In Tokyo, for the first time in eight years earlier this spring, I made a set of collages. These pieces were very different from anything I had ever made while in Japan. (Which, admittedly, was pretty often, owing to the fact that I had sworn I would ‘get fluent’ because that time I was on exchange in high school to Utsunomiya, nobody had any idea what I was trying to communicate. That had really irritated me.) Sure, I guess I was just still very young, and new, yet, to the ways of international communication that you can effect when you do not know a local language but can read gestures, eyes, body language, and you can say what you need to say to do the basic stuff.
Maybe that will seem really weird to most people reading this, but to the nomad-traveler types, it’s pretty much just Life 101.
I saw some people who used to be highly influential in my artistic development, which was intriguing, given that I do not have the same aesthetics that I had, when we had met. Going back in time, so to speak, while also recovering the immense power of all that I had learned in the intervals since we met, which include, but are not limited to, figuring out how to get out of debt while on the road, deal with naysayers everywhere, block the bad energy, and invite somehow the new to continue to flow towards you so that you can shift and adjust and learn and continue moving. This is how it is, with us moving around types.
I saw them. I saw me, too. An old me. A younger one. Where I used to think, ‘X is X,’ and now, I understand, thanks in large part to what I learned from ‘Discovery Day’ back at the N. Bohr Institute in Copenhagen in 2015, that ‘X is not always X,’ and sometimes it’s very different. Or two separate things existing at once, even. (Complementarity principle: google it.)
Also, the things we think are real are made up of things we cannot imagine to be real. N. Bohr, again. I quite like his philosophy, and institute, and the feeling I get in Denmark, another ‘DK,’ when I am there.
The range of the possible… an infinitude of infinities… it’s all very exciting and grand and perfect, for me, to engage in. Probably why I’m, well.
News is too soon to release. (Stay tuned.)
‘Ume no kisetsu’, or ‘Plum blossom season’
Meantime let’s go back to Tokyo, in March.
It’s plum blossom season. It’s not hot, but not cool. I’m on my way to new places, places I’ve already bene, but before. Int he past. These are the kinds of thigns that happen when one dwells on ‘time and its things.’ I recalled Kyoto, my time there. A year of studying the language, the architecture. Staying with it, staying in the flow of discovering rather than getting cuaghtup in the aesthetic politics of fighting with your professor. (I quit his class). I guess that’s how the things go, sometimes.
You do your thing.
The time spot that opened up, instead of his class, afforded me another kind of lecture. I went on my bicycle to the places around and around, up the hills, into the near mountains, and found temples there. Sat quietly. Amazed, delighted, and photographing.
These were the days when we shot on film. I made a series, Japanese Lines. I made tons and tons of pictures, that year, then curated 300 and showed them at my college, when I got back to Raleigh NC that year. Twice. Japan Foundation gave me grants for it, too, twice, which was ultra cool. Int hose days I did not know that it was a rarity to be able to find grants; somehow, my unusual status as someone getting good at the language more quickly than people had imagined got me opportunities.
I was ‘in’ with the system.
Until I wasn’t.
This trip, instead of coming from a Stateside university, where everything was in good order fo rme to graduate with my bachelor’s in engineering, summa cum laude, cool thanks, well, this time, I was coming from a hacked-together design studio in Phnom Penh that me and my best friend set up in the nineteen-nineties. Yeah. We were of the mindset that you could go and discover, in the field, and something cool would pop out at you, if you just had the right attitude, intention, and openness. Ears, eyes. Heart. Our studio continues, going on what 17 years now? Craziness, but the angle is the same. An angle of incidence, ask me, sometime. Optics: one of my favorite subjects.
Coming from Cambodia to Japan is a different whole experience. First, there’s the lack of the usual time zone jet lag phenomenon. I wasn’t exhausted the first day, I was functioning normally.
I was happy, even, to be able ot come from Southeast Asia, and relate, for the first time, to the women who were in my Kyoto life. Lodging together, I learned Japanese from them. Scholards from Korea, and Thailand, and Vietnam, who also taught me how to cook and freeze packets of rice, and make cabbage, and soup, and other basics. Were it not for them, I wouldn’t have the day-to-day Japanese that I have now, answering my own challenge to myself to get very good at conversational Japanese.
Which is, well, if I’m honest, smalltalk.
‘Soo desu ne.’
‘Un. Soo desu.’
Cool. So I did that. Check.
A new moment
Now I’m in Japan and I’m with my new theories of things, new approaches to life, new angles on everything, inspired by my learning from just being still for five plus years in Phnom Penh.
What could Japan teach me now? (A lot. More someday, when I’m ready to share.)
I found myself juxtaposed in a land I should have been comfortable in. But there was too much of too much of hte same, and I felt regressive feelings, and didn’t want to share, and went inward. Then, I did what I do when I’m lost in a new land, with no language, or feelings of being known, or friendships. I made collages.
I went to Ueno.
I walked the old circles, noticing the changes. The Books of Time were getting written and rewritten, in my heart, and in my head.
I saw the things in the National Museum.
Beauty: their style.
I landed back where I began, at Narita. And composed and wrote, and felt my way towards the new things.
This was what I left behind.
A limited edition of one, an art book, for Z.