in november 2007, i have stayed in a fishermen's village called Kubotsu in Japan and conducted a research on memories and life of the village. while i was working on Arnemuiden project (2003-2005) in which i dealt with memories of a Dutch fishermen's village, i was struck by vivid memories of Kubotsu. the scene of the Kubotsu port surrounded by mountains came back to me ever so clearly, even with the smell of the sea. this had lead me to the Kubotsu project.
suddenly such a childhood memory comes back to you, what does this mean? is it just nostalgic reaction after living abroad for longer years? or is this some kind of archetypical scene?
i thought going to Kubotsu was a better idea than just wondering about this in my head.
until twenty-five years ago when 'Fukutaro-san', the doctor of the village, had passed away, i had spent every summer in Kubotsu. because i was about seven years old, my memories of the village from that time are rather abstract or have gotten their shapes after my looking at photos from albums later.
after the basic research on histories of Kubotsu at CCA Kitakyushu, i have visited the village in autumn where approximately two hundred households live. i stayed in a house which was empty and spent the time by photographing everyday scenes of the village and interviewing people there. i collected for instance old stories of racoon dog deceiving people, by recording texts and sound. i walked in the mountains searching for old paths which appeared in those old stories, went along with different fishing boats and experienced various fishery. i also collected songs and old photos of the village from people.
during my stay in Kubotsu, i have taken more than two thousands photos, both digital and film. every pressing the shutter button became a process of re-digesting Kubotsu.
based on materials i collected in a research, i have given presentations called 'i saw a dream of Kubotsu.'. the first chapter of this presentation was a spatial arrangement work at both inside/outside the old Kubotsu clinic space, which consisted of drawings, photos, collages, animation/video and lights. this presentation had lead to the second chapter at CCA Kitakyushu openstudio and to the third chapter in the group exhibition i participated in the netherlands.
please take a look at scenes of presentations here.
it is not my intention to go too much in details into my personal story, but i would like to shortly write about Fukutaro-san. Fukutaro-san was a doctor and he moved to Kubotsu at the time when there was yet no clinic in the village. Fukutaro-san was a doctor who knew every body of people in the village, and every village person remembers him with strong feelings of gratitude. although Fukutaro-san was my grandfather, i had never managed to get a good sense of who he was, probably because he passed away when i was still seven years old. it may sound very impolite but i had always perceived him as someone who was strange and august; he was bald, being very tall and well build like a typical tosa-island man, loved sweets and had bad teeth, was working in the dark clinic next to the anatomical model of the human body. it left me also a strong reverent impression when i saw his coffin being set up in so very high position at his funeral where whole village was present. let's say he was more than a normal human being to me. of course i had rationally understood later how important a person he was to Kubotsu and how respectful doctor he was.
people in the village came to Fukutaro-san, to a 'strange man', everyday. he told me a story of a ghost lady who he saw under a willow tree on the way to visit his patient in the next village during the night, a story of racoon-dogs' lanterns which he saw in the middle of mountains in the dark. the story the maid at the clinic had told me; that she was deceived by a racoon-dog and was taking a bath in a 'todon water fall' in Kubotsu... and these memories exist in the nexus of Kubotsu landscape, mountains and ocean, people's everyday life which happens around fishery, gods of mountains, sea and fishery, smell of the shore, voices of valley, the darkest night...
my Kubotsu world i have always been perceiving is 'where borders between everyday life scenes and non-everyday life scenes are blurred' and during my stay in the village after twenty-five years i have understood that this Kubotsu world is still being re-generated every new moment.
during my research in Kubotsu, i could only collect a few stories of 'racoon-dog deceiving people'. i was lucky enough to be able to hear a real experience of such a story from some old people. in about ten years, these stories may totally disappear from the village. i have found out that the maid who told me a very vivid racoon-dog story was actually a leader of a small theatre which existed in the village then. her theatrical way of telling a story, or a strange existence of Fukutaro-san must have stimulated my imagination and mythical Kubotsu world must have rooted in me. during the past twenty-five years, the village has been investing fortunes for stimulating the local economics and therefore the port has been enlarged and transformed into a modern one. while collecting words and memories of the old time of Kubotsu such as, 'it used to be different', 'there was a beach here', 'we used to play in the mountains like this', 'we walked through mountain path to the next village'... i have realized that; Kubotsu is not a place where i feel nostalgia of the old days, but a place where you feel strong 'natsukashisa' in the present sense while yet holding all those memories and stories from the past within. i feel strong magnetics in this.
i don't have a clear conclusion and it is not my intension to have one. but one thing which became clear to me during this project is that i find this intense world of 'natsukashisa' very essential and i am searching for ways to give forms to this world by producing works. this world is a place where elements can travel regardless of time and space, where various memories cross each other. i intend to carry on with these experiments.
i would like to close this text by quoting sentences i wrote for the booklet which was made for the first presentation.
one day fishermen were celebrating their big catch with sake on fishing boats at the harbor, there can you see? there came a pretty lady and she asked if they would need somebody to pour some sake.
oh that's great, they said what a beautiful lady.... where are you from? i am from Urashiri.. she says.
she ate and drank a lot, eating loads of somen noodles... and the next morning they found a tanuki sleeping deeply drunk, throwing up somen noodles at the bottom of the boat.
what a stupid creature that tanuki has deceived us !
in old days we used to be deceived by tanuki and itachi all the time, we don't hear such things anymore...
tanuki=racoon dog itachi=weasel
i saw a dream of Kubotsu.
a scene of Kubotsu i remember from twenty five years ago. something which happened today in the village. a scene i photographed in the autumn light. a drawing i made. a folk story i heard.
i wonder where a dream begins.
i sometimes feel an intense 'natsukashisa' when i encounter a person, an object, a scenery or words. i become wrapped with senses of traveling far hundreds of years of time and space so freely. such a moment is very short but it seems as if the moment could last forever. this kind of daily small encounters are the sources for my fantasy drawings i create.
in a dream of Kubotsu, i see these sketches playfully jumping around together with the memories of people in the village.