NAKAZAKI Tohru ×Aomori City Archives Exhibition “Tracing snow tracks”

Aomori’s status as one of Japan’s snowiest cities has naturally led its residents to come up with various methods of coping with the harsh winters which come every year.
One example of this is skiing. When skiing was first introduced to Japan, it was not seen as just a sport, but rather a tool which could aid people’s lives and work; an attitude that has given birth to many Japanese professional skiers over the years. Under the direction of artist NAKAZAKI Tohru, we have been holding workshops at the Aomori Contemporary Art Centre, Aomori Public University (ACAC) over the past year with the goal of creating an “Aomori City Archives Exhibition”. However, the exhibition shall not be restricted exclusively to items from within AomoriCity itself.
We plan on displaying a whole host of objects ranging from ski gear used by Aomori native skiers such as Yūichirō Miura, photo/video of people with strong ties to Mt.Hakkōda and woodblock prints/paintings which depict Aomori winters. These items were donated by corporations, groups and individuals based in AomoriPrefecture. Additionally, there shall be several other items on display, including over 100 pairs of skis dating from the early Shōwa period to the present day.
Thanks to the efforts of Tohru Nakazaki and all those who participated in our workshops, we are confident that this exhibition shall reveal a previously unheard tale of Aomori’s history, people and culture.


Hello, my name is NAKAZAKI Tohru. After being invited to hold an exhibition here in Aomori; I came to do some preliminary research in March 2013. I remember being impressed by the ski gear that I saw in the AomoriCityForestryMuseum and thinking that I’d like to do an exhibition based on the, admittedly somewhat vague, theme of “Snow-related gear”.
All those involved, including myself, had no prior experience of holding an exhibition, however, things ultimately fell into place as we received fascinating objects and stories from the people we met through our various workshops.
Due to the fact that our exhibition covers such a broad range of topics, I’m sure that specialists in various fields may feel that there are areas we skimmed over or forgot to include; but I’m confident that our collective team effort has given the exhibition its own unique personality. We worked hard to trace the history of how people have dealt with Aomori’s snow over the years and if you’re able to experience that, then I feel we’ve done our job.
NAKAZAKI Tohru (Artist)

>> Download the artist CV


Exhibition view






 photo: NISHIKAWA Koji




Living the Present Progressive


“In fact, the written word is all in past tense. Conversely, even if words we speak are about the past, they are still in present tense. This means that whatever we are conscious of at the moment is the present and that emotion is only possible in the present tense…One’s past experiences always possess the possibility of returning to the present.”

SUGA Keijiro[i]


Winters in Aomori City blanket everything with snow. It becomes almost impossible to even leave home if you without shoveling. Roads shrink to half their width, public transportation is delayed, and rubber boots are the only footwear that will do the job. The sun sets around 4 p.m. and there are often times when blizzards make it impossible to move forwards or backwards. These are just a few examples that may give rise to the basic question of why anyone on earth would ever choose to start living here, a land where this bitter, cold season has an icy grip over a third of the year. But the people here have continued to live with a wisdom and device unique to the region in order to keep out the cold, move about freely in the snow, and ultimately make winter as comfortable as humanly possible.

Around 20 participants of all ages and professions joined “It’s Exhibition Making Time!” NAKAZAKI Tohru’s workshop that began in May 2013. Among them were those who had never been to the Aomori Contemporary Art Center (ACAC), so activities began by getting to know the ACAC. Following this, participants worked together with Nakazaki touring facilities, organizing talk events, and conducting inquiries into the items exhibited.

Nakazaki had visited individuals connected with Aomori’s skiing heritage to hear their stories since his research began in March. But in July and beyond, even as workshop activities began in earnest, he and the workshop participants continued to consciously create opportunities for interviews, even those that would not be included in the catalogue or exhibition. At the start of these interviews, neither Nakazaki nor the participants had any intention of displaying the interviewees’ exact words in the exhibition. What begun as part of the very basic investigations to gain reference material in preparation for the exhibition had by the end constituted an integral element of the exhibition itself, the words chosen from individual interviews by Nakazaki connecting beautifully with the works on display.

Originally carried out to better understand past events and particular events like the Olympics and professions such as mountain guides, the interviews became fascinating experiences within themselves. They added a certain vividness inaccessible through books alone. They provided the character and personality of the speaker; identified the speaker’s relationships with objects, other people, and surrounding events; and recreated a sense of presence, of actually being there at the scene. We now heard intimate stories of individuals who lived in the same regions as figures such as MIURA Yuichiro and MUNAKATA Shiko, whom we had only ever known through books and film, and saw before us Mt. Hakkoda, a mountain many of us had only ever gazed upon from its base. We caught sight of a world that was no longer the fairy tale of others but one with a past and present of which we too were a part.

Japanese thinker and psychologist KIMURA Bin categorizes what we consider “reality” into two types: reality and actuality. Reality is objective, third person, and takes form in the instant after the present—it is the present perfect. Actuality, on the other hand, is subjective, first person, and constantly changing in the present progressive—the scene of the action. He also states that the ultimate mission of rational science is to understand reality.[ii]

Exhibitions that display folk heritage value reality and are essentially built on rational science. However, Nakazaki added interview quotes as descriptions of the exhibited items not to show the stringency of some objective reality, but to stress the importance of a personally embellished actuality. From them, he indicated the importance of grasping how a particular individual connects with other persons, objects, and events. This in itself is a domain of art: how each of us sees the world through our own unique points of view, takes courage in our relationships, and affirms the distorted narratives we design for ourselves based on the above.

This project was planned as an educational program offered in the form of an Artist In Residence (AIR). Peace education utilizes exposure[iii]—putting oneself at the scene of whatever is happening—and having witnessed many different scenes over the past year, we have come to understand events that have occurred and the existences of people who have lived here and still live here today. This leads to the realization that our current selves are also invisibly connected to them. By providing a space where something is constantly happening, the ACAC, as a residence facility for contemporary art, can offer up the realization of living in such fluid times, in the here and now, and create opportunities for individuals to acquire the skills and techniques to survive within them, which continues until death. This means inquiring about reality in the field and trusting individual actualities. In other words, this seems to support seeing with one’s own eyes and thinking critically.

How can we as residents of Aomori come to know the place where we presently live, whether or not we have been born and raised here or have ended up here due to work, study, or some other twist of fate? Can we find joys and pleasures within our daily routine and cherish each day? Instead of grumbling about shoveling snow each morning, take a step outside of your daily grind. There are people who have launched into the world of winter sports, their bodies disciplined in Aomori’s environment. There are individuals who have made the mountains their profession, having fallen in love with the mountains and skiing. There are those who possess knowledge and techniques that verge on superhuman. And there is Mt. Hakkoda, a mountain laden with episodes of their histories.

This yearlong encounter with people and narratives has transformed the existence of snow as nuisance into a medium that generates fascinating stories. An outline emerges of the here and now in which I exist, having collected and created many actualities by giving myself to the scene and encountering other individuals face to face. This gives us the confidence that we have the potential to connect with any worlds we desire. And I dream that this leads to the confidence to keep on living.

Translated by Alex QUEEN

[i]TAKAYAMA Akira × SUGA Keijiro (2013). “Tokyo heterotopia no tabi: zure no honyakuron, kako kara kaette kuru genzai” [A Journey into Tokyo Heterotopia: Translation Theory of Deviation and the Return to the Present from the Past]. Tokyo Heterotopia Festival. Tokyo Executive Committee: 4.

[ii]Adapted from KIMURA Bin (2005). Kankei toshite no jiko [The self as relation]. Misuzu Shobo: 56-57. KIMURA states, “Reality always contains ingredients of actuality, and actuality can only be formed on the basis of reality” (p. 57).

[iii] “Exposure its taken in its literal meaning: exposing the body to wind or light…Here it refers to a type of journey in which an individual touches the raw situation of others in other places with their whole mind and body.” YOKOYAMA Masaki (1993). “Daisan-sekai to senshin-kogyoushokokuniwatarushiminrentaiwakanou ka” [Is Civil Solidarity Between the Third World and Advanced Industrialized Countries?]. Shiminrentai-rontoshite no daisan-sekai [The Third World as a Theory of Civil Solidarity]. Ed. KUBOTA Jun. Bunshindo: 47.



Play and Diversion―the exhibition ofthe city collection and NAKAZAKITohru’s work


Works by Nakazaki are based on the so-called “relational aesthetics”[1], in which the relationship and/or involvement with external factors are essential in the creation of artworks. It means that others’ participation in the production is necessary. In his participatory pieces, though communication is referred to, discrepancies in their dialogues are often incorporated exquisitely. An end product and a physical form of his early work signmaker NAKAZAKI(fig.1), for example, isthe signboardmade after he received a request to produce it. Before the production, there is a temporary “agreement” made for communication on the assumption that there would be miscommunication,and a difference in interpretations between the sender and the recipient of the message is intentionally made.While involving the viewer and collaborators, hiswork seems to bekeeping somewhat low temperature. It is probably because he is not only paying attention to differences in dialogues but also regards differences as a structure, not a phenomenon.

As in “build-to-order manufacturing,” a temporary setup or purpose is often presented as a premise in his work. Through a simulative approach of role-playing, the process to reach the goal and derivative happenings are pseudo indicated, so that the substructure of art or society is revealed like an overturned iceberg. The same applies toprojects conducted by his artist unit, “Nadegata Instant Party.” (Nadegata means low shoulders.) Their way of copying and reproducing real acts and phenomena through simulated experiences is theatrical. In the Nadegata projects, they play roles in the process ofconducting the projects, and in the Nadegata “exhibition,” in which fictitious elements become fixed images through data media, vicarious experiences are possible based on the directional time axis of the past just like you watch a documentary film or a motion picture. As for Nakazaki’s work, on the other hand, the viewer experiences his work on the same time axis as watching it on stage. For this experientially oriented appreciation of the work, texts and situation-related contexts are often used.In Guess someone after one hundred thousand years would watch out for a playboy carefully (2011, fig.2) and How We Behave Ourselves Today (2013, fig.3), daily necessities displayed in different contexts as well as arbitrary texts of rearranged excerpts from weekly magazines are combined with the situation, which is (or appears to be) given a symbolic meaning like a stage setting.Although there is no denying that the artist’s intention guides viewers to some extent, they can appreciate the work personally and directly. They experience it physically, sensuously and actively in the installation prepared as a stage setting, which is so neutral and open that they could read between the lines freely thinking about the possible or probable background for two or more stories.

A tentative purposefor him this time isto “produce the exhibition of the city collection.”It is the precondition, but Nakazaki is neither a folklorist nor historian. While adopting the disguise of a “technical style,” he carried on the work consciously taking advantage of the fact that he is not an expert. His earnestly working “non-specialist” planning team admits their lack of accuracy at the very end, and tries to keep a distance from confirmation and judgment of historical facts. The exhibition focusing on interviews with related people places more emphasis on interviewees’ personal memories and perceptions than the accuracy of historical facts. As conveying the feeling and atmosphere of each interview is important, they are presented as they are without brushing up the wording or converting local Tsugaru dialect into standard Japanese. We find a lot of noise in there, contrary to the scrutinized informationfor accurate communication. This uncertainty, however, helps avoid one-sided transmission/ reception of messages and leaves room for us to intervene comfortably. Subjective speeches coming from collected memories of individuals and the exhibits that look like a stage setting are regarded as innumerable conversation pieces,which bring out recollections, memories and personal views of people who come into contact with the exhibited pieces. Both workshops of “the exhibition of the city collection” and the exhibition itself are produced as the site for dialogue where many people can be connected.

Viewing this exhibition from the angle described above, you will understand that it is intended not only to look through the cultural history of tools used for snow in Aomori and other things to uncover the buried history, but alsoto let them whisper here and there by including many ambiguous memories and stories as they are and putting fragments from various erasside by side. The exhibit revealsan overall history of the subjective memories. There is the artist’s attachment to the city collection as remains of the history of local city Aomori as well as his doubt about historical objectivity.

His attitude not to set the direction for people’s memories and consciousness is related to the structure in which he often confronts,through his work, communications suspended in midair or our “inability to communicate with each other.”Parallel / DakaratokaKosodatoka(2011, fig.4) produced after the great earthquake shows how he structured the work comparing parallel lines to disparities in real disastersamong different districts and the inability to understand each other. It emphasizes the feelings of an “individual,” and also indicates the reality of our days that it is no longer possible for us to go along with the single big tide together. Such a structure is immanent in the exhibition of the city collection held this time, and I would say that this event goes beyond a mere exhibit of materials,and can be regarded as Nakazaki’s work.

Translated by NISHIZAWA Miki

[1]Nicolas BOURRIAUD, Esthetiquerelationnelle, Les Presses du reel, 1998.

fig.1   signmaker NAKAZAKI, 2008


fig.2  Guess someone after one hundred thousandyears would watcu out for a playboy carefully, 2011

fig.2-1 fig.2-2


fig.3  , How We Behave Ourselves Today, 2013


fig.4  Parallel/ Dakaratoka Kosodatoka, Art Centrer Ongoing, 2011





February 8 (sat)- March 16 (sun), 2014
garelly A
admission free