Norwegians

Su Grierson 20th January

The heated table.  Photo and permission Su Grierson

The heated table. Photo and permission Su Grierson

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland

Day 1

The journey to Japan was good and easy.  Yoshiko Maruyama, the artist/ initiator of this project, was waiting for me at Narita airport.

The Japan Foundation wanted to meet me and receive my flight invoices and this meant an hour bus trip in the wrong direction into central Tokyo, but a smiling Mr Ohnishi met us, gave us lunch and towed my suitcase for me and after the formalities of paperwork he found us the correct train for our 3 hour journey up to Kitakata. He is promising to visit us in 10 days time to give us our generous fees and expenses.

I got a little closer to understanding why this project is being sponsored by the Japan Foundation and just what their hopes for it are. It seems there is a general desire of local and national government to counter the current negative images that accompany the word Fukushima internationally, as well as a desire to re-build the cultural activity of the area. Our impressions of our visit that we give to them and local people and also take home with us are just as important as any artwork we create here. They also talk of us conveying a positive image of the area to what they call the ‘Refugees’, in other words the survivors of the Tsunami who are living in temporary accommodation here that they must vacate after 3 years. I hope to find out more about that later.

I feel they see us as trailblazers initiating an artist’s residency in Fukushima that they hope others will then be willing to come to. It is refreshing that they and the other funders are happy to support a project without any clear idea of how it will proceed, instead just letting things fall into place as it goes along.

Day 2.

Yoshiko and I have now joined the two Norwegians, a sculptor and an architect and the first impression for all of us is the COLD, the second is of amazing scenery and buildings.

This is my seventh visit to Japan and I have never seen it look so stunning nor have I been so cold. We are staying in a traditional farmhouse style building with sliding walls with paper ‘glass’ on the inner side and glass on the outer wall (with a metre wide buffer zone between) none of which are tight fitting. There is absolutely no insulation and there is a general reluctance to use any electricity. This seems to stem partly from cost which is often mentioned – although the adjacent new part of the building does have solar panels on the roof (I haven’t yet had a chance to ask about that) – and also from a general attempt to reduce the use of electricity after their nuclear catastrophe. No one here seems to know how many of their nuclear plants have been re-opened.

As Margretha from Norway is an architect we have had long discussions about the nature of these building which seem to have been traditionally so unsuited to this climate, but then again they have also to withstand earthquakes and extremely hot and humid summers for which they seem perfectly adapted. We also don’t yet know the extent to which their approach to life was, and maybe still is, so different from our own age of ‘comfort’. The winters are cold so you just put on more clothes and don’t think about it. We are trying hard to do the same with varying degrees of success. The paraffin heaters and heated meal tables are a blessing. Our hostess has just produced some electric blankets – JOY.

The amount of fantastic food we are plied with also goes a long way to keeping out the cold. Today we have a ‘party’ to which all the funders and local supporters as well as Press will be coming. Tonight apparently we are moving to a mountain farm house for 4 days.

With endless outings being promised, we are wondering when there will be any time to make work for an exhibition in 4 weeks time.

Su Grierson

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
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Su Grierson – Corresponding from Fukushima Province, Japan

This post comes to you from EcoArtScotland
Japanese do seem to be obsessed by food  endlessly photographing  their meals and we have been  asked to take photos of what we  eat in our Northern countries. This is my Fruitarian Christmas  pudding awash with Brandy. I think the Kitakata speciality is noodles!"Japanese do seem to be obsessed by food endlessly photographing their meals and we have been asked to take photos of what we eat in our Northern countries. This is my Fruitarian Christmas pudding awash with Brandy. I think the Kitakata speciality is noodles!” (Photo with permission Su Grierson)

Su Grierson has kindly agreed to send ecoartscotland regular updates during her 10 week residency in Kitakata, Fukushima Province, Japan.  She is circulating this introduction.

I am now trying to get myself organised to go to Japan next Thursday. I am doing a 10 week residency based at Kitakata in Fukushima province. It is quite a way from the devastated coastal area but I am told we will be working there and with some of the displaced survivors. The project is funded by the Japan Foundation but I think the actual programme will be worked out when we get there. It seems we will also be working with the beautiful Fukushima Prefectural Museum of Art.  I will be working with 2 Norwegians, a sculptor and an architect and one Japanese artist with the overall theme of ‘Spirit of North’.

Making work for an exhibition seems to be the main thing but I have a feeling that the very generous funders might have their own expectations which we will find out about later! Watch this space – well you can literally follow my trip by signing up here to Chris Fremantle’s ecoartscotland network. He has offered to put out occasional reports from me which you will be able to find here or if you join up then they will come directly to your email address.

I think this project is part of a wider plan trying to restore normal life and spirit generally in this area and also to get a different picture of Fukushima out to the wider world. I am well aware of some of the more negative recent press, and of course that name Fukushima will always be synonymous with Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear meltdown, but I will hopefully try and find out for myself just what the situation is now.

It has just started snowing in Kitakata so its a question of how many thermals I can get in my case, but at least they make good packing for cameras, laptops and all the other paraphernalia I can’t manage without.

As part of my Survey exhibition and book at Horsecross in Perth next summer (Opening with Sunday Brunch on June 30th – all invited!) I have been commissioned to make a new work for the 22 screen Wave at Perth Concert Hall and I’m hoping to use that as a way of linking Fukushima and Perth.

ecoartscotland is a resource focused on art and ecology for artists, curators, critics, commissioners as well as scientists and policy makers. It includes ecoartscotland papers, a mix of discussions of works by artists and critical theoretical texts, and serves as a curatorial platform.
It has been established by Chris Fremantle, producer and research associate with On The Edge ResearchGray’s School of Art, The Robert Gordon University. Fremantle is a member of a number of international networks of artists, curators and others focused on art and ecology.
Go to EcoArtScotland

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