Artist-in-residence program provides opportunities for emerging artists in the field of contemporary art to cultivate their artistic creativity and vision since 1994. Located around an hour from Tokyo, a residency at ARCUS Studio allows participants in the program to come into contact with the contemporary art scene in Japan as well as devote themselves to their creative endeavors in a calm environment while interacting with the local community. Through the support the program offers from its dedicated team of coordinators and regular tutorials with a curator, artists are able to search for and explore approaches in their practices and undertake new challenges in their artistic expression.
The program particularly emphasizes research-based practices and presents the initial results of these processes at open studios. It welcomes ideas for artworks and projects that develop out of encounters with people, the land, and culture, and aspire to form critical spaces that are open and international.
ARCUS Project’s Artist-in-Residence Program received applications from 228 applicants with non-Japanese nationality (52 countries and regions) and 12 artists with Japanese nationality. Following a careful screening process, Allie Tsubota and Kajihara Mizuki have been selected as the 2022 residents. Along with Marjolein van der Loo, who took part in the online residency program in 2021, the artists will participate in a residency at ARCUS Studio in Moriya, Ibaraki, for 100 days from August 30 to December 7, 2022.
As the judges for this year’s applications, we welcomed Okamura Keiko, a curator at Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo and Goto Oko, a curator at Contemporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito who made the selection through a process of discussion with the ARCUS Project Administration Committee.
ARCUS Project’s Artist-in-Residence Program 2022 offered residencies for one artist with non-Japanese nationality and one artist with Japanese nationality. As with the 2021 program, an application fee was charged. The number of non-Japanese applicants was 228, which is about the same as last year’s applicants. The number of Japanese applicants was twelve, approximately the same as the 2020 program received (the 2021 program was not open to new applicants with Japanese nationality). Many of the applicants’ proposals involved doing workshops with local residents and then using those as the basis for creative projects. Among the themes and motifs, comparatively many proposals were attempting to engage deeply with the rivers around Mount Tsukuba and Moriya as well as the seas that surround Japan through discussions related to industry, mythology, and gender. From the non-Japanese applicants, who were by far the most numerous of the two categories, we selected an artist whose practice re-narrates historical incidents from various perspectives. From the Japanese applicants, we selected an artist whose project attempts to interpret regional lifestyle and culture through folk songs. The two artists will participate in the residency at ARCUS Studio from the end of August to December along with Marjolein van der Loo, who took part in the 2021 online residency. (Diredtor, Ozawa Keisuke)
Allie Tsubota was born in 1992 in New Jersey, United States. She is based in Worcester, Massachusetts. After studying environmental studies and dance at New York University, she completed an MFA in photography at Rhode Island School of Design. In her research-based practice, she aggregates photographs, video, text, archival materials, and other elements, exploring how they interlink and the process by which meaning and memory are formed. Her interests lie in the history of the modern nation-state as well as racial diaspora and assimilation in the Asia-Pacific region, employing photography—a medium with a very unique temporality—to engage in the issue of re-presenting memories of a certain people’s lived experiences. She pursues this by interpreting photography as a psychological, social, and public space. Tsubota’s installations both invite the viewer to examine history as well as demand active involvement in history. During her residency at ARCUS Project, she will develop her ongoing work Dead Letter Room.
Dead Letter Room
In October 1945, a team of U.S. Air Force photographers arrived in Occupied Japan to document the efficacy of Allied bombing on Japanese soil. Over several months, the photographers captured over 8,000 photographs, recording what was visible of the wrecked Japanese war economy and the hundreds of thousands of civilians left dead, disfigured, and disappeared. The survey, entitled the United States Strategic Bombing Survey (USSBS), became a critical component in the United States’ postwar intelligence gathering, and it remains among the most extensive visual records of the ruins of nuclear war.
Six years later, in March 1951, Japanese poet Hara Tamiki laid himself down on the railroad tracks between Kichijoji and Nishi-Ogikubo stations, where he was struck and killed by the final train. As a witness to the rise of Japanese militarism and a survivor of atomic catastrophe, Hara was extraordinarily sensitive to the intimacies of war. His tryptich, Summer Flowers, about the bombing of Hiroshima, continues to be recognized as one of the most distinguished works of literature written by a survivor of the atomic bomb.
Over three months, I have been following the psychic, material, and literary traces of Hara Tamiki’s life against the extant photographic legacy of the USSBS. I have photographed sites and archives in Hiroshima and Tokyo, while writing a series of fictional texts between myself and Hara. This research is meaningfully guided by Walter Benjamin’s instructions for reading historically in “moments of danger.” It contends with the arbitration of history, memory, spectatorship and language across transnational space and time.
Allie Tsubota aggregates photographs and texts in her work to build a relationship with an incident that happened in the past in a distant place. Though Japanese American, she is unable to speak Japanese. Nonetheless, in order to get closer to the memory of the Pacific War as experienced by the country of her family’s roots, she engages in a kind of simulated correspondence with the novelist and poet Hara Tamiki, who was active in the prewar and immediate postwar period. As Hara, who wrote poems based on his experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, exchanges works with Tsubota, who was born and raised in the United States long after the war ended, our interest is stirred by how that temporal and spatial divide is expressed. She is preparing for the project very carefully, investigating the archive of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, which assessed the effects of strategic bombing during the Pacific War, and collecting photographic and filmic materials. I was impressed by the way in which she employs poetry and archives to search for the memories of war that exist between nation-states. (Ozawa Keisuke)
Allie Tsubota aggregates photographs, film, texts, and archives in her work to evince the outlines of historical memory. Motivated in part by her background as a fourth-generation Japanese American, Tsubota’s work explores her interest in the relationships between people who migrated between modern nation-states as they developed in the Asia-Pacific region. Almost like embarking on a journey through the memories of others, she is also confronting the question of how we deal with memory, which fades with the passage of time.
During her residency, Tsubota has engaged with experiences of the Pacific War and the atomic bombings through the figure of Hara Tamiki, a Japanese novelist and poet active during the pre- and immediate postwar periods. Hara survived the atomic bombing of his hometown of Hiroshima and then died in Tokyo. Visiting the places that Hara lived as well as the Hiroshima City Central Library, where his letters and final writings are kept, and the site of his death on the tracks of the JR Chuo Line, Tsubota went in pursuit of the landscapes that Hara presumably witnessed during his life. She refined the concept for her work while talking with Hara’s family and researchers, and learning more about him.
At Open Studios, visitors can view a slideshow of Tsubota’s photographs of the sites she visited as well as photographs from the archive of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, taken after the end of the war. In addition, the simulated correspondence between Hara and the artist is also on display. It is perhaps now impossible to know everything, yet that only makes us yearn to know all the more. From Tsubota’s photographs and texts, let your thoughts roam amidst the memories that drift in the waters that divide two modern nation-states. (Ozawa Keisuke)
Kajihara Mizuki was born in 1993 in Osaka Prefecture and is now based in Kyoto Prefecture. She completed graduate studies in contemporary art at Kyoto University of Art and Design (today Kyoto University of the Arts). Her practice explores her interest in searching for the meanings of sound. Her recent work has examined Western classical music and how its structure is made apparent by a musical score, and researched the history of pieces of music and their composition. Deconstructing the sounds from which pieces of music are assembled, she makes sound— something that is abstract—visible by reconfiguring music through a process of performing and filming. For an exhibition in Vienna, Kajihara took the overture to the opera Don Giovanni, which Mozart supposedly completed while traveling, and reconfigured it while traveling by bicycle the three hundred kilometers between Vienna and Prague. Her work has recently focused on the transmission of sound. During her residency at ARCUS Project, Kajihara will reconfigure “Isobushi,” a Japanese folk song that is said to have originated in the town of Oarai in Ibaraki.
Nocturne of Ibaraki Wanderings
Score, sound, 2022
I developed an interest in the Ibaraki folk song “Isobushi,” regarded as one of the three great folk songs of Japan, due to the history of its transmission. Starting around 1907, the singing virtuoso Sekine Anchu undertook a nationwide tour with the sumo wrestler Hitachiyama Taniemon and performed the song. The pair were the medium through which what was once a work song became widely known like it is today.
As I continued to speak with experts, however, I came to learn that “Isobushi” is an example of something established as “music” for the purpose of performing.
Encompassing the countless numbers of simple rural songs originally passed down orally and other songs that were never recorded and eventually vanished without a trace, the term “folk song” that became widespread after the war actually denotes a range of songs, contexts, and interpretations too numerous and diverse to comprehend in their entirety. Moreover, these songs were previously inseparable from lifestyle and work. With the development of industrialization, the purposes of the songs were eventually forgotten. The rhythms born out of the soil and the rhythms of breathing ceased to fulfill their original functions and seem left behind today only as “music.”
Do such songs closely tied to lifestyle still exist? With that question in mind, I embarked on a journey around Ibaraki’s coastal towns. I memorized the melodies of songs I heard from people along the way and created a new song by putting them together. With the help of a folk song performer in Moriya City and locals, I have added musical accompaniment and lyrics. This is a process of reconsolidating, passing on, and recording orally transmitted information, with myself as the medium.
Kajihara Mizuki interprets music and sounds semiotically, untangles the meanings and actions that they indicate, and makes these visible through an artwork. I was impressed by her ambitious plan to both utilize the previous approaches she has adopted in her practice while also engage in something new in the form of sound and its transmission. Focusing on the Japanese folk song “Isobushi,” which is believed to have originated in the town of Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture, she will conduct research on coastal ports and rewrite the lyrics with local people to reconfigure the famous song. As opposed to classical music in the West, which typically has a fixed musical score and a composer, folk songs are written by ordinary people as they live and work in a place, interweaving the local climate, milieu, language, and physical sensations. Such songs gradually change as they spread to other areas and time goes by. We look forward to hearing how Kajihara creates a modern-day version of “Isobushi,” following interviews with people in the port town where the song originated and workshops with residents of Moriya. (Ozawa Keisuke)
Kajihara Mizuki’s practice explores her interest in the meaning, structure, and transmission of sound. In recent years, her work has focused on Western classical music, taking inspiration from the historical background behind pieces of music and anecdotes about their composition. Kajihara’s work is characterized by how it interprets the structure of pieces of music and their anecdotes in her own fashion, and reconfigures them into her physical actions. This includes elements of performance, such as a work in which she played the snare drum part of Maurice Ravel’s Boléro with a stick soaked in ink.
For her residency at ARCUS Project, Kajihara has focused on the Japanese folk song “Isobushi,” which is said to have originated in the town of Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture. As she developed her concept for the work while visiting a folk song preservation society and taking part in a singing practice, she became interested over the course of the research particularly in how work songs now exist in a state divorced from everyday life. In the past, folk songs were sung by many, passed on from person to person as they evolved with lifestyle or the locale. As the times changed, so did industry, and folk songs, linked as they were to working at a certain place, eventually ceased to adapt and be passed down to others, until they became something that must be preserved in order to survive. Not only does this denote the end of a time when singing, the body, and labor were inextricably connected, but perhaps also indicates the emergence of a whole other cultures of singing, such as karaoke.
At Open Studio, the venue will resound with a folk song pieced together and preserved by Kajihara from the songs she heard in her research. Visitors will sense the passage of time in that unique melody. (Ozawa Keisuke)
Photo: Roel Janssen
Born in Geleen, the Netherlands, in 1987, Marjolein van der Loo is based in Maastricht. She studied art education at Zuyd University of Applied Science in Maastricht and then visual cultures and curating at Aalto University in Helsinki. Alongside her work as a curator and educator, Van der Loo engages critically with modern society in her practice and methodology, attempting to reconnect humankind and nature. As a form of resistance against our homogenizing and exclusionary society, she collaborates with various partners and develops educational projects and exhibitions that utilize not only sight but all the senses. Her projects, including Lunar Calendar, an almanac for artistic practice developed from traditions of biodynamic farming and astrology, indicate the future that lies beyond modern society from the perspective of the nonhuman and ways for humans to survive.
The book, Katsura Hito
Katsura Hito orbits around the Katsura tree. This tree is an elemental spirit of
the Japanese landscape in the fall season. As the transformation of Katsura’s
colored leaves and their enchanting sweet smell changes the sensorial experience of the environment, they remind us of our connection to the seasons. Its embeddedness in Japanese folklore and traditional storytelling leads us to a yokai supernatural spirit, legend, and gardener: Katsura-Otoko or in Chinese; Wu Gang. His efforts in pruning the Katsura tree on the moon to cause lunar cycles connect cosmology to ecology as a natural part of our earthly existence. The story’s premise serves as an inspiration and starting point for this project.
During the online artist residency in the winter of 2021-2022, I started the research with a small Katsura tree in my garden and collected many different perspectives on the tree. For the onsite residency during the fall of 2022, with the possibility to carry out local research, I decided to follow a selection of strands I had gathered before. By visiting the places and meeting the humans and non-humans I had the ability to dive deeper into the stories, collect materials, and undergo experiences and adventures, becoming part of the self-constructed ecology of the Katsura tree.
To process these experiences I have used a travel and dream diary method as a starting point to create texts that move between historical analysis and multi-sensorial observations and welcome imagination and surreal interpretations. A risographed volume combines the writing with illustrations, exercises, recipes, and an interview with Aizen Katsura.
Marjolein van der Loo plans to investigate the Cercidiphyllum japonicum (katsura) tree and the related figure of Katsura-otoko (katsura man), which she hopes to present in the form of a video work or lecture performance as part of her engagement with the relationship between humans and ecosystems from the perspective of plants. Originally a character in Chinese folklore called Wu Gang and then spreading to Japan and developing into Katsura-otoko, both versions of the figure are associated with the moon. Attempting to reinterpret humankind through the framework of plants and the moon, Van der Loo will explore a relative understanding of modern society and capitalism, which have caused a rift between humans and nature and brought imbalance to ecosystems. In so doing, she will endeavor to illuminate decolonial paths. An artist, curator, and educator, Van der Loo’s methodology sees her present research while exploring a wide range of approaches, including workshops, writing, exhibitions, performances, and lectures. (Ozawa Keisuke)
Active not only as an artist but also as a curator and editor, Marjolein van der Loo’s practice is characterized by her critical engagement with modern society and attempts to reconnect humankind with nature. Originally selected for the 2021 residency, the coronavirus pandemic meant she could only participate online, but she was finally able this year to attend the residency in person at ARCUS Studio and complete her project.
Over the course of these two years, she has researched the Cercidiphyllum japonicum (katsura) tree and the related figure of the Katsura-otoko with the aim of reinterpreting the links between humans and ecosystems from the perspective of flora. The Katsura-otoko (literally, “katsura man”) is a legendary woodcutter who lives on the moon. The project saw Van der Loo research Chinese and Japanese folklore, try Kamakura-bori lacquerware (which uses katsura wood), and visit a place for playing the Chinese game go (since katsura wood is used to make the boards). The scope of her research eventually encompassed elements and locations as far afield as the Chubu and Kansai regions of central and western Japan, including the tatara furnace, Katsura Imperial Villa, and Tsukiyomi Shrine.
At Open Studios, Van der Loo presents a book that interweaves fiction with facts about the katsura tree and incidents that she experienced during her research. She has developed eight stories based on the Katsura-otoko, which unfold alongside recipes, an interview, and illustrations. The relationship between humankind and the tree cannot be encapsulated in just one thing. Into this book are inscribed the trajectories of her pursuit of such manifold connections through sensation and the imagination. I hope that the book triggers readers to begin their own explorations, in their own fashion, of our relationship with flora. (Ozawa Keisuke)