IN A FEW SHORT WEEKS, DK will pop up in Japan. This is kind of a big deal because Japan is where we used to be based, at one point, in the mid-1990s, which is kind of considered ‘vintage’ now, by a handful of people who are crossing paths with us in recent years. The world is changing; the world has changed, things will continue to evolve. Getting all caught up in the ‘how’ and ‘what this means’ stuff is overwhelming, of course, for the likes of people who dwell for far too long in the spaces of ‘overthink,’ such as yours truly, here in S P A C E, occasionally, but also, outside of it. Which would be… where, exactly, I wonder, hm.
Old and new chapters: Kyoto
The Japan that I remember is one that is quiet, is in Kyoto, mostly, and has hills and changing leaves. There are ‘borrowed sceneries,’ and ‘engawa,’ and lots of slow, still moments in the pockets of pockets. That’s what I remember, anyway. I wrote about all my feelings related to Kyoto a lot of the time and put it into small stories that no one really read, outside of a handful of people that I knew I could trust, because that is how I like to roll. Small, intimate circles. Of just a handful of people. And that’s fine. That’s working, for me. The space I love is where we build and connect, grow and develop, and make the things we want to make, with and for each other. I remember the printed laser outputs of that first ‘zine,’ which was really a limited edition of 1 art book, and was a gift. I remember the writing. I remember the colored penciling. I remember the feeling of sharing it, in the moment, with the person it was for. I know now that the things I make aren’t meant to be consumed widely. They’re meant to be savored. Slowly, quietly. In the humble, curious, open-hearted spaces that are built in S P A C E with a currency of trust, and over time. Progression. Dimension. Richness, complexity.
Rediscovering The Way
Some of the people I am going to be seeing again, in Japan, after goodness knows how many years, are among the earliest of this very small sequence of S P A C E-making intention. Though I was far younger, then, I was no less adamant about the ‘how’ of invitation, of making time, of showing up, of being present, of caring, and of developing, I hoped, something that was better and bigger than just the odd meet up or ‘tabehoodai’ get-together where the gajins would go and hang out, most weekends, and most Thursdays, too. I was invited once to a Korean BBQ, an all you can eat and drink number, and I remember walking over there with about a dozen kids from ‘the program,’ which was a school away from all of our schools, still embedded in the American ethos of ‘go go go’ and then ‘party party party’, and I walked around and then I got distracted by simple things about Kyoto that make it artful and intriguing. The lines. Japanese lines… the photographer in me wanted to go home, just then, just as we were about to go inside and eat bunches of food, and then, you know what I did? I went home. I got my camera. A fude pen. Sketchbook. I went out by myself and took my time. I did this pretty much all the time, after that. I made a lot of things, in those quiet hours. Later, I called them ‘pencil sketches,’ or ‘traces,’ and tracing is indeed a big part of my creative process, too. So is revealing how things get made. I never knew that until an art critic, quite astute, reviewed me for a project of hers at an arts council in my old home town. Little by little. Layers at a time. What that project, I later began to understand, was meant to do was to show the sidelined people and those who might never imagine thinking of themselves in the ‘art critic review-worthy’ kind of way that we were, that what we were doing was just as valuable, and that we ought not stop or cut ourselves short of a goal or diminish our ambition just because we weren’t he mainstream kinds of people who get networked and do the ‘right’ things to get into the places where you go and you become normalized and then you make the sort of stuff that you think people want, instead of what you know you must make.
Ephemera, art, and returns
Which brings me full circle. As a young person looking around in Japan, getting lost on purpose, letting myself drift in the Situationists’ style (I didn’t know that at the time, that there was an actual whole school of thought around drift–I just liked bicycling)… well, yeah. I was there, and I was inspired and moved, but not by the things that you would read about if you read books for Westerners written by Westerners about Japan. I was moved by… the place, its hidden stories, the kinds of things that felt real and raw… and genuine. I wanted to see them, with my heart. Through the lens of the camera, was a way, to kind of make it into a project. And I’m a Project kind of a person. So here we go. While I’m at it, while I’m in Japan, reviewing and reconnecting, and maybe rekindling a few old old old ties, let me make a Project.
Let’s do S P A C E | Japan.
HT: Akira Morita, Kan Tomizawa, Kentaro Yagi, Hiroki Yamamoto, Bridgett O’Keeffe, Kyoko Murakami, Wendy Chang, Peter Lin, Yuu Horiguchi, Denise Reynolds, and Noriko and Izuru Morita. Also special thanks to the North Carolina Japan Center and The Japan Foundation for grants to create the photo essay, Japanese Lines, in 1995-96.