2019.08.25 Sunday

A celebration for the souls.


    Konichiwa !


    My name is Constance Hinfray, I'm a new resident of ongoing art center.

    I'm half french, half german, and I am very interested about japanese culture.

    It's great to be able to research about the myths and the legends I've been fascinated about, but also observe how

    the the many spiritualities emerges in the daily life here.


    Maybe it's because as a kid we used to play too much gameboy and I finally end up believing I was a pokémon myself, 

    but I think that as french kids, growing up in the nineties, we were sensibilized somehow to animism. 

    The japanese animé wave impacted France and I can't count the hours playing and watch at The legend of Zelda or Pokémon.


    For my first post, I wan't to talk about a special phenomenon that I could observe.

    Our relations with our ancesters and death. Cultivating faith and maintaining a spiritual

    relation with the people we knew and loved has to be something very intimate I guess.

    In japan I discovered a whole invitation to do so.





    And not only with our ancesters, but with people who died in general.

    Praying for everyone may be something normal in a country that encounter so many

    disasters and lost.


    How the dominant religion in your original country brings the subject of death in the 

    dogma and aesthetic must surely influence the way we see the world, the life and death.

    Or you have an intern faith as strong as a roc and you are capable to select the holy education

    you get or you might slowly adapt yourself to the vision of whatever priest is in front of you.

    (The first time I understood japanese spiritual sensibility resonates with me was the first time

    I went to onsen. I was asked to get totally naked in front of other women, it is something I never

    have been told to do in France, where the tendency is rather to hide your nudity or add artifices to it.

    The pleasure to go in the bath, naked, outside under the sknow was unforgettable. )


    Lets go back to our subject.


    Do the deads live in harmony with the living in Japan.


    Early this week, I was invited by Yukie to attend a once-in-a-year festival called "Toro Nagashi - floating lanterns

    festival" , in the west of Tokyo, in the neighborhood of the Jindai-ji temple. This festival is part of a japanese-budhist

    traditional fest for the dead called "O-Bon" (a festive equivalence of our catholic "Toussaint").

    After a dinner made of Soba noodles, we walked in the night to a river in a very green and calm area.

    On the water were floating more than one hundred little lanterns, all with cute drawings and writings on it.

    The vision of this lights, and the orchestra next to it, in the dark yet intimate night was enchanting.


    We were a lot of people to look at the lanterns going away slowly on the water.

    The atmosphere was calm, quiet, relaxing. Not too much joy, but no sorrows and sadness.

    Just as soothing as a quiet evening, altogether.

    The event was dedicated to the people who lost life during 2011 earthquacke ( the one that 

    cause the explosion of Fukushima nuclear center.)


    The budhists believe that the spirits come back on earth during Obon and enter in connexion with their 

    family and beloved (I just met someone who told me that actually the family pick up the ghost at the cemetary for the week of Obon.)

    . The family welcome this special event and prepare an "altar", with fruits and invariably 

    an eggplant that symbolize a cow and a cucumber that symbolize a horse, to help the defunct to ride between the house and the cemetary.


    This is a very special moment, where the souls can be appeased, where the spirits that lost their ways after

    death can finally find home and peace.

    This is meaningful to me as I used to lay down under the stars and talk to my grandfather ( they said he was

    going to North pole when he died.)

    I'm still asking him some support from time to time but as an adult I'm sometimes asking myself if he can really 

    listen to me, as in the catholic education, the souls are going to heaven after they die and there is no real imagination about

    how to enter in connexion with the dead people.


    Making a special time to welcome them back and enjoying time with them feels actually natural and gentle.

    That this moment is neither sad or dark but rather enlightening and calming appears also as normal.

    If death is a continuity of life, and considered as something as natural as being born and breathe, how to

    deal with the influence of the religious dogma on what we feel and how we deal personally with our intimacy?

    In the catholic church, death is among other symbols, represented by Jesus on the cross, bleeding and sacrificing 

    himself. The cross is a reminder of the sacrifice he did for us and its held in the entrance of every catholic house and schools.

    In my opinion this representation cultivates rather fear toward dying and culpability (even if we did nothing wrong.)

    More precisely, it can stop the natural intimate connexions we developp with invisible worlds and the ones who left who

    needs our blessings and not be transformed into something sacred and distant.


    Now, in a complete contradiction to the soothing ritual the budhists offers to the souls, last august two prisonners were

    hanged in Japan. They commited murders on women (two and three). In Japan the death sentence is still allowed and more

    than 100 prisonners are waiting for the final sentence. Often they and their family don't know when its going to happen.

    In fact, the state gives itself the power to decide in full conscience and with using a painful method, the right of death toward

    an human.



    Two opposite mentalities are existing on the same territory and this makes me do a complete loop

    to conclude. In  " Princess Mononoké ", Miyazaki's masterpiece, nature and culture appear to be in complete contradiction.

    to my occidental eyes. I treated the movie as I would do with a Walt Disney, the good in opposition to the bad.

    No bad in the good, and no good in the bad. Of course I was on Princess Mononoké side, as I defend nature and wildlife.

    After talking with Takayuki, it appears that there are no good or bad camp. The bad is living with the good. Point.


    And this is the first introduction to the complex and multiple japanese culture and mythology.


    See you on the next lecture.

















    2018.11.02 Friday



      There are in this country some places, where people like to add ribbons. I wanted to ask since my arrival, what this kind of loop or bow means. I was not sure if I could speak openly about it. In my driving license, it says that one should never ask a question to an unknown person about his/her body or religion. Sometimes, -I thought- these ribbons could be some kind of Talisman or a gift in memory of a loved one.

      The country doesn't seem dangerous to me. Why would these people hang talismans from trees, fences or ropes? Walking along the streets in the dark hours is never scary. There are just too many people living in this country, especially in this city. During the day it is so crowded that I can't get on the train. People wait in line, so orderly. They often fall asleep in the train.

      If the ribbons were some kind of Talisman, why is it so popular, so prevalent? I didn't know the name of this evil spirit, from whom people wanted to protect themselves. None revealed the name to me and I never tried to find out. In some cultures, one should never pronounce the name of an evil power. Otherwise, it could appear in reality. One should call it indirectly. For example, in place of its name one says “it”.

      Some weeks ago, I was about to take a bullet train from Osaka to Tokyo, when I was told by Arisa -a friend of a friend of mine- that a man had wriggled out of the bathroom window of the train and leaped to freedom. She added that this man wasn't intelligent since he hadn't understood that freedom could only be among the living ones. The man was depressed. He worked over 72 hours per week and committed suicide. He used to live alone, Aria said, while she touched the pink lace hanging from her bag.

      What does that ribbon mean? I asked. Surprised, she looked at me and asked if I meant the lace of her pet cuddly keychain. The idea of having a “pet” hanging from a keychain seemed to me somehow disturbing. Arisa said uninterested that the pink lace of her pet cuddly keychain had no meaning, “it is just decoration”.



      (a variation of Yoko Tawada's Text)




      2018.10.25 Thursday

      crumbled into fragments



        (like) a clamshell
        divided into two we depart now
        into this autumn ...


        Entre las olas:

        (crumbled into fragments)

        acá, los pétalos,

        allá, las conchas.


        "Narrow Road to Oku". MATSUO, BASHO


        2018.10.18 Thursday

        Naoshima Art Complex: of how a praying mantis rocks at James Turrel’s Open Sky


          When trying to understand how the island of Naoshima, located in the Seto Inland Sea, became a major tourist destination within the last two decades, one takes a closer look at the foundation of the Benesse Corporation and tries to understand its interest for the island and its relationship with the Mitsubishi company, which has been exploiting the resources of the northern part of the island for hundred years. Nothing seems clear. On the one hand, the Benesse Corporation has been enriched by the need of rich parents to overeducate their kids, producing correspondence publishing and educational materials for children. On the other side, the local administration of the island is looking for investors helping to change its land’s image overseas. According to rumors, the project starts with the idea of creating a summer camp for kids. A learning environment in direct contact with nature. Apparently, this never happens. Instead, the chairperson decides to build a very sophisticated hotel, the first in the island, in order to share his top-art collection with his friends and spread the company’s motto “Benesse” of -Well-Being. Designed in partnership with the great architect Tadao Ando, the hotel is just the beginning of an enormous project, which nowadays involves the islands of Naoshima and Teshima in Kagawa Prefecture and the Inujima island in Okayama Prefecture.



          Naoshima’s public main attraction is the Chichu Art Museum. Using only concrete -the material by which Ando’s work gained international acclaim, the museum has been entirely designed in order to ensure the best contemplation of its artworks, while working in dialog with the natural environment of the island. The spaces have been built almost entirely underground, creating a playful aerial view of basic geometrical forms such as squares, rectangles, and triangles. This powerful perspective, which is only available through the image archive of the museum, cannot be experienced as Earthling. The whole complex has a very strict no-photo policy.

          The visit begins through the Chichu Garden. Along the roadway from the ticket counter to the museum’s entrance, a little river waters dozens of types of flora similar to those planted by Claude Monet, such as water lilies. A unique introduction to his work, which later on will be seen inside the museum.

          (I enjoy looking at the gardener. He seems so proud of this beautiful place and shows some visitors the most valuable specimens.)



          Once inside the complex, the visitor is conducted through a semi-open-air experience of concrete and light. The side walls of the triangular venue, contain an interior hallway open to the outside, allowing to experience the changing effects of light and shadow from different perspectives, while the visitor goes up and down to the following spaces. As if the shape of this very first space introduced the trinity of artists selected for this almost sacred experience, the visitor is invited to contemplate the masterpieces of Walter de María, Claude Monet and James Turrel. Ando’s meticulous design succeeds in creating the best atmosphere for the contemplation of these artworks. Nothing seems to be left to chance. The pristine staff’s uniform is the perfect camouflage for the environment and their efficient commitment to arrange every pair of shoes equidistantly on the access to the art pieces is almost performative.



          I experience the highlight of my visit to James Turrel’s Open Sky installation. When entering” this square space, one is firstly blinded by the reflected light. While sitting on the bench annexed to the walls of the inner square structure of the room, my eyes slowly get used to this brightness. I look at the window to the sky and for a moment I experience that intriguing blued flatness. There are no clouds. It seems like a perfect day in heaven. Suddenly, something breaks the illusion. A praying mantis has visited us from the outer world and is now struggling not to fall down into space. The insect’s in and out movements reveal the hidden volume of the window’s fence/frame and ruin Turrel’s intention. I cannot avoid that smile on my face. This little insect seems so powerful for a moment and the situation is irremediably linked to subtle irony. A certain sort of pathos makes up a bittersweet sensation inside me.



          I leave the building and enjoy a bike ride to the Art House Project of Honmura, looking for a more earthly (maybe less elitist) experience of art.

          I higly recommend having a baht at Shinro Ohtake's installation and enjoying some of the local culinary specialties. 



          2018.10.14 Sunday



            After visiting Amanohashidate I leave the coast, drive back to the south and stop at Aino Station. There should be a bus driving to the Tamba Traditional Crafts Park, Tachikui Sue no Sato, but the area doesn’t seem to be attractive enough for tourists and there is neither information in English, nor anyone ready to help. I was hoping I could leave my backpack in the lockers but there are none. I leave the station, a bus approaches but it doesn’t stop. I cross the street and enter a shop whose nature I am not able to identify. There is an old lady inside. I show her the park’s address from my mobile phone. After looking at me she puts her glasses on and has a look at the screenshot. She leaves the place and walks towards the station. I follow her and she takes me to the bus stop where I understand, I should wait. Without saying anything, she takes a seat next to me. I look at her. Serenely she stares at her business's door. I decide not to say anything. We wait. About 20 minutes later a bus approaches, stops in front of us and picks me up. When the bus has left the station, I see her in the distance crossing the street back to the shop.

            I hadn’t thought about it since then.

            Visiting Tachikui Sue no Sato was very stimulating. Maybe too much. The city has around 60 pottery studios, hundreds of tableware. At some point, I am not able to digest it all. The saturation takes me to a coffee. Hoping to have a visual rest, on the way I find an open classroom where people of all ages knead the clay between their hands and against the table, determined to give shape to that piece of earth. Curiosity moves me in. I am given a portion of clay and offered a place to seat.