Passage: A Day in Eternity
10:00am-6:00pm, July 25 - September 13, 2015/ admission free
"Homebound Ship (Beached Black)"
"Homebound Ship (Future White)"
Permanent pen and paint on the wall, chairs and sound piece created with the collaboration of Paula NISHIJIMA
photo: YAMAMOTO Tadasu
Compatibility and deconstruction between the subject and the structure in print expression, and their transcendence
Choosing political and social events as her main motifs while starting from her standpoint in the present time and space, KAZAMA Sachiko completes her woodblock prints all in black ink, incorporating her doubts and anger about society and related incidents with black humor. She says that she has been influenced by Beardsley[i] and Japonism[ii] while we find characters and lines seen in Japanese manga in her works. There is a sign of dark disturbing clouds together with feigned brightness in her expressions, probably because she takes up events and dark history behind the rapid economic growth in Japan after World War II.
While the concept and work structure constructed on the basis of specific historical events are well defined, the world that has been constructed pictorially through elaborate composition demarcates simple rationality. Rather, doubts about contradictions conceived by the society giving priority to rationality and efficiency seem to be included in diverse and fascinating lines that are difficult to explain with words. Additionally, despite the fact that she chooses woodblock printing that is primarily a replicable medium, she prints only one original and does not make editions.
On the other hand, for this residence program, she produced a pair of prints; Homebound Ship (Beached Black) and Homebound Ship (Future White), maximizing the characteristic of woodblock prints, that is “carving,” to find her original way of printing representations that is absolutely non-replicable disregarding they are prints. As these two pieces have similar compositions, it seems at first glance that white and black are merely inverted. However, Homebound Ship (Future White) was produced as a development of Homebound Ship (Beached Black). Therefore, these two pieces are on the single line in the flow of time. The main motif depicted in them is a ship whose appearance and role have been greatly changed. The construction of Nuclear Ship Mutsu with a reactor as its power started under the policy of peaceful use of the post-war nuclear power in 1968. Mutsu caused a radiation leak while the first nuclear power navigation test was being carried out in the Pacific Ocean in 1974. As local residents refused to have Mutsu return to Mutsu Ohminato Port, which had been supposed to be its home port, it received repairs while hanging around harbors throughout Japan over the next 16 years, had the reactor removed after four trial navigations, and the power was changed to a diesel engine. Finally it was transformed to Oceanographic Research Vessel Mirai. In other words, the motif of Homebound Ship (Beached Black) Homebound Ship (Beached Black) is Nuclear Ship Mutsu, and Oceanographic Research Vessel Mirai is for Homebound Ship (Future White). This dramatic change of a ship symbolizes a flaw in the nuclear policy pursued optimistically during the period of high economic growth, and it is excellently expressed structurally by a technique of “carving onward” on the same woodcut. This ship with a checkered history as if to represent two sides—light and dark—of Japanese society is pulled by stone-faced men wearing raincoats. In this serious but yet comical depiction, it seems that Kazama’s anger mixed with irony towards today’s society, which patches things up and conceals inconveniences is expressed. What’s more, the way in which people are pulling the ship tells us that such incidents are caused by humans and so they should deal with the aftermath after all. White raincoats worn by people pulling Mirai remind us of white protective clothing worn by people working at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Incidentally, this Mirai was sent off Fukushima at the end of March 2011 to collect seawater in order to examine radiation contamination by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. It is truly an ironic fate.
Having assimilated the theme of this exhibition “Passage: A Day in Eternity” from her independent standpoint and taken on the condition of the residence program in Aomori, Kazama has achieved a wonderful result in her new work. By recalling Nuclear Ship Mutsu, a forgotten existence, the artist encourages us to rethink issues such as a nuclear power plant in Aomori. Also she reminds us of the presence of a radioactive substance with a long half-life, which seems like eternity, as well as challenges to be passed on to many generations such as shutting down a nuclear reactor in an unpredictable future. Additionally, regarding the journey of conversion from a nuclear ship to an oceanographic research vessel as a passage, she shows the passage of time through changes on the woodcut. Generally speaking, the word mirai (future) gives a positive impression of the future, but it is difficult to imagine a happy future from the word “Mirai” engraved in childish writing on the hull. Rather, uncertainty and anxiety in the future are envisioned.
While based on real events, the artist deconstructs and sublimates them into satirical representation, which reminds us of nonsense literature.[iii] While handling problems taking place in the real world as subjects, she is not always simply criticizing problems and situations, but takes a fictional leap, which is possible only through acts of creation and expression of art. There, we feel strongly her intention to leave artworks as transcendental existence facing art appreciation and critique in a more universal and long-term perspective. Kazama says, “I’d like to make long-surviving works as a pure form of expression free from concept.”[iv] Seeing these works for the first time, we tend to watch depicted objects, their backgrounds, or the relationship between the two and their structures. Eventually, however, we are fascinated by the pure strength of the prints including strong carved lines and pictorial, precise compositions, standing overwhelmed in front of the work. That very moment feels like a day in eternity.
[i] Aubrey Vincent BEARDSLEY (1872—1898)
[ii] Interview with KAZAMA Sachiko, AC2, 17 (Aomori: Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, 2016).
[iii] A kind of literature that combines things with and without meanings, ignores commonplace rules and logicality in using words, and tries to destroy them.
[iv] Kazama, AC2, 17.