Category

Japan

Today marks our last day at the Shiro Oni Residence. Later this afternoon, we will do our artist talk one more time and thereafter dismantle our exhibition. Time for some reflection on 6 weeks Japan.

Before we went everybody told us that we would experience a culture shock; Japan is so different. And it is. The culture of this society brings all of its friendliness to the forefront, the human respect and awareness is something we know we will dearly miss back in Europe. Although we couldn’t read any of the signs, we experience the heartfelt connections with so many of the local people.

This last day of the Kanna Art Festival however shows that humans also are a lot alike, everywhere you go. They all want to have a good time, they all want to be inspired, work and discover together and simply be around each other. It is probably the reason why one of the residents suggested to dance within the installation of one of the Japanese artists which was amazing as you can see in the image of this post.

last day

But probably the best illustration is to be seen in one of the food stands in the courtyard of the old brewery; Japanese preparing paella! Which, according to our Spanish colleague resident, was a true paella!

So we know we will come back to this country and its lovely people! To present the outcome of our project, to photograph and write even more and above all experience the friendliness of the human interactions. For us it is no wonder that 77 years ago, when the Jews from Kaunas were greeted with a simple bow, a great number of them decided to stay in this wonderful society.

Yesterday we had a discussion with our Japanese friends about the differences between Asia and Europe. We said that we expected a big cultural clash as all Europeans who have visited Japan said we would experience. And yes, the world is different yet so alike.

Different in the fact that you are simply not able to read or understand the Japanese language. The signs make it impossible to understand what is being written. In a way that is nice. You are the easy outside who’s mind is not bothered with futile information or information you try to make any sense of.

The same as we are all human. We all have our dreams, our wishes, our problems or anxieties. There is simply no difference between a Japanese person or a European or for that matter any Western person. If you only go beyond the first impressions, the outer surface and give each other the trust that opening up is OK.

Something which is not part of the Japanese culture. There you do not talk with friends on your problems or dreams. Anything to keep up the good ‘face’.

A little light in dark times

The lucky ones who were handed a visa for Curacao went on a major trip through the width of Russia, to end up on a ship in Vladivostok. After a few days of sailing, they entered the small Japanese port of Tsuruga. There they were welcomed by representatives of the Jewish community of Kobe, which escorted them to Kobe to give them a new home away from home. Thanks to the little lights of two men, they escaped the dark times of WW-II to enter in the light of the Japanese culture. This poem tries to put into words what these people must have felt upon arrival. It is one of the texts used in our exhibition in the Kanna Art Festival.

BOW
fleeing from terrorlight
fear in their veins
travelling into the unknown
escaping the horrors
by some simple empathy
insecure future
anxiety upon arrival
to find respect
in a simple bow
acknowledging them
as individuals
who’s lives do matter

Our personal viewfinder

Photographers always use a viewfinder to give us their view of the world. Although…, we yesterday visited an exhibition of a photographer who does without. Who shoots images from the ‘gut’ or for the proper word in photography jargon; takes hipshots.

It reminded us of being a metaphor of how we humans look at the world around us. We don’t see what is, but we see what we are. Our finders are focussed by our upbringing, the social cocon we live in and the media we read. Our viewfinder therefore only sees what we (our brains) know. Within our project, we can only hope that bringing back the human talent of empathy can help (re-)focus our personal viewfinders on what is really happening to other humans around us, instead of seeing an unfocussed blur…

 

 

Artists gifts

Here in Onishi, a number of houses are vacant. Left behind because of hope for a better future or simply because the owner passed over to another world. The funny thing is that this leads to a return ‘trickle’ of other people; the artists. Attracted by the cheap housing and the quiet rural countryside, they move from  expensive and busy Tokyo to here. Giving the little town a whole new influx of different energy.

artistsWe met a couple that decided to move to Onishi to find new grounds and inspiration. In this way rebuilding not only their own future but also do their part in rebuilding the town of Onishi. They found a really nice and affordable place, renovated it and are now happy living it. Although it is next to a small cemetery which is to our Western eyes a bit strange. However these cemeteries are to be found all over. Small scraps of land, often crammed in between housing developments. Just as normal as a field of rice.

Now the couple does workshops with the local kids and learn them to think beyond the box of rules and regulations provided by the Japanse society. Acquainting them with free-thinking and free-spirit.

Onishi, an ordinary town in the rural parts of Japan, just above Tokyo. Slowly but surely its population is decreasing as there is not a lot of future for the youngsters, leaving the old Japanese inhabitants behind. It is amazingly beautiful here; check out the image which is the view out of the artist residence to the towns ‘pyramid’ mountain.

Still it is a town decreasing in size. something that happens everywhere in Japan. In Onishi they figured that it would be promotionally very wise to start an Artist in Residence program for artists from abroad. It would give empty buildings a new meaning as well as a great impulse to the daily life in town. So Shiro Oni Studio was very much welcomed to start their program.

One of the cumulations of this program is the Kanna Fall Art Festival in the second half of September in the old sake-brewery, where the residents are mingled with local artists in a 10 days art festival. It means that we need to have build our exhibition by the 15th of September… That’s why we will go on our trip to Kobe coming Sunday to see what the Jews of Kaunas might have experienced when they arrived in late summer 1940. Almost the same time we are visiting, albeit 77 years later. We will keep you posted!

X