Fulbright Report #4

I met with Norimitsu Kawaguti (川口智慎) to visit a public art project he completed at a new grade school in Nagakute. The sculpture titled, 水の記憶, is meant to move in the rain.  Ironically it rained the entire time that I rode my bicycle, but when Kawaguti and I arrived at the site the rain had stopped. Most grade schools in Japan are sparse concrete structures consisting of three stories. During the competitive design process the lead architect of this project insisted that there be only two stories. The building sports stainless steel at any opportunity and has a wonderful blend of modern materials and simple Japanese forms.  Kawaguti received the commission through a competitive process, which is somewhat special in Japan. Many commissions are given through a known network of artists, architects and planners. He gave me an in depth explanation of the process that he went through. Hopefully this will help me approach different projects in the future.

Kjell Hahn, longtime friend and colleague, has been working with John Dix, a ceramicist who fires of wood fired noborigama kiln. I participated in the firing at the end of April and helped with preparations, which included chopping up a lot of wood.  These kilns are peppered throughout the Japanese landscape but few are routinely fired because of the prohibitive costs.   The kiln takes four to five days of constant labor to bend all the ceramic cones indicating that the kiln has reached the proper temperature.   We did not get a lot of sleep.  I will attend Kjell’s and John’s separate exhibitions in Osaka in May.
On the way to the kiln in Sasayama I stopped at an exhibition of Yoshsio Nakajima (中島由夫)  friend of Minoru Terada (寺田みのる) in Kobe. His story as an artist is quite fascinating. As a young boy his parents wanted him to become a monk but he knew he wanted to be in the creative fields. He ran away from home to study art, which eventually led him to Europe where he now lives.  I also went to an exhibition of ceramicist Minoru Terada and former graduate student Kaoru Tani (谷かおる) in addition to exhibitions in Nagoya and Kyoto.

After a test run at the University, I packed up my new inflatable suit, Big Red, and boarded the local train bound for Sakae in Nagoya, Japan. Sakae is a trendy shopping district and also has a large central park that runs north south through the city.
Within one minute of flipping the switch on the 12v blower motors that power my suit, a group of young Japanese cyclists came over to investigate the ever-increasing size of the red inflatable suit. The questions began in rapid fire succession, “What is that?” my answer, “It’s a suit.” again a question, “What is that?” answer, “It’s a suit.” again, “No, what is it?” final answer, “It’s a suit, and I will put it on right now.” I proceeded to hoist the large suit upon my shoulders and filled out the traffic corner. Instantly cell phones and other video recording devices went into overdrive and traffic stopped as I stepped into the crosswalk to begin my journey southward through the park.  This suit could be called a “pied piper” suit because children are drawn to it like magic and then stick to it like struggling insects on flypaper.
The director of galerie weissraum in Kyoto accepted my exhibition proposal and I will have a show there from June 3rd to June 15th with four different public performance dates.  For the exhibition I will make an interactive inflatable installation of large read tubes.  The gallery faces the Kamo River and is an ideal location because of its high volume of foot traffic.  I will perform along the river and the street in my new inflatable suit.
Now that I have completed Big Red, I am taking a short break from my sewing machine. I still have a lot to sew for my show in Kyoto in June, but I have been thinking about a bicycle project for a while now. I have made countless bicycles in all shapes and sizes including an Invisible Bicycle.  This time the project is hardly about being a bicycle at all. It is a new absurd situation. I want a portable yard since I live in an apartment in Japan. I need a place to kick back and barbeque. I could be flipping steaks while waiting for a traffic signal or rub my feet through the grass in rush hour traffic.

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