Living in a beautiful environment and creating things.
Those who were born in this area often take for granted the local environment and culture. But a little over a year ago, a group of people who realized that our physical and cultural surroundings are irreplaceable, launched the Artist In Residence project. Then, suddenly, the world ground to a halt. Now we can’t travel to and from abroad, with future life surrounded by anxiety. Still, the project was started, with the concept of,“Let’s do what we can do”.
The first online meeting. From each hataba, from homes and offices, people connected to a small square on a computer and looked at each other. It was interesting that people who often can’t stop talking at the hataba were lined up on the screen, well-mannered, with their mouthes closed. I’m sorry to say they were trapped in a box, but the agenda proceeded smoothly due to the polite moderator.
After repeated meetings, fabric samples were sent to France for designers to pick up. Expressing what their eyes and hands caught in words, translating in and out of Japanese, the plan finally came back to hand. If I was there in person, I could breathe in a huge amount of information like air, which thread the eyes were chasing and which thread the fingertips were feeling.
It’s the end of Spring, yet you can’t hear the local festival music. When I say to a man who loves this festival that he must feel lonely without it, he says,“Honestly, I’m relieved to not have to practice or prepare”. But it’s a lie. I can’t see his smile when he takes off his lion mask after the performance. I’ll never believe that people are fine without the simple joy of putting down the ceremonial float they have been carrying, to sip a bowl of udon noodles at the place where they take a break. I feel a grudge against the beautifully clear blue sky. The idyllic spring sunshine makes me feel so vain. At least it would be comforting if it was raining or cloudy!
Laundry flutters in the sky as I’m looking up. Even if I don’t do anything, time goes by. I start the washing machine and do the vacuum cleaning. I do the housekeeping, sleep and read through the books I’ve piled up. I weed more carefully than usual. I think that the soil will be cultivated well, making it easier for grass to grow. Every time I weed, the vegetation changes. The plants, that were not here before, are occupying the best area under the sun. Then, another weed expands its territory. The natural world is constantly updated. When I looked at SNS on my smartphone, I saw a picture of a weaver climbing on his roof. Now he says he will repair it, as he didn’t have time to fix it before, because he was too busy. The blue sky that spreads beyond the red colour of the rust preventive paint
he’s using in the photo and the blue sky above my head seem somehow connected.
As the project progressed, I asked a weaver if they felt it was inconvenient to show their work by email instead of real life.“Look at this collection”, came the reply. In the photo shown, a model on a runway wore a metallic shining dress. It was a dress made from thin woven fabric, which was his specialty.“It’s my most recent work”. The order that came from the designer to the weaver was by email. It contained the data of the pattern, and very simply asked to use silver and black thread. The weaver said,“As they had visited us, they understood what I’m good at. At their request, I was inspired to weave textile that exceeded their expectations”. The finished fabric expressed the world of the collection as if it had been made after in-depth discussions face to face.“I just made it as usual”, he said, his expression suggesting that it had been easy.
This is a peninsula. A land half closed, surrounded by the sea and mountains. It has been said that it is the remotest town from Tokyo, difficult to get to. It’s a land where people and information were traditionally hard to come by, not like the blink-of-an-eye timeline of the cities. It was a half-closed land anyway, and when the world stopped, it wasn’t the same here.
The wind that crosses the rice fields sways the green rice plants. The season has come when the green loom feels nice and cool. It is also a very hot summer. When I crouch down to see how the loom is doing, the smell of dust and rust makes me sick. It rises from the dirt floor just like ice evaporates in a frying pan. The hataba, where the coldness has finally gone, is releasing the dampness it has accumulated during the winter.
Around the time the ears of rice begin to appear, a proposal arrived from the other side of the sea. Beyond the screen, I felt the excitement of the weavers growing, as I scrolled through the PDF files.“The professional designers who saw our fabrics and pour shape into them are just amazing, and it is our technique that expresses their essence”. Movement is born in the project. Even though it’s so hot, the rice will grow, and even if we can’t meet, the feelings entrusted to the thread are taken up. In a world that had slammed on the brakes, something unstoppable was now accelerating.
It has been 20 years since we first tried to reach out to the world from our half-closed land surrounded by the sea and mountains. Over time, the people who met connected others to weavers, designers, and artists.“It’s my first time working with him, but it doesn’t feel like that”. It seems natural to feel that way.
Ignoring even the world locked down, a baton that began to be passed on some 20 years ago, has returned.
Fascinated by the darkness, I try to open the car window. At that moment, a bewitching scent passed through my nose and filled my lungs as if I had swallowed it and become tipsy. The ear of rice signalled the time of harvest. It is a full moon tomorrow.
Project Team Organizer
JR EAST MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS
Project Team Members
Tango Textile Industrial Association
METI Kansai Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry