– a coffin by any other name would still be as uncomfortable as f**k (day one, second half, jumping ahead)


The picture above is from Japan magazine and illustrates Marina Abramovic’s Dream House. Not to say I didn’t see it, but I hadn’t figured out how to turn off the automatic flash on my camera yet, so I didn’t get any images which captured the mood.

This photo from this page shows how you are meant to sleep in it, though the dream bed in the photo below is not in Abramovic’s Dream House.


These are the suits that you wear, and to your side, in the coffin/bed is a book, tucked into a recess on the floor of the bed. And in that book, you record your dreams. The pillow is square and hard and I think it was made either of wood or stone. Anyone is free to correct me. You can see a version of it in the picture of the bath below (scroll down).


This blog post (not mine), illustrates the process somewhat. I’ve lifted the photo below from the post as well.


Dream House is nestled in the curves and folds of the Matsunoyama part of the Echigo Tsumari art field. You can stay in the house and doing so is part of the art project. I have wanted to, but not in summer. That little red room was hot, and those pyjamas don’t look as if they’d bring your temperature down.

In 2011 I stayed at the House of Light, James Turrell’s design, which is in the Kawanishi area. My ex and I stayed off-season, in late October, and paid a very small price to have the whole house to ourselves. During peak time, such as throughout the Triennial, you share with other users.

Dream House wasn’t as great as I thought it would be, but I’m sure that sleeping over might change my opinion. K asked the attendant if most people slept in the coffin-beds. She said they did, but there are only three or four of them. Whole families sleep here. There are tatami rooms where you can lay out your futons,  but how comfortable would sleeping be with this as your wallpaper, even if you’d paid for the experience?


Being so overwhelmed by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami on the east coast of Japan, I hadn’t realised that the following day there had been a large earthquake in the northern part of Nagano, which caused damage to many of the Echigo art installations, including the Dream House, and the destruction of Australia House (I think it was that earthquake, and not another which affected Australia House). Dream House was reopened for the 2012 festival, and the words above and below were added at that time in response to the earthquake. The website is playing up again, so I cannot verify that 100%.




The usable tatami rooms might have been upstairs, at it doesn’t look as if that glass case is easily movable.

Anyway, along with restructure, this was on my must-absolutely-see-if-we-have-a-car list. And K had a car. Yaay, K-san!

On the way there, we viewed the wonderful tanada (terraced rice fields). If you search for Echigo, or go to the art category, on my blog you can see photos of these from my prior visits. The aforementioned earthquake affected a lot of these as well, due to mudslides and weakened structures. This isn’t the most defined of pictures, tanada-wise – there’s a better one in the next post (as yet, unwritten, August 10) – but it is pretty.


I’d be very nervous negotiating the curves of the road, so I’m glad that K was behind the wheel.



I think this building housed “Elixir”. I detail that a little further down.


Charming or spooky, depending upon your knowledge of what lies within.


A relaxing bath. You can see the pillow. That was the shape and size of the ones in the coffin-beds. I think Abramovic uses stones, and possibly herbal properties, to usher in good dreams. So maybe the selection of vegetation in the bath holds some meaning. There were two baths.


I’m not really sure what all the glasses of water symbolised. They weren’t for drinking (or so we thought).


You can see the tour bus waiting. This group had gone before us, but as it was a Tuesday, the place was not swarming with too many people.


The furin rings sharply on the breeze, and brings our thoughts to a possible respite from the heat, and to our own selves. It’s a beautiful sound, and reassuring, protective sight in a slightly sombre house.

Within the same area was a 2003 Australian exhibit, Elixir, by Janet Laurence. That is the artist page. The Tsumari page is still having trouble!



Just down the curve of the road were another two 2003 Australian installations in Harvest House and Rice Talk.The artists were Lauren Berkowitz, and Robyn Backen, respectively. There’s a lot more to Rice Talk according to that link than I got from the website or guidebooks (we were using the Romaji and titles in English to connect with dots on the maps, and what we wanted to see, due to my appalling Japanese. It was all part of the adventure. Gathering enough information to be able to understand something and proceed. Of course K could understand the Japanese, but we had to determine which exhibits we wanted to see). It seems I didn’t take any pictures of Rice Talk though.






The map below shows you the direction and areas we covered on day one. Those areas have sub-areas. Click on it to get a better view.



Points one and two (Jimmy Liao and Harumi Yukatake) were in the Museum of Picture Book Art, Tokamachi South Area. I’d seen that exhibition before, by the way. It’s definitely worth it.

Point 3 is in the Asia Art Village, Tsunan Area. That’s where we saw this big guy:


And also where we ate. I’ve skipped right ahead to point 4 in this post, which is Abramovic’s Dream House, and the nearby art works. Point 4 and 5 are in the Kyororo, Matsunoyama area.

Five is full of sounds and pictures I didn’t take (next post), and six ends us up here, at Yama no ie (as opposed to Yume no ie – mountain house as opposed to dream house). This is in the Central Matsudai area which counts Nohbutai Snow Land Agrarian Culture Center as its base. If you search through the blog, you’ll find some pictures (go back to 2009).

The dormitory and cafe are on the right and run by a vary harried, but capable woman. She usually has more staff, but they were all off volunteering or working for other events and installations for the festival. She managed to keep the place running for 40+ people, single-handedly.


Inside the cafe. A very calm space. We had a delicious dinner, that took some time to come, but was worth the wait. A vegetarian hiyashi soba, with trefoil for garnish and taste. Yum. I can’t remember what K had. We also wandered the streets a little, but really didn’t take in any more art works, though the building next to Yama no ie is an art work.


This sign gives you an indication of just how many art works are in that area, and that is just a fraction of them.

Then I bid K farewell, after we kind of organised ideas for the following day, and had a chat to an Australian researcher who was interviewing locals on their opinion of art as community.


I was so beat that my notes made hardly any sense, but they were a vague guideline I could use when I was more in the present the next morning.

Okay, the next post will be pre-coffin and post. Until then.

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3 Comments on “– a coffin by any other name would still be as uncomfortable as f**k (day one, second half, jumping ahead)”

  1. […] with nary a sound « – a coffin by any other name would still be as uncomfortable as f**k (day one, second half, ju… […]

  2. mptskies Says:

    Love your illustrated travelogs. This all seems curious & fascinating.

    • theheartbeatsoftly Says:

      Thanks, Stu. Still a lot to go. Hopefully I’ll get around to it, but a lot else to do too, and not doing any of it. I went back over my blog and realised that since I’d got hooked into fb I hadn’t really recorded anything much for a few years. Friends and I were chatting about how we forgot the places we’d been too. Having a record is interesting to flick through sometimes. I hope you’re well.

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