There are three essential elements to my "Passage Project." Each one contributes to the completion of every "Passage" work. They are "The Three Cs" -- Creativity, Connection, and Communication.
As an artist, I have chosen the term “Passage” as the over-arching theme of my works in bamboo. The meaning here derives from the Japanese word dou or michi [道] which means “way” or “road” – or, in the case of my work, “passage.” It is the artistic road I have been traveling along as I work with bamboo. In the Japanese language, dou also refers to the spiritual discipline of the art, like sa-dou (the Way of Tea) or ken-dou (the Way of the Sword). In each case, the “way” or “passage” refers to the spiritual ritual that is at the heart of the art. In the truest meaning of dou, one trains in the ritual of tea ceremony or of sword wielding as a road of commitment to deepening one’s own spirituality. The dou is also the endless “road” or “way” of elevating one’s self through constant commitment to the art.
“Always I am listening to the heart-beat of the Earth
and my creations echo this pulse of Nature.”
When I begin planning a bamboo work, I respond to the site where the work will be created and to the go-dai, the traditional “five elements” of the world’s creation — earth, water, fire, wind, and sky. I must concentrate on a concept for the work that will be in harmony with the location. The work must enhance the space it occupies and its surroundings; therefore, each of my works is different and unique. It could only be done in this one spot. I call this “space consciousness.”
I cannot create these large installations all by myself. I need a group of volunteers to help me construct the installation. Each project brings together people who probably have never met before and who become connected to one another through teamwork and achievement. Since they are almost all from the local community, it also provides a true connection to this community. The volunteers come from many sectors of the community, artists, students, retirees, museum interns, and people passionate about nature. I want the volunteers to share with me the happiness of creation. They are part of the creative process and together we “make art.” Together we experience how creating art transcends discord, war, the evils of this world, and brings peace and joy. I also want to connect with all the people of the community who come to see my work. If you can feel this connection, then we share the power that art possesses.
For me, these meetings and connections are very exciting. “Treasure every meeting for it will never occur again.” This is the way I understand “connection.” My work is ephemeral. It only lasts for a short time, but I hope that connecting with my work will be a memory that lasts forever.
This is a very important element of my artistic process. I must communicate with my material, with the space my work will occupy, and finally with people.
I must communicate my vision of the work to the volunteers so they are inspired to work hard together to complete the installation. Also my work must connect the spectators with nature. Each ”Passage” is a medium to connect people to nature. When someone visits my work, I hope that person will use all of his or her five senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch – to engage and interact with the five elements. More important than the visual satisfaction is the feeling a visitor takes away from an encounter with my work. If the visitor has a soothing, comforting experience walking through my installation, then my work as an artist is complete.
What is my material?
My medium is living material. Right now I am using bamboo. It is natural material, the most environmentally-friendly natural material. Bamboo grows to its full height and diameter in 50 or 60 days. In two years it is “ripe” enough to use as material for my work. Wood is different. It takes many years for a tree to grow to the point where it is useable. Bamboo reproduces through extending its roots underground while trees grow from seeds. Bamboo replaces itself very quickly. For these reasons, Japanese people have traditionally used bamboo for many purposes: food, tools, utensils, furniture, cloth. Even now Asian people are using bamboo in their daily lives. Bamboo is very versatile and can be split, woven, or tied. Also bamboo endures a long time. There are many different species of bamboo. I use only one species – madake bamboo – because I can split it, bend it, shape it.
Bamboo is very important in Japanese culture. Not only do we Japanese make many things for our daily life from bamboo, but also it has deep spiritual connections for us. Even now festivals and worship that date way back in Japanese history use bamboo as part of the rituals. For example, at New Year’s time, Japanese people place kadomatsu at the front door of their homes. These are decorations that combine pine and bamboo to symbolize longevity and good fortune.
Once bamboo was more widely used, but all too often plastic has replaced bamboo in everyday use, like chopsticks or baskets. Bamboo is greatly used in mingei or folk craft. But at the end of the 20th century, as people began to think about the natural environment, they began turning to bamboo for new uses…charcoal, flooring, plywood, vinegar, paper. And my teacher, Teshigahara Hiroshi, found new use for bamboo as a medium for fine art. So, as an installation artist, I am using bamboo as my medium, taking bamboo beyond utilitarian daily use to the level of art where it gives people new experience.
In my work I use freshly cut green bamboo. I must respect this bamboo; it has life, energy, and beauty of its own. I cannot control it one hundred percent. I must communicate with the bamboo in order to make it work successfully. I must extract the energy and beauty of the bamboo and give it new life in my creation, a sort of “reincarnation” for the bamboo.