MyPortrait3-kleinPlease meet Michiko Erkola, number six of my interview advent calendar. She is a media artist and singer-songwriter based in Helsinki.

How long have you been living here? This year it will be the 14th year.

Where are you from? I’m from Japan.

What do you do for a living? I’m a media artist. I graduated from the Finnish Academy of Fine Arts where I studied moving image. I use 3D graphics and animation technique to create art works. This year I started up a new media company called Mime, which offers visual satisfaction with 3D computer graphics and more.

I also read that you are a singer-songwriter? When did you start with this? It has been quite a long time. I started to make songs when I was much younger, even in teenage times with my friends in Japan. At this moment, what I do is more pop and electronic, also combined with recorded material. So it’s hard to define the music genre.

I’ve been collaborating with one producer and DJ based in Tokio/NY for couple of years. Our LP is coming up in 2015. Our single will be released with my 3D animation, which is in the pipeline right now. I also used to work with a Finnish jazz band called Dalindéo as a featuring singer between 2007-2008.

How do you like Helsinki? Helsinki, as a capital city offers a good combination of urban life and living in nature. Well, you are living in the centre and you can reach nature within 20 minutes by public transportation. I like it that you have clean water coming from the lake, the air is relatively clean because I really need to get in touch with nature. That’s important for myself, personally.

Do you have a favourite spot in Helsinki? I like the hotel Torni café, upstairs. I guess many people go there when they want to have their private moments because you see the city from above. Helsinki city is quite low; you don’t get much higher than that. It’s really nice to look at the city from different perspectives.

In summer I take a boat from Haukilahti in Espoo. Those boats go to certain islands only during summer time, for example Rövaren. It takes about an hour. There are islands where you can spend the whole day and where you can also camp. I like the feeling of being “off the land” to forget a while about everything, and just enjoy the sea.

What inspires you? That’s nothing special, small things that I can notice in daily life, from nature or just walking in the streets. Artistically, that’s where my inspiration comes from. It also inspires me when I can push myself to develop technically with each project. To accomplish results with 3DCG, you need to overcome technical challenges all the time. That inspires me, the moment when I cross a certain boundary, and after facing countless errors finally see the result.

So how long does such a 3D computer graphic animation project take? It really depends on the project. For my projects such as short animation it takes about two years. That’s basically because I do most of the work myself.

FemaleRender_Side Kopie 2Are you a very patient person? I think so. But sometimes I do something else and come back to the project later. I find it important to take a distance for a while to be able to see the bigger picture of a work process. When I start working I put a lot of effort into conceptual work. Research can take months by gathering information, reading books and experimenting with the techniques before I start to create the actual product of art.

How often did you radically change your life? Maybe every five years. I think there are certain numbers that are good for a change. I mean, I don’t have any philosophy for numbers, but for me it has been this rhythm of five years. I was wondering why this number matters to me, and it turns out that our culture in Japan is also very influenced by the ‘The Wu Xing’, originally from China.

What have you been proud of lately? When I do something spontaneously by following my instinct and it turns out really well. For example, I applied for BalticLab, a program that brings young creative people from the Baltic Sea regions together. I got a positive answer and I’m travelling to Sweden this month.

What is your dream? I’d like to form a group of creative people to work and collaborate with. A group that shares the same values and ideas in the creative field; and is able to reinforce collective work of art that is created by passion. That’s my dream for the nearer future. I have so many other dreams ‘cause it’s free to dream.

Do you think that the Japanese and Finish culture have something in common? Yes, and I’ve been asked that many times. In Finland people respect the silence. You don’t necessarily have to talk all the time. You’re not forced to talk to each other, that’s something the two cultures have in common. In Japan there’s a lot of noise, but in the noise there is always silence – they coexist. What they also have in common is the simplicity of designs for daily use. Both cultures tend to prefer functionality without extra décor. Maybe the shyness is also a common feature in both cultures.

What’s your favourite question? ‘How are you?’ Is that so corny? (we both laugh)

Thank you very much!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s