“The arse is the window of the soul.” So says Tomomi Sayuda in her description of the i-Bum, which she created for the final show of her Graphic and Media Design ba degree at the London College of Communication. Bringing the celebrated art of photographing one’s posterior into the digital age, the i-Bum consists of a chair, which when sat upon will take a scan of one’s rear before neatly producing a colour copy of it. Exhibited alongside the chair is a computer screen with a revolving display of previously captured derrières.
“The chair is inspired by streakers – buttocks in particular – in British popular culture,” explains Sayuda. “Streakers show their nudity in public with criminal risk just to make their audience laugh. As a Japanese resident in the UK, British cultural humour seems unique and strange.”
Humour is generally important to Sayuda, who describes it as a constant inspiration in her work. Sayuda came to study graphic design via a rather circuitous route: after studying product design in Tokyo, she worked for a tv company in Japan as an assistant set designer, and then later worked as an assistant web designer. Then on arrival at lcc, she studied photography for her first year, before deciding to switch to the interactive and moving image path of the graphics course.
All Sayuda’s earlier experiences could be said to be naturally leading to her interest in interactive design however, which brings many of the different strands together, and she is keen to concentrate on it for now. “Nowadays crossover things are everywhere, it’s too much,” she explains. “Everybody says the same thing [that they are multi-disciplinary], it’s boring. That’s why I want to say that I am an interactive designer, that’s it. I can do photography, I can do product design, I can do performance art, but I don’t want to say that, it’s too much.”
Also influential on Sayuda’s work is her Japanese background, and specifically the differences she discovered between studying in Japan and in London. At the lcc much of the emphasis was on the conceptual, whereas in Tokyo a more pragmatic approach was encouraged. “When I was in Japan the concept was not really an important thing,” she says. “But something I’d made was important. I’m now kind of half-Japanese and half-English. I’m practical though – I try things out to see if they will really work, or not.”
Despite concerns over the recession, Sayuda has decided to stay in London post-graduation, and will work as a freelance designer for the time being. “I think I need to be really flexible,” she says. “In Japan ten years ago we had a depression that was the same as here now, and a friend of mine worked as a freelancer then and said it was good, because freelancers can get smaller jobs. So I decided it could be good to keep as small as possible, by myself.”
With a number of freelance jobs already in the pipeline, and i-Bum gaining attention from magazines as varied as fhm in Germany and a Canadian ecological online magazine, Sayuda is off to a good start. “Now there’s a need to show my ideas, to get them out there,” she continues. “Maybe some people I haven’t expected will call me from seeing them.”