Bells of Earth 土の鈴
Mixed media / Featuring: Moriyama Pottery
Installation view at Kamimukae St, Shimane, 2014
Photo: Toshinobu Takashima
Since 2014 I have been fond of visiting the Shimane prefecture, which is the second least populous prefecture of Japan. At first the Izumo Yaoyorozu Art Project, a small art initiative in the Izumo region of Shimane, invited me. After which I came for several visits on the occasion of research and an exhibition. Throughout the overall project I gained a kind of inspiration unlike any I had experienced before. One, nested deeply in my mind up to the present.
Izumo is known as a place of gathering, where each and every God from all parts of Japan comes in winter. For a long time, I felt as if Izumo was another world within Japan. Other than that, the region seems to have been left behind since the ancient age. Having such an impression and yet being Japanese, Izumo stayed quite mysterious to me.
One of the common Japanese cultures is polytheism. Occasionally it is called “Yoyorozu no Kami”, which means 8 million Gods. Can you imagine? This is the feeling and attitude of the Japanese towards Gods.
In the old Japanese calendar, the tenth month is throughout Japan named “Kannazuki” (the month of no Gods) as the Gods from all around Japan travel to Izumo, while on the other hand in Izumo the same month is called “Kamiarizuki “(the month of the Gods).
In Japanese mythology Izumo Taisha, a well-known grand shrine is described as having a central role. It is also known for the God of marriage as once a year the myriad Gods pass throughout the Japanese islands and gather in Izumo Taisha in order to hold a meeting. In the beginning of this ritualized encounter, the “Kami Mukae Sai” (Welcoming of Gods) ceremony is held by the seaside of Izumo Taisha. As it is taking place, residents of the Izumo area are careful not to produce any loud noises, through singing, dancing or playing music. They do so, in order to avoid disturbing this important meeting. What impresses me the most is how the locals are still practicing such a humble custom.
As I had to present my artwork in the Izumo region, which as I explained is a place typically related with Gods, I focused on the feelings of the local residents towards Gods. I decided not to only use daily objects but also elements of sound, and so despite the fact that I am a video artist. For a week before “Kami Mukae Sai”, I installed wind chimes made of clay in a street leading to Izumo Taisha.
These wind chimes were teacups turned up side down, as Shimane has been one of the well-known production areas for ceramics. Moreover Matsue, the capital city of Shimane, has been a rich place for tea culture since the Edo Period thanks to Lord Matsudaira, who had a keen appreciation of the tea culture and the tea ceremony. In Matsue, the drinking of green tea and Matcha is a constituent of daily life and guests are always to be warmly welcomed with tea. Having in mind these distinctive histories in relation to Gods and tea I conceptualized Bells of Earth, an art piece connecting each of these cultures.
I researched on the practice of several potters in Shimane for making wind chime teacups.
Fortunately, I was able to ask Moriyama Pottery to collaborate! Moriyama Masao is the last student of Kawai Kanjirō, who was born in Shimane and is a key figure in “Mingei “ (Japanese folk art movement). I was completely fascinated by his creations and the spirit of Mingei, he seemed to know genuine beauty in daily life. I commissioned him to make usual teacups, however I requested for a tiny hole to be pierced in the bottom of each teacup in order to use them as wind chimes.
Over seventy wind chimes were hung under the eaves in the street of “Kamimukae no michi “(the street to welcoming the Deity). Although in Japan a wind chime is one of the charms of summer, I temporary installed my out of season teacup wind chimes artwork in the street. Through the usage of spaces and gaps, I expected that the everyday object of the teacup would function as a sensory tool to feel unseen signs. Simply said, my artwork Bells of Earth was aimed at implying the coming of the Deity through sound. Gods are commonly considered to be invisible in Japan, as it is believed that Deities reside in the whole creation as an archaic spirit. This could imply that Deities exist in each of our own imagination. In Bells of Earth, I attempted to transcend the border between daily objects and the sacred, as the sounds of ceramics is born from the soil, I felt it could generate a wealth of imagination for the audience.