The Moon, the Beautiful and Myself (2019)
Timber wall with a various different sizes of timbers - 2440 x 6400mm, a partially sliced log and Japanese Shibuzumi paint on the timber wall
The Moon, the Beautiful and Myself offers a version of Japanese aesthetics based on the concept of Nō. It is Japan’s oldest lyrical theatre and has been playing for 600 years with almost no artistic changes. Its concept of what we see is not what we seek. It is an art form of excessive tension.
Many people among the Japanese population who have been through the post-World War II period, have self-sufficient lifestyles, are deeply appreciative of what they already have and worship material as much as they can, repurposing it as best they can.
The Moon, the Beautiful and Myself is my attempt to understand this ethic by enacting it. The reality of finding materials links me to the fates of contractors, timber dealers and truck drivers. I treasure the time with the materials. The body in action, the individual in action, in relation. I talk and pray to my materials. They feel me. They do not talk back to me when I conquer them or am in an irritable mood. Every piece of material in this work has individualities and none of them can be treated the same. In a process of understanding, my body engages with the material, becoming a kind of organic machine of constant movement. There is a rhythm of negotiation and connection between the material and myself, between the weight of the material in my hands and my hand’s pressure on the material as it passes through the machine blade, and between our greeting when I come and another when I leave the private space.
The timbers on the wall of the work were collected from demolition sites and timber dealers. Some were purchased at a recycling centre, while others were about to go to the dump or were commercially unsellable. A log on the floor was found in a valley. These materials would otherwise have been thrown away without being seen. Everything has intrinsic worth. I breathed new life into the materials.
The paint on the timber wall, extremely diluted Shibuzumi 渋墨(literally sour black ink) is a Japanese traditional paint. It is usually used for preventing borer, rain and humidity damage on the exterior of wooden architecture. It is a mix of natural ingredients including sour persimmons, Japanese sake and ashes and contains no artificial chemicals. Each type of timber absorbs Shibuzumi differently, as they are individually unique.
Japanese folk believe trees have emotions and, particularly the old ones, have a soul. This is particularly true of the large trees which grow on or around the land of a shrine or temple. Nō theatre is originally an homage to Kami-sama (Shintō God). Its stage is ritually divided into the after world and this world. Nō performers consecrate their performance to Kami-sama in front of the pine tree painting on the wall of the Nō theatre.
The Moon, the Beautiful and Myself is also based on the acceptance lecture of the Nobel Prize for Literature by Yasunari Kawabata - "Japan, The Beautiful and Myself".