An Interview with Multidisciplinary Artist Rieko Whitfield

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Rieko Whitfield

We catch up with experimental artist Rieko Whitfield, whose upcoming performance Ashes to Ashes at the Zabludowicz Collection is coming up on the 27th of July.

Hey Rieko, thanks for speaking with Culture Calling. We’d love to start with discovering what inspires you as a creator? Are there other parallel artists or makers in different fields that speak from a similar place, creatively?

The inspiration for my work comes from an incredibly spiritual place, so my own creative process will likely always remain a mystery. I do vividly remember a dream years ago where composer Ryuichi Sakamoto told me to “make art that makes people feel the way my music makes you feel,” which actually significantly impacted my current trajectory as an artist.

Rieko Whitfield

Tell us about “Ashes to Ashes”, your performance coming up on the 27th of July at Zabludowicz Collection - how does healing play a part in the event?

On the 27th of July I’ll be performing tracks off my debut EP Regenesis alongside a dance performance with Yen-Ching Lin, the debut of the remix of my single “Ashes to Ashes” by Luca Eck, and a premiere of my music video creative directed with Deividas Vytautas. I’m also being styled by visual consultant Jahnavi Sharma and igniting scents designed by Semra Haksever. The event itself is really a multisensory work of art across music, dance, fashion, and witchcraft, and something that can only be experienced in person, on the day. 

In regards to healing, this is a theme that has always been consistent across my work. The world we live in is sick and grieving, but we allow so little space for feeling. I want my art to conjure alternative ways of existing – to face death as a part of life, to embrace vulnerability as a superpower, to cherish our interconnectedness across past, present, and future. And maybe, from the microcosm of our individual spiritual expansion, we can act as catalysts for meaningful collective action. 

How have you found working with movement artist Yen-Ching Lin - how do your practices complement or contradict each other?

I’ve worked with Yen-Ching once before when she movement directed my music video for “Ashes to Ashes.” What Yen-Ching does with her body and her energy is absolute magic. Working with her inspires me to surrender into a state of radical freedom and self-expression. Whether as a dancer or a musician, when you step on stage you are channelling something higher than yourself, something beyond human. I feel our ongoing collaboration has helped hone my own ability to channel.

Rieko Whitfield

Could you please tell us about your upcoming EP Regenesis (to be released on 14 October) and how it relates to / integrates mythologies?

Regenesis is my four-track debut EP exploring themes of life, death, rebirth, and collective healing. Regenesis as a greater world-building project actually started out in the context of performance art. I wrote the songs and performed them in a moving image work, using a green screen as a portal to another dimension. I was initially inspired by a Shinto creation myth where a goddess burns to death giving birth to the world, and is then sentenced to eternity in purgatory. I wanted to reimagine a different narrative for her: one where she returns to Earth in a time after total ecological collapse and breathes new values into the beings that have reinhabited the land. This film made its rounds internationally in galleries and art institutions, and after several re-recordings and countless live performances later, I’ve found myself at this really interesting intersection between being a visual artist and a professional musician. 

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years? This could be musically, creatively, geographically, or vocationally. 

My next EP is already written, and I have already started writing the first few tracks for my debut album. In the next five years, I’d love to chart my own path with one foot in the art world and the other in the music industry, while exploring the aesthetic world-building around my work as a whole. I’ve really found a home in London, but I’ll probably continue drifting between Southern California where I was raised, other European cities like Paris and Berlin, and even back to Japan where I was born. I’m making big moves, but my priority is to do so with a sense of peace, play, purpose, and gratitude. 


Learn more about Rieko here. Photographed by Anna-Lena Krause.