We had the good fortune of connecting with Kai Watanabe and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kai, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
In the beginning of my academic career as an artist and designer, my work life balance was largely out of proportion. A lot of this in-balance came from a lack of conscientiousness, causing me to play during the day and spend the night studying. Although I would get my work done, it would always sacrifice the amount of sleep I got and caused me to have deteriorating mental and physical help. This gradually got worse overtime for two years, until I was finally unable to function and got very ill. After my recovery, I had to reassess my lifestyle to get to the healthier lifestyle I have now.
One thing first things I did was to simply make sleep a mandatory factor of my life. By forcing my self to sleep 6-8 hours a day, even if I missed an assignment. Doing so let me think more clearly and have enough energy to execute the tasks I needed to do. From there I discovered that I also need to have self awareness of the kind of person I am.
By listing my previous patterns of how I do assignments, I was able to gain greater self awareness and work around my natural born nature. I tend to work in short bursts, and to work best at night and in the morning. Knowing this, I rescheduled everything so I worked when I was most productive and took short but consistent breaks to not burn myself out. Assessing these changes makes me feel like I’m working faster and easier, and has definitely improved my work life balance.
My advice to everyone who struggles with over working or time management to understand the conditions you work in best, plan for it, and to get proper rest so you can carry out the plan as often as possible.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I would describe my practice as an exploration of my interpersonal thoughts and interests, and also one who strives to create ways where others can express their own. I grew up with a strong interest in computation and the arts, so a lot of my practice is learning about the way a medium of art is created, and exploring that creation process to reimagine the process of creating art with that medium. As such, I work a lot in the realms of code based artwork and also animation. The meticulous, step by step nature that the creation process in both of these mediums has allows me to think about ways of reimagining each step to come up with an entirely new angle of art creation. Upon creating the framework for a new art-piece, I try in present it in a way that encourages the user to engage with the piece. Thus, a lot of my work tends to be interactive or immersive.
The best moments of creating work are by far when I get to share it with other people. I like to learn whether people like or hate it, what they would like to do differently. This exchange of opinion helps me learn more about the other person, and to reflect on my own perceptions when creating a particular piece. I learn something new everytime, and even thought it isn’t easy and is a slow process, it lets me clear my head and reformulate my thoughts. By talking through my ideas with others, I’m able to get over blocks and create a more genuine piece.
If I would like the world to know anything about me, it would be that my practice is a slow iterative process built off of forming connections with people. Knowing how others think, and reshaping how I see the world is fundamental to my life and practice. It is reflected in my artwork, and talking through my ideas with others is the only way I can create. If anyone is willing to give it a try, I would be humbled to be able to talk to you through my work.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
If my friends all came to LA, we need to explore the cultural diversity within the city. Huntington and Venice, as well as Santa Monica and Century City, are all staple locations which highlight the typical LA lifestyle people see, and so to experience that would definitely be a must. After that, though, we could explore the art district, go downtown to see the local thriftshops and farmers markets. Following that would be the museums like LACMA, the Getty, Petersen Automotive Museum, and Disney Concert hall. For dinner, we can go to restaurants like Sonora Town or explore KTown and Little Tokyo. The fact that there are so many cultural hotspots in LA is what makes it both exciting and impossible to navigate in a short amount of time.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I’d like to shoutout my friends at UCLA. Throughout COVID, I’ve suffered through a lot of personal identity issues and loneliness in general. My friends I made in university have been healthy and supportive outlets for my stress, and great people who I can have a good time around. My closest friends have listened to my artistic dilemmas and have helped me work through them as well. It is with utmost gratitude to them that I can pursue my life in a happy healthy way.