I am currently working in a collaborative project entitled In Repose, which is formed by mainly Japanese-Australian and Australian artists. However, I have joined the project as a Tokyo-based Japanese artist. Inspired by a Japanese cemetery located in Townsville, and through this site, we are exploring the heart and history of Japanese emigrant workers who contributed to the sugar cane industry around Townsville in early 20th century. On 10th of February, as the first part of this project, Koto player Satsuki Odamura and Dancer/Choreographer, Wakako Asano performed at the cemetery site for the local residents.
Although I have been doing many site-specific art projects with ordinary collaborators, until now, I did not have many opportunities to create projects with independent artists. At the beginning of this project, my main concern was focused on how we can avoid the diffusion of our intentions. However, this concern itself was in fact the uniqueness of our project. Now I have realized that each artist is able to use their varying viewpoints and methods to capture something from the specific site, and that it is possible for these varying results to co-exist in the same project (=art piece). This fact may be a matter of course, but I think that this project is a good example in confirming how a site-specific project involves different approaches to the site.
Odamura requested three composers to create compositions especially for this project, including one local composer. For the performance in February, she had invited the local composer to the cemetery to hear the music being played on site. This exercise would hugely affect future compositions of the composer within the meaning of site-specificity.
Asano usually dances with the Sydney Dance Company, so stages in theaters are her normal space for dancing. In this project, however, it seemed that she was attempting to find a way to hold a dialogue with spirits of Japanese immigrants under the rough ground of the site with her bare feet.
Australian sound artist Vic McEwan turned the spotlight on the caretaker of the cemetery. By the way of his respectful introduction, local residents could acknowledge the presence of caretaker in the community. This opportunity was obviously created by the Vic’s stance as an outsider, because I believe that the outsider’s viewpoint could suggest a new context to the everyday life in a community. These various approaches by them gave me an opportunity to reconsider my artistic attitudes in site-specific works. You do not have to be fixed in your work styles for things site-specific (of course).
I am the only member of this project who is a Japanese artist who lives and works in Japan, so I would like to utilize this stance of mine as the only original(?) Japanese and add a different viewpoint from the others, and explore the relationship between migration and death within contemporary life in Japan. My video work will be combined with Vic’s sound work, along with another video work by Mayu Kanamori (who is the originator of the project). And it will be installed at Umbrella Studio in Townsville in May. So now we are on the way to complete our collaboration. We have set just a minimum format such as a length etc, before the combination of the three. We hope that there will be a chemical reaction to occur between our different expressions for the final piece. I really look forward to the result.