Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wifredo Lam, Havana, Cuba
Mar. 9–Apr. 28, 2018
Curation: Yumiko Okada + Hiroyuki Hattori
“The fastest way to give yourself a make-over is to change your environment, by relocating or changing jobs, say. In short, by changing your framework.” A friend told me this when I decided several years ago to quit all my tedious part-time jobs and devote myself full-time to artistic production. But, well, think about it: I was over thirty-years old and with no money, so how could I quit my jobs and just relocate somewhere? Surely there must be a way to change your life without spending a cent. I had no money but lots of time, so I couldn’t relocate, so I decided to use the time for moving. Putting my artwork aside for the moment, movement was necessary in the search for work. Moving is good. Make it a rule to tread one unknown road or path everyday—there is no end. Even so I couldn’t imagine that there would be enough jobs within a fifteen-kilometer radius to support me through this lifetime.
It’s been ten years since I moved to the Nippori area. My house is located outside of the Yamanote Line near Nippori station, about halfway to Mikawajima station on the Joban Line, down a street of textile dealers lined with a series of wholesale houses of buttons, bags, and “wes” (recycled cloth). Being an area concentrated with wholesalers, few houses have yards; most are tenement-style townhouses and small built-for-sale houses with their ground floor used as a parking space. I can’t say this is a glamorous neighborhood, but Nippori is strategically located and very convenient. It takes only thirty-six minutes to Narita Airport on the Keisei Skyliner, for example. Haneda Airport is thirty minutes away by car. To Tokyo station, fifteen minutes on the Yamanote Line. It’s only four minutes to Ueno station! It’s not too much to say that this location is unbeatable if you plan to go on a trip somewhere. You don’t have to be fazed by that worst combination of passenger-stuffed trains and troublesome transfers like you have in Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Kichijoji.
Maybe its my location in Nippori, but now, five years after quitting the part-time jobs my movement has dramatically accelerated. In January this year, I made a tour of Western Japan before traveling on to Australia, New Zealand, Paris, London, and Sapporo. This has caused no little trouble for my various anxieties but whenever I am offered a chance for movement, in no time I answer “Yes!” and off I go.
In November 2017 I was in Cuba for a week. It was my first trip to the Caribbean, but I was under an avalanche of work before my departure and couldn’t prepare at all for the trip. Just as I was leaving home I looked up information on local temperature and the voltage they use before heading to Haneda International Airport. I entered Cuba via Canada and saw a fog-like, dusky veil over the island. It was like waves of an aura (?), huge and quiet, incessantly coming at me from the faded city. The differences in climate and time zones made my head numb and lethargic. Out of the window of the taxi from the airport to the hotel, I vaguely watched the scenery outside wondering what these invisible waves were.
Those, in fact, were inspirations. Usually I struggle for inspiration. But in this city, Havana, they come to me on their own, massively. What I see and hear, and the smells, humidity, everything, comes together slowly to make me feel like creating something. This is the feeling similar to what I had in Southern India, where I went three times in the short span of a single year.
In Havana, where no internet connection is available, my iPhone only functioned as a watch. For the first time in quite a while, I didn’t rely on Google Maps and used a physical map instead. Looking at pretty run-down stores, exchanging words with friendly local folks, drinking mojitos, listening to the music of small bands bursting out suddenly on street corners, I experienced anew the seamless continuity of things. And this continuous state, swaying like a veil, seduced me. What I call a veil may be the aura produced by moving. On this trip I learned from the country of general off-line life the truth of the fascination coming toward me, swinging softly.
On my flight back I didn’t watch movies but gazed out of the small passenger window. There, parallel to my plane, I see a contrail. I kept my eyes on it for a while, thinking I might see where the trail is leading to. Then the front tip of the trail came closer and closer to my plane, and our plane passed, or circumvented, it. I had thought that the cloud was parallel to us. It actually was perpendicular to our flight! I was shocked speechless by the hugeness of inspiration that had slipped my mind in my many movings.
(translated by Keijiro Suga)
Going Away Closer [group]