John Sasaki

Duelling mascots


I PROMISE IT WILL ALWAYS BE THIS WAY by John Sasaki at Lamport Stadium (1155 King West)


A nondescript man in a white shirt tries repeatedly to climb an unsupported ladder, dangles an anvil that he never drops over the side of a snowy high-rise balcony, nonchalantly drives a seemingly fast-moving car with a giant map obstructing his view or places a lit firecracker inside a plastic box so the smoke obscures the colourful explosions.

This unflappable art-video Everyman is the alter ego of Jon Sasaki,

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who was part of this summer’s excellent Stories, In Pieces at Justina Barnicke Gallery.

The artist, whose work often explores life’s small absurdities – “a celebration of futility, resignation and pathos,” as he writes on his website – goes large-scale in a work created for one of the biggest venues at Nuit Blanche, Lamport Stadium

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In a performance art equivalent of an athletic endurance test for Sasaki and his cast of about 25 friends, they spend 12 hours in the stadium as sports mascots for I Promise It Will Always Be This Way

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The macho contest that the mascots usually support is notably absent. Sasaki admits that maybe he got into art because he wasn’t interested in sports. His attitude to competition can be summed up by his metal mutiple Sorry, No One Gets Their Wish, an aluminum wishbone that can only break perfectly in half.

The fuzzy-costumed performers can nap on cots and take snack breaks as the spirit moves them.

Sasaki’s not sure how the audience will react.

“In a way, it’s not incredibly important to me whether they actually respond and do the wave and start cheering or just sit there passively. It’s about us attempting to engage them. Whether we succeed or fail is irrelevant to the piece.”

It’s a fitting piece for the all-night event in more ways than one.

“Nuit Blanche is a tiring experience,” he says.

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“The piece is about times when you want to remain enthusiastic but for one reason or another it’s impossible.”

Sasaki’s self-deprecating style is refreshing in an art world that often seems dominated by big egos

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. He even amusingly had his first painting bronzed like a set of baby shoes.

John Sasaki

It’s his willingness to show us his anxieties, to expose the weaknesses and foibles that we share, that make his art so relatable. His deadpan humour keeps his explorations of danger and failure from being a downer.

“My work oscillates between pessimism and optimism. A lot of it is about the worst-case scenario. What if it all ends in failure?

“At the same time I hope it reaches people. It’s only art, so you should be able to laugh at the experience. As an artist in Toronto, the stakes are low, so to take it more seriously is a little bit unrealistic.”

Along with the Toronto arts community, he’s looking to Nuit Blanche to raise those stakes.

“Art happens every day of the year. The gallery you’re in will have other shows you can see in January or March. I hope people will become neophyte art audiences and start to get invested in these things.”

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