European Eyes on Japan
Two Kinds of Memory and Memory Itself 2015
European Eyes on Japan / Japan Today vol.17
EU-Fest Japan Committee & the European Capital of Culture 2015
As David Pilling observes in his book Bending Adversity (2014); “the idea of thinking about Japan as different from anywhere else, including Asia, is seductive. Yet there are many reasons to reject this notion. Those feelings that Japan moves to rhythms incomprehensible to most outsiders have, reinforced an almost morbid sense of separateness. Although if we look closer, much of Japan’s supposed ‘essence’ turns out to be a relatively modern distillation” 1 manufactured in the interests of nation-building and maintaining political power. A deliberate construction towards a Western audience that roots itself in traditional Japanese culture in order to establish an idea of Japaneseism; an identity which separates them from the rest of Asia, but has somehow lost most of its original meaning.
This led to the West projecting their own fantasies on Japan and creating an image saturated by clichés of an impenetrable and technologically advanced island nation with very defined cultural subjects, such as bonsai, sumo, kimono, sushi, fugu fish, Yakuza, salary men, video games and cosplay. Upon Pinckers’ arrival in Japan, none of these preconceived elements seemed to be the most culturally predominant. This conflicting experience resulted in him deliberately searching for these constructed defining elements within the contemporary Japanese landscape, creating staged scenes influenced mostly by existing images created by foreigners, such as Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) (1993).
This work was commissioned by European Eyes on Japan / EU-Japan Fest in collaboration with the European Capital of Culture 2015 and took place in Saitama Prefecture, a ‘bed-town’ located just outside of Tokyo. The title of the work, Two Kinds of Memory and Memory Itself, is a reference to a work by American artist Richard Tuttle2 in which an arrangement of strings is placed on a rectangular floor based on Ryōan-ji, the Japanese garden of gravel containing fifteen stones placed so that it is impossible to see all of them at once from inside the garden.
1 David Pilling., Bending Adversity, Penguin Books, London, UK, 2014, p.46.
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