ECC x AAI: Nobutaka Aozaki

March 28, 2018
Presented in collaboration with Congregation Beth Elohim Early Childhood Center

Smiley Bag Portrait is a participatory art project for which artist Nobutaka Aozaki invites pedestrians to model for him as he draws their portraits with Sharpie marker on the smiley faces of common take-out plastic bags. Aozaki performs both outdoors and indoors, often with a small mobile structure on which he displays samples of portrait bags. Participants can get their portraits for free. Names of participants, dates, locations, and the artist’s signature are written on each portrait. The experiences and exchanges instigated by this performance are just as fundamental as the portrait itself. Aozaki conceived of this activity in order to spark communication and connect diverse groups. Cheap common materials, with an equally mundane image, are transformed into unique images of each and every participant.

In the classroom, the students worked in pairs to create a portrait of a friend using the smiley faces on plastic bags as a template. The students were encouraged to customize the portraits with color markers, paints, stickers, paper with glue, etc. After making a portrait of a friend, the students wrote the friend’s name and his/her own name and exchanged the portraits.

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