-Tsumari (2016)]


I made many small hikes in the Swiss Alps in 2013 and once I made an act, of picking up the plants and flowers that charmed me on the way, and pressing them in-between the pages of a thick book that I brought with me. The leaves from the wild strawberries were placed on page 560, where my action ended.


On the bookshelves, I placed my book with pressed flowers on a shelf, and piled up some books in order to fill the gap between the two shelf boards. The piled books are from the local context where the work was presented. I selected the books that are somehow resonates with myself, finding the crossing point of my life and the locality.


The title of the piece refers to Smultronstället (literally means “the place where wild strawberries are”), a Swedish word that idiomatically signifies an underrated gem of a place, often with personal or sentimental value.

Smultronstället (no absolute)

2016, triptych (inkjet on Japanese Washi paper), 36x52 cm each


The triptych shows inside the book that sits in the bottom of the book pile. It contains artless plants that I picked during my hike inthe Swiss Alps. The work focuses more on the juxtaposition of different values in our lives.


The book I used for the piece recommends 1000 places to see before you die according to the author. In its introduction, the author tells how she came to make this book. There I placed the first flower that I picked during my hike. There are many recommended places in the book that were not appealing to my eyes - luxury places and related to consumption. I chose the pages presenting Paris, where I am partly based, as the second image in the triptych that somehow represents the last century with city culture and industry where economy often was the dominant measurement to value our lives. The third image in the triptych presents places in Bhutan juxtaposed with a simple flower. It is a country I have not visited yet and I am interested in the way they measure wealth - according to how happy the citizens feel. I projected an ideal society and life in our future.

Pure Diffusion (from series Steroscope on Society)

2015-2016, project (social/urban intervention [prototype])


Pure Diffusion is an urban intervention as an antidote for “bad atmpsphere” - polluted air and bad mood - in Paris that I suggested and exercised, comparing with the situation in Stockholm. The air-purifying plants and the network of Parisian inhabitants develop and distribute cleaner air and happier mood.


I bought the plants that purify the air at a gardening shop last summer. I have taken care of these plants, and propagated them through time, by cutting vines and tubers and placing them in water. I had real joy every morning to greet them every morning while giving water and spraying some mist. Over eight months, the plants grew a lot and the number of plants increased to over 80 through propagation.


At a window gallery in Paris, I presented the intervention and distirbuted the plants to public – may somebody who works in a place that have more toxins, looks nervous or angry, wants to have a company, or wants to propagate and spreads the baby plants to more people.

Stars, Moons and Suns (pacific world)

2012/2016, drawing installation (oil pastel, paper), 72x51cm


It is based on the world map produced in Japan for school children. In the middle of the map is the Pacific Ocean. Only the countries that are recognised by Japanese government are mentioned and coloured, but others and disputed areas are left in white. It also shows the national flags where I found many stars, moons and suns.


I covered the whole map with black oil pastel and I marked these celestial symbols on the corresponding spot on the map with sgraffito technique (scratch to remove the black layer off). You don't see the borders between the countries or reflection of the political problems but the universal symbols appears in the dark as you would see in the night sky.

an Old-World warbler dreams of the south. in Helsinki.

2012/2016, drawing installation (diazo paper, magnifying glass), 43x53xm


It is a work where I modified a tourist map of Helsinki to look at the North-South divide in an alternative way, tracing the local anecdotes on the nomenclature of an area and streets and reflecting life qualities and values seen through the naïve imagination.


I visited Helsinki in May 2010 and during my stay, I came to know about an area called Arabianranta (Eng: Coast of Arabia) in northern Helsinki. It used to be far out of the city and therefore they named the area referring to the distant countries in 1800s. Later when it became a suburb where people have holiday houses, they named the streets after any exotic places such as India, Syria and Congo. In the naming of these streets, I saw the Scandinavians longing for the sun and fantasising warmer countries during long winter.


I modified the tourist map of Helsinki to pick up only street- and area names, and marked the streets that are named after warm and distant lands. Then I developed a Diazo (UV sensitive paper) copy of the modified map, using the Scandinavian winter sun as light source. The result is a blueprint of Helsinki map where the streets with the names of warm places are more “suntanned” during the process.