Indispensible: Taro Hattori
"Indispensable" is a monthly series that asks the de Young’s Artists in Residence to explain a tool that’s essential to their work.
For most people, pens are disposable—taken from hotel rooms, accidentally stolen from a coworker, lost in junk drawers and between couch cushions. For the de Young’s September artist in residence Taro Hattori however, ballpoint pens are an indispensable tool. “If I don’t have a pen,” Hattori claims, “I start having anxiety problems.”
Recording his ideas in ink is a recurring, crucial step in creating his artwork. “My thoughts come so quickly, I will forget everything,” Hattori says of the perils of not having his ballpoint pen to note down his ideas. He regularly cycles through many of his bright orange, Swiss-made Caran d’ache pens, chosen for their sturdiness and smoothness.
With these pens, his ideas come to life first in notebooks and scraps of paper. They are then brought into physical form through sculptures, photographs, videos, and interdisciplinary projects.
This importance of recording is a major focus for Hattori’s residence in the Kimball Education Gallery, an interdisciplinary project titled Leitmotif that showcases Hattori’s background in music and theater. As part of the project, Hattori teaches visitors to play the drums while they make wishes, and records them while doing so. Hattori then replays the recording of them drumming to remind visitors of the importance of capturing the fleeting moments in life.
Whether it’s writing down his thoughts with a ballpoint pen or taping visitors on video, Hattori’s life and work are punctuated with the motif of remembering and recording moments and ideas.