Make it Public 2020

Interview by Noe Iwai

Dr. Jonathan Ashley-Smith (United Kingdom),
Head of the Conservation Department in the V&A 1977-2002


Diane Ashley-Smith (United Kingdom),
Textile artist



Jonathan Ashley-Smith was Head of the Conservation Department at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from 1977 until 2002. These days his business card describes him as a consultant and teacher in cultural heritage risk, his LinkedIn profile labels him a loose cannon and gun for hire.

Diane Ashley-Smith worked as a chartered accountant in private practice and in local government. She is now a textile artist using her skills in spinning, weaving, dyeing, felting and braiding.

Noe Iwai is a Japanese performance artist, poet and painter. Graduated from the Goldsmiths University of London with a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art in 2017, and in 2019 from the Royal College of Art with a Master’s degree in Performance, she is currently studying for a Master of Research degree in Fine Arts and Humanities. Her practice is a dialogue between the political and the poetic language of both traditional and cultural rituals, in which she shape-shifts the mask of the past and the present, her childhood in Japan, myths and the stories behind them. And using transforming, fighting, hesitating, humour to showcase the idea of abstraction versus her identity in the moment of the performance. 

In this conversation, Noe, Mr. and Mrs. Ashley-Smith discussed the idea of the box, from a different perspective in terms of age, nationality, race, etc. They also talked about the “box” as something “people often put you in, in order to judge and categorise” during or even before this pandemic; perhaps, essentially, we are the “box” that has many layers of thoughts, voices and the background like a Russian Dolls.