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Ittah Yoda, symbiotic duo of plastic surgeons

It is in an abstract space that we meet the Ittah Yoda duo: a landscape-body, between glass sculptures with organic shapes, almost fluorescent vials of microalgae or even transparent LED screens arranged around a wooden bench bristling with brush bristles, where virtual reality (VR) headsets rest. It is Chronos, the evolving installation that they nurture from their long-term research, temporarily installed in their vast studio at the Fiminco Foundation, in Romainville (Seine-Saint-Denis).

In 2015, they created a “puddle of sea”, their first four-handed work

Virgile Ittah, just 36 years old, grew up between Paris and Aix-en-Provence (Bouches-du-Rhône), in a family of Moroccan and Tunisian Jewish immigrants. Son of a Swede and a Japanese, Kai Yoda, 35, comes from Tokyo. London was their melting pot. Both attended the prestigious Royal College of Art (RCA). Previously a student in a Parisian graphic design school, the young woman stood out for her practice of bedroom photography, with a series of life-size portraits of illegal workers. It was with this project that she applied for a master’s degree in sculpture in London: moving from portrait to self-portrait, she models life-size figures with wax and marble powder. And she is still a student when she is exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery – Charles Saatchi himself will buy her a series of these ghostly bodies.

Virgil likes to work alone, but, in 2012, she anticipates after graduation and looks for work. She comes across an ad posted by Kai. Just graduated from a master’s degree in photo-video, the young artist is still looking for himself and wants to try his hand at installation. For « Transition », as he says, from one practice to another, he is looking for someone who can help him. He will select Virgil to take large format photos, with long exposures, his specialty, then she will become his assistant for four months. The couple is forming, the duo not yet.

Post-apocalyptic airs

After his diploma, Virgil sells well, and the roles are reversed: this time, it is she who hires Kai as an assistant. If they share their workshops, their work is poles apart. But, inspired by Margate, in Kent, by the sea, where they settled briefly, they created a first four-handed work in 2015: a « Sea puddle », where a silicone skin covers a sculpture of tinted sand. It’s a pivotal moment, Virgil feels cataloged « Woman artist of immigrant origin » and feels the need to free up his work. They decide to fully attempt the combined adventure.

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