so... were it not for our little earthquake this morning at 4:42am i might have actually slept the whole night through last night! ah well. maybe tonight.
thanks for the warm welcome home! so kind of you. maditi - there will be LOTS of polas - but i think i'll save them for the end.... [btw have you seen maditi's new blog? - all visuals no talking. yum]
i have been wracking my fuzzed brain for words to start to describe what i did on my trip. in many ways i think i'm still processing the whole experience [along with a bit of culture shock of "home". i was at the supermarket the other day and it struck me just how much easier it is to buy things and banter in your native tongue. duh, right? but so true. in my head i was thinking OK how do i ask for one fish cleaned and gutted - oh yeah - i don't have to try and translate.... relief].
let's see if i can start from the start. the first 2 weeks of my trip were all spent in koumi . it's a small town nestled in the hills of the nagano [think winter olympics] prefecture of japan. it's most known for skiing and hot springs [there are 5!].
this is what the area was like. it was almost surreal. lots of farms. lots of old traditional style buildings with tile roofs. nestled between rice paddies and buildings were shrines - burial plots with markers, statues, offerings.... the hills looked like traditional asian ink paintings :: mountain in mist
after a very long day of travel [planes and trains] i was picked up at the train station by a van full of guys [they all arrived 2 days sooner than me]. i'd be lying if i said i wasn't a bit daunted being the only female. in the end i could take and tell a joke with the rest of them, so it all ended up good. [but really there ARE gender differences folks. of this i am now more than certain!]
luckily, each artist had their own cabin. each cabin had a kitchen, a bathroom with one of those infamous japanese toilets [more on this later] and a big tub and a second story for sleeping. before we got there we didn't know that we'd each have our own space - so i was elated [imagine sharing a bathroom with 5 men?!]
this is the museum. 2 D photos do not do this space justice. ando really really is a genius. the way he uses scale is phenomenal. at one point we were lucky enough to go inside a really traditional home [the home in which the curator of the museum grew up - and his mother still lives]. inside it was explained that the size of the room height wise was always made in proportion to the # of tatami mats on the floor. to me ando is totally playing with what are culturally ingrained ideas of proportion. skinny hallways that take in and reflect light - ceilings that reach beyond human scale [maybe giraffe scale?] - curves that mimic traditional tiles - curves that meet and point the eye in new directions. the building is so modern [cement] but fits PERFECTLY in the serene setting. it was an honor to be involved with this structure for 2 weeks.
i also find it interesting to think about the idea of multiple use. in traditional housing in japan one room can be both the living and dining room. big closets store unneeded and alternate materials for the room. i started to think about museum and gallery spaces as multiple use rooms. the artist conforms to and simultaneously alters a space with the work that they hang. it really started to sink in that it is not only the spaces we build or create, but how we habitat them that alters our relationship to not only the space, but the objects that inhabit the space.
in the end the best way for me to describe these two weeks is art camp. similar to grad school where intense work is being done but with out the drama [read insecurities/personality conflicts] of grad school. we all got along. we laughed and joked and help each other make our works. we ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. and like camp we all knew this was finite. and special and could never be recreated.
a sample of the food we ate. this was a fancy day [we didn't go out to eat every lunch] - but yum. i love the little sampling of different types of food. sweet and savory - crisp and soft.
between working really really hard we went out an about. we were asked to give workshops at local schools and at the museum itself, but we also got the star treatment. an onsen [hot spring bathhouse] was just being completed next door to the museum and we got to go on a private preview day. above is a photo of the cafe at the onsen. the water was warm and the view from the baths [indoor and out] were stunning. see for yourself.
the best part of the onsen, though, was the hot rock room. you lay on a bamboo pillow on a very very warm rock - the whole room smelled like lavender. you could literally feel the knots melt from your body and the toxins flow out your sweat. better than a sauna - at least for me!
here's me in the paper - funny huh? this was one of the workshops we did at the museum. andrew and i helped the kids and adults in our group build a giant circle out of bamboo trimmings. i felt a bit like andy goldsworthy. what was so rewarding, though, was the excitement, the interest, the questions of the participants. what really stuck with me? every time i handed a kid a pile of bamboo they would turn, smile and say "thank you" - in english - with so much sincerity. we broke into 3 groups and each group completed a task. at the end a japanese member from each group spoke about the experience. it was so heartwarming to hear them say they'd never done anything like this - that they wouldn't have thought of art in a landscape, or art on this scale or that they could make art themselves. heartwarming, no?
going to the local schools was also really fun. one of the guys - bill - was over 6 feet tall. many of the kids in the town had no interactions with any foreigners except for their irish english teacher and TV. so bill - he was an oddity. they came up to his thigh. in the end, though, we all stood out like sore thumbs there.
the students were so much more well behaved and engaged than those that i've met here in the states. part of it, i think, is that their lives are much more regimented [for which i can see good and bad points], more is expected of them and socially there is more pressure to succeed and do well in school. there is also pressure to conform - [another +/-]. for example, while drawing with them if they were told to draw a circle they wanted to know what color and what size - they didn't want to do it incorrectly. and they would all look at one another's papers to make sure they were all doing the same thing. i couldn't help but think that art isn't usually about conformity. especially contemporary art. foreign X 2.
above is the red line on the floor of the school - you march on one side of the line so that traffic flows smoothly. this principle is repeated in adulthood in all the subway and train stations. there are yellow lines all over - you are supposed to walk on the left or right side of them depending. i guess if you are groomed for that from age 5 - it all makes sense.
below are some of my favorite images from the schools.
if you want to see all the school photos they are here
the first set of photos from koumi are here
all photos are living together in the koumi set
next i'll talk/show more about the installations we did, the trip to nagano we took and some other local sites/events.
before i go - ash started talking about our new book - the year of magical thinking - on ship. i'm so excited to talk about this book. reading it was really a profound thing for me.....
hope you all have nice weekends planned!