Re-inquiring into migrating, changing Japan and the Japanese language
This installation was exhibited at the Yokohama Triennale 2014. Created out of research into Asian communities in Yokohama, it explores themes of the nature of Japan and the Japanese language.
The installation at the Yokohama Museum of Art featured the voices of people who, for a variety of reasons, had fled their homelands and come to Japan, either alone or with their families. The voices spoke in Japanese but it was the Japanese of refugees from Indochina. The work explores how language and communities are always shifting between migration and settlement, always on a journey to somewhere. At the end of the Triennale, the work itself then migrated from the Yokohama Museum of Art to Koganecho, where it transformed into a live installation.
The venue in Koganecho in Yokohama was created in the form of a classroom for learning Japanese. It became a place for encounters between Indochina refugees and day labourers living in Kotobuki. The installation paired the “immigrants” and “residents” together in the manner of Japanese language exchanges. Who is the teacher and who is the student? The roles were interchangeable. The “textbooks” were excerpts from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the central motif for the Yokohama Triennale. The pairs read passages to each other in the style of a lesson drill. They then asked each other questions about the texts like a classroom conversation practice exercise. The participants arrived at their mutual memories using Japanese, though it may not be what we presume. On the second floor of the venue visitors could sit and watch the “lessons” through a glass window. Visitors were also given small transistor radios. Tuning these to certain frequencies allowed visitors to eavesdrop on the conversations happening at the classroom desks.
In this way, the live installation was both a kind of Japanese classroom experience but also simultaneously a performance of Fahrenheit 451. Through the medium of the Japanese language as something always migrating and changing, it brought together peers with alien voices: a transient, wandering commune and community.
“Yokohama Commune” Yokohama Triennale2014
“Detour theatre” connecting cities
“The Complete Manual of Evacuation” was first devised for Festival/Tokyo 2010 and was then recreated on a large scale by Künstlerhaus Mousonturm in Frankfurt. It connected seven cities in the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region through theatrical layers. Audiences first went to the project website. They answered certain questions and then downloaded maps guiding them to 40 “evacuation” points. The sites were categorized into four “tours” and were created by Port B in collaboration with another 15 artists and artist groups. It was up to the audience to choose which evacuation points to visit and in which order. The audience became “evacuees”, transferring their bodies as performers in a theatre of places connected by detours. Selected by leading German-language theatre review website Nachtkritik as one of the best 10 theatre works performed in German-speaking countries in 2014.
A theatrical journey of encounters with Another Tokyo
Participants received a guidebook and portable transistor radio, and then were free to visit, in whichever order they wished, 13 locations that revealed the Asia that exists inside Tokyo. After arriving at a site, they tuned their radio to the designated frequency to hear a story about the location, written by four poets and novelists. The narratives were created based on research by the Port Tourism Research Center. For the most part they were read by people whose native language was not Japanese. The locations included religious facilities, monuments, the site of a former refugee center, and ethnic restaurants. The journey around Tokyo invited participants on a tour of alien cultures within the familiar city landscape.
“Tokyo Heterotopia” will become a smartphone app, continuing to expand ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “Heterotopia” series projects are also planned for other cities in Japan and elsewhere.
“Tokyo Heterotopia” F/T13
“Zwentendorf Nuclear Power Plant Tour” tour performance (Zwentendorf Nuclear Power Plant, Austria)
tour performance (Secession, Vienna)
Installation (Academy of Arts Vienna)
A tour performance exploring the distance
between Fukushima and Tokyo
This was a staging of the “epilogue” text to Kein Licht, Nobel laureate Elfriede Jelinek’s text that deals with the Fukushima accident, performed as a “tour” of the Shinbashi area in central Tokyo. The Shimbashi area has played an important role in the history of Japanese nuclear power policy. The district is the location of the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Company, while the start point for the tour, the New Shimbashi Building, opened in the same year as the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Participants were given 12 postcards and a small radio at the New Shimbashi Building. On the front of the postcards were press photographs taken in the Fukushima evacuation zone, while on the back of the postcard were maps and directions guiding participants to a series of locations in the Shinbashi district.
Following the navigation, the participants encountered a series of spaces, including empty offices and rooms, a plaza in front of the Tokyo Electric Power Company headquarters, a vacant lot, a derelict site, and a rooftop. At each of the locations was a three-dimensional reconstruction of the press photograph on the respective postcard. At the sites the participants were also instructed to tune the radio to certain frequencies, where they could hear excerpts from Jelinek’s text. The voices were female school students from a drama club at a high school in Iwaki, Fukushima. Listening to these incongruous voices in the Shinbashi area, the participants were transformed into tourists and photojournalists, comparing the reality of Fukushima on the postcard with the makeshift “Fukushima” recreated in Tokyo. By visiting the strangely mismatched 12 Fukushima-in-Tokyo locations, the geographical distance between Fukushima and Tokyo was disarranged and investigated.
Kein Licht – Epilog?” was re-created for the Wiener Festwochen in 2013, including a tour to the so-called “world’s safest nuclear power plant”, the decommissioned Zwentendorf Nuclear Power Plant which was prevented from starting by a referendum.
Kein Licht – Epilog? F/T12