– the final third, forwards and backwards again – day 1

The take a picture button and the switch on switch off button are rather near one another on my camera. A little Canon IXY640 which I’d only had for a short while. On the first day of my trip in the 2015 Echigo Tsumari Art Field, I hadn’t got the swing of it. I’m a bit better now. I know how to switch off the automatic flash.

The last time I wrote, which was all of eight hours ago, I left you here, in the surrounds of Marina Abramovic’s Dream House.

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K and I then went to the Kyororo, Matsunoyama Area. I didn’t take a photo of the Echigo-Matsunoyama Museum of Natural Science, because I thought I’d taken enough photos of rusty looking edifices surrounded by green, and I actually thought I had already seen it. I hadn’t, and also it looks great in pics, so I wish I hadn’t let the feeling of being burnt out at the time flumox me.

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Here, follow the link. That picture is from the Echigo Tsumari pages. The museum was designed by Takahara Tezuka and Yui Tezuka.

I didn’t really understand the information I had on hand, either. It takes a while to figure out the guides. A lot of things that I wanted to see were part of the hubs, such as Kyororo (the museum) and I think we should have spent more time there. We had more time. But lots of the cool stuff was outside, it was hot, we’d been racing around like blue-arsed flies, and I’d had intermittent sleep since 02:45 earlier in the day. We got to see most of what I wanted to see (yes, there were two of us, but K lives in the area, so he has more of a chance to go back and visit other artworks for the duration of the festival than I do. Plus, I’m a bully, unfortunately).

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These life size insect pictures were one of them, and they were outside, along a walk way, which was also an art piece. These inside pics are not mine. Sourced from here. Remember that confusion between buttons I mentioned on my camera? It seems that I probably opened and closed the lens of my camera a few times and thought I’d taken a picture. Stay lucid if you want to do what you want to do. And having written that, the actual art work might have even been all in the museum, and we just saw smaller replicas. We didn’t explore all of the area.

What I really wanted to see, and I would have needed to have had a much better camera to capture it, were these two 2003 co-mingled installations:

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Ting-King_Ping in Kyoro, Sound source, by Taiko Shono. The photo is taken from the Echigo Tsumari site.

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Ground Water Cosmos by Takuro Osaka. The image is also from the Echigo site.

And see them we did. Ting-King-Ping is visually great*, but also aurally intriguing and relaxing in a way. Water hits the devices in the installation, and apparently, due to the shape of the devices, no two sounds are alike. I didn’t judge the variation, but I did listen. It aurally reflected the role of water in the community’s day to day life, and visually, as we walked up the very many steps, it square-spiralled (?) into a pit of red lights, into which, I did not want to drop my camera.

Luckily K is game. It was hot, it was stifling, they stated how many stairs there were, but I can’t remember. Maybe 670? Anyway, that’s where Osaka’s Ground Water Cosmos came into it. It runs the height of the stairwell. Ha, interesting. *The red lights at the bottom of Ting-King-Ping actually belong to Osaka’s installation. From the Echigo page:

The themes of this work are the earth, veins of water, ecological systems, and the cosmos, a world with vertical expansion. Energies are emitted from the ground and the cosmos. When an earthquake occurs, radiation that emits light in the sky is produced underground; cosmic rays are produced by huge explosions (supernovas) when stars are born and die. The neutrino is an example. Since the birth of the universe, a vast quantity of cosmic rays has run beyond time and space. We do not know whether cosmic rays captured by light were recently emitted by the sun or generated eons ago. It is clear, however, that we are watching fragments of time. When the sensor inside of the Echigo-Matsunoyama Museum of Natural Science detects cosmic rays, of which more than 200 travel through our bodies pre second, blue light emitting diodes (LEDs) installed inside the tower light up the wall on the upper part of the tower, and the red LEDs in the water are simultaneously extinguished. That reminds us that the same cause can generate opposite phenomena in space. My aim was to create a space in which visitors can feel the oneness of Matsunoyama’s earth and water and the cosmos as a whole.

Leaning over the railings while catching our breath, and doing the whole Vertigo, funky spiral stairs thing (LED version), it seemed the red lights were still visible, but I guess while we were moving, and the sensors were detecting the cosmic rays in our body as we moved passed (or were they just detecting them in general?), and the stairs and walls were lighting up with degrees of blue light, maybe the red lights below were extinguished without our knowledge.

The shadows cast on the edges of each step was very effective. But it was a hike only for those able to hack heat and a climb. I’d still recommend it, but not if you don’t want to sacrifice your comfort.

It brought us to these views in a hot, stuffy, outlook. Worth it, in my book:

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I promised you tanada (terraced rice fields). These aren’t particularly dramatic ones, being only two layers deep, but still pretty.

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That large shadow is the main tower of the Natural Science Museum.

Me being me, I got my numbers all mixed up. And while asking to see what I thought was Ting-King-Ping, I was actually asking the location of T024, Matsunoyama Project. You know it. The link’s not working at the moment. It’s a 2003 construction.

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We were told 3 minutes away by foot, and we thought that couldn’t be right, because we just couldn’t see it, so they adjusted the time to five minutes, but three minutes was about right. Up a steep hill singing and rocking with cicadas and other summer insect screes. We weren’t able to enter it. As you can see, it’s rotting.

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This is the case with a lot of the wooden structures in the area. There’s rainy season of course, but more so, the severe, snowy winter. The researcher I met at Yama no ie was looking at the sustainability of the art works as a background to the interviews she was conducting. Not all of the installations are made to last, but what do they become once they rot and return to earth (if they’re made of biodegradable materials)? Often they’re created with impermanence in mind.

Another art work on that walk was a 2015 creation, Deep Water, Deep Water, Into the Woods, by Yuuri Takanashi. Forgive me for the Echigo links which lead to 503 pages. If you refresh, you can usually get some information.

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Excuse the blurriness. It’s the only picture I have.

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And so, what happened before all this? If you’ve stuck around, I know the important question is, What did you have for lunch!?!

Here’s the map to remind you of the back and forth. The first part of this entry deals with point 5 on the map, and I’m now returning to point 3. Remember to click on it to increase its size.

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So, a few rice fields and curving roads before this, and an accidental stray into the next prefecture, crossing the longest river in Japan twice (once when getting lost, once when returning) – the Shinano – we made it to the Kamigo Clove Restaurant Theatre. Again, the link is dodgy at the moment, but here’s the logo, which was presented as one of the art works.

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Designed by Kasami Asaba in 2012.

Within and outside of the Kamigo Clove Restaurant were works such as

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Untitled Project for Echigo-Tsumari, by Paola Pivi and The Game of Mikado by Meshac Gaba. The link says it’s a popular game in the west, but I wonder if there would be some allusion to the emperor, considering the art installation is in Japan. That’s what K and I were thinking when we tried to figure it out. Of course there is also the Gilbert and Sullivan opera. That installation was just to the right of the ladder.

The theatre is in a school which closed in 2012, as so many of the schools in the area appear to have done over the last fifteen years. The installation I really wanted to see was Shell of Time by Tatsushi Takizawa, because the photo in the guide looked great.

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This photo looks great too, but I somehow thought there’d be more pebbly looking cushions on the floor, and the roof would be more densely covered by branches, and seemingly a whole lot closer.

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The artefacts of the school were interesting though, and particularly for Japanese, and even more so for locals. Looking at school year books, it seemed that many photos were still shot in black and white well into the eighties, and there were a few year books which were a year or two shy of my Showa year of birth. Knowing that it’s Showa should be enough for you!

While waiting for lunch (we had a 13:30 reservation) we looked outside as well. I think it was the Shinano that was flowing by (K can correct me), and the small little shrines that are/were part of the school and community add to the whole beauty of the area as well, and also to the sorrow as cornerstones of community lose their traditional functionality.

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So, the premise of the lunch was that we ate locally grown and cooked produce, and we also watched a performance. You needed to book ahead. The kitchen staff were female and there was a producer, perhaps, male, who sat behind a piano in the corner.

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A CD player was piping out Wes Montgomery style music, and for a second, K and I thought the director/producer was playing it live (you know, the electric piano bits!). His smile, and me sighting the CD player, soon dissuaded us. On second thoughts, the guy might have just been the sound effects and lighting guy, and not just “just” of course.

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I think there were four courses, and vegetables featured strongly. The main dish was Tsunan pork. Now, I term myself “flexitarian”, flexible with food, but I don’t eat a lot of meat, and when I cook for myself I buy fish and seafood, but very rarely any other type of meat. However, I suggested this restaurant, because I was interested in the performance. The pork was very tender, too, though I wouldn’t have been able to eat much more.

They gave all the extras to K, actually. He was the only male at our table (in the room? apart from the sfx guy, and the younger boy at the other table. Though maybe there were a few more), and it was interesting to see gender roles played out. Of course, it might have been a matter of expediency. Who do we give the extras to when there’s not enough for everyone?

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The desert was lovely, though I can’t actually remember what it was, but it looks pretty in the picture. *Edit, August 10 – I remember, it was a carrot praline type of dish. It tasted good. The other participants took more pictures of their food than of anything else going on. I’ve no problem with people taking pictures of their food. It’s a lot quicker than selfies and never-ending group photos.

The pork had been infused with cloves. It was interesting as they’re such a staple of certain western and Indian cooking, but were considered quite unique in this situation. A handful were placed on each table for all to smell. A succulent aroma has the clove, though perhaps heady is a better word.

As for the performances, it was really a monologue of what life was like in the Echigo area, and the hardships that people have to endure due to isolation and the weather (at least that’s what K told me). It seems that people are writing their own histories as they are living them. Despite the cold and the difficulty in eking a living, those who head to Tokyo and other places always return. A bit of myth making going on, I think, but the festival does also breathe a lot of new life into these country areas that lose generation after generation.

Or does it? The researcher I met at Yama no ie said that people had expressed their worries about taking care of the art works in the winter months once the young people stop returning. Houses that are not used in non-festival years, and in the colder season still need the snow taken from the roof, and some of the art works are even taken down and over-wintered, like hoping your geraniums might survive if you bring them inside. The hardiest of plants, but not in the coldest of climates, where all of a sudden they become annuals instead of perennials.

Next, an early morning amble and preamble. Gold! Flip books and smoke. What more could you ask for?

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Golden Playroom, by Ryo Toyofuku.

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