review in this is tomorrow
Anthro-film Laboratory 20
Filming The Everyday:
Poetics of Observation and Sense of Place in Artist,
Experimental and Ethnographic Cinema.
Speaker : Becca Voelcker
Date & Time: June 27th, 16:00 –, 2016
Venue: National Museum of Ethnology,
4th Floor, Eizo Jikken Shitsu
(Visual Experiment Laboratory),
Senri Expo-Park 10-1, Suita, Osaka
reservation is required by 2 days before the seminar
会場： 国立民族学博物館4階 映像実験室
Watching a film can be like traveling to another place. We smell and feel the film’s sights and sounds, learning about other cultures and perspectives. Unbound from conventional plot or narrative, experimental non-fiction film enjoys freedom in conveying everyday life and sense of place. It can be made by anthropologists, artists, poets, and by you or me— as well as by trained filmmakers. Given the current global context of economic, political and environmental migration, places and identities are changing every day. Shifting patterns of landscape, language, labour and memory mean that attending to issues of place (and displacement) is vital for preserving peace, promoting intercultural understanding, and protecting the environment. This talk looks at ways I have engaged with filmmaking and sense of place through scholarly, artistic and curatorial approaches. It asks what exactly might be meant by ‘sense of place,’ and why should it be held in such high regard in art, anthropology and film studies. Drawing from examples from around the world, including films made at Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, this talk will attempt to identify some common threads that weave diverse filmmaking practices together. It will also draw from Japanese examples and discuss a curatorial project I am currently developing about Japanese nonfiction film and sense of place. The talk will be in English but please feel free to comment and ask questions in Japanese.
recorded and edited by Becca Voelcker
CD, stereo, 18 minutes
with thanks to
Bliss, Koko and Andre Uhl
Ernst Karel, Andrew Littlejohn
and the sonic ethnography class
Sensory Ethnography Lab
A film essay by Becca Voelcker.
Colour, sound. 48 min.
with thanks to Professor T. Bestor
[This film essay tracks ways in which six directors have filmed Tokyo’s transport system as a cinematic vehicle for exploring socio-economic and political senses of place in the city. The voiceover is a collage of writings drawn from anthropology, urbanism, and visual theory, while the images and soundtrack are taken from the original films.
Transport runs throughout these films by way of shots of (or taken from) Tokyo’s subway, commuter trains, taxis and elevators. Different from American road movies, where wide roads stretch ‘out west’ and evoke notions of freedom, these films are routed and rooted in describing the densely built city and its defined social practices. While on one hand they document journeys that are bound to iron tracks and scheduled for commuting, they also sidetrack into territories of unrest.
Taking as its departure point the year 1960, Tracked also traces the profound influence of Japanese filmmakers (Ozu, Tsuchimoto, Adachi) on their European successors (Wenders, Marker, Grandrieux), and more widely, how Tokyo has so thoroughly captured the imaginations of people in and outside Japan. A seminal decade in Japan’s social history, the 1960s witnessed unprecedented economic growth, continual political and cultural influence from the West (particularly America), and an increasingly prominent role for youth in society. As Japan’s capital city, Tokyo found itself in the thoroughfare of such changes. While the renewal of the US-Japan Security Treaty (1960), the Tokyo Olympics (1964) and the Osaka World Expo (1970) put Japan on the world stage in this decade, many Japanese questioned the benefits of their country’s supposed boom and, with increasing discontent, they took to the streets.
Today, after the economic bubble, after the global financial crisis, and after Fukushima, Tokyo is a very different place. However, certain tracks from the 1960s have left traces. With Prime Minister Abe altering Japan’s military legislation, and nuclear power plants being re-opened, people are once again occupying Tokyo’s streets in protest. In 2020 Tokyo will host the Olympics again and is preparing itself for a demonstration of the nation’s recovery from the Great Eastern Earthquake (as did the 1964 Olympics, in its post-war recovery). The Tokyo-Kanazawa shinkansen line and a proposed mag-lev train are just two examples of the way in which Japan is mapping out this recovery and mobility. Down the line, films that map the corresponding spatial and social effects of such mobility will invite further ‘tracking,’ and couple to the rolling stock of city films presented here.]
Ozu, Yasujiro. Late Autumn (Akibiyori). Japan, 1960, colour, 127 min.
Wenders, Wim. Tokyo Ga. Germany/ Japan, 1985, colour, 92 min.
Tsuchimoto, Noriaki. On the Road: A Document (Dokyumento rojō). Japan, 1964, black and white, 54 min.
Marker, Chris. The Koumiko Mystery. France/ Japan, 1967, colour, 54 mins.
Sans Soleil. France/ Japan, 1983, colour, 103 min.
Adachi, Masao. AKA Serial Killer (Ryakushō renzoku shasatsuma). Japan, 1969, 86 min.
Grandrieux, Philippe. It May Be that Beauty has Reinforced Our Resolve (Il se peut que la beauté ait renforcé notre resolution). France/ Japan, 2011, colour, 74 min.
Hirohisa KOIKE (b. 1979, Japan) and Becca VOELCKER (b. 1990, U.K) both explore place in terms of geopolitical resonances, associated memories, and sensory importance. In both their practices, even when the human body is not visible, an embodied sense of place is expressed through attention to traces left by people, or to textures and visual rhythms present within landscapes.
This is their first joint exhibition, and both present new work. KOIKE's photographs explore liminal spaces such as mountain borders, forests or seas, taken in Japan and Latvia this summer. These images evoke personal terrains of emotion and experience, as well as political frontiers (Latvia is a former Soviet-ruled nation, whose land and sea border five countries). Exploring a similarly complex place in terms of its history of independence and subordination, VOELCKER's photographs of Ishigaki (Okinawa) document everyday life, and explore the continuum between people and the island they inhabit.
No. 12 Gallery, 2-29-13 Uehara, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
5th - 10th December 2014
Opening: Friday 5th, 18.00-20.00
Open daily: 12.00-19.00
Hitomi is from Osaka, and after she moved to Ishigaki, her parents shut up shop and joined her on the island, to open a new oden ya. The shop's meishi (business card) and sign read ‘Oden: made by father, mother, and sometimes daughter too.’ Oden is a dish of various ingredients stewed in soy-flavoured dashi. Hitomi’s parents are proud that they make their dashi (soup stock made from fish and kelp) fresh each day, and don’t use bottled soy sauce. Diners select from a deep and compartmented tray of dashi, which steams at the counter. It contains hard-boiled eggs, daikon radish, konnyaku (a solidified jelly made from the root of devil’s tongue), and chikuwa (a tube shaped fish-paste cake). The oden ya opens at 8 pm, gets busy after midnight, and remains so right up until closing at 3 am. Many of the customers work in other restaurants and come for oden after closing time. Oden is warming, easy to digest, and generally low in calories. Another late-night dish served in the oden ya is dendashi gohan, a bowl of cooked rice (gohan) with the oden's dashi, and a raw egg. Stirred up with chopsticks, the rice becomes a warm, soft porridge. This type of dish is eaten for breakfast throughout Japan. And after all, it's nearly breakfast time by the time the oden ya closes.
Employment in Ishigaki varies from local services such as the kindergarten and tatami makers, to diving rentals and hotels. Little English is spoken on the island, and most of the tourists are Japanese. I cycle slowly through the town looking at the local businesses and deciphering their signs and shop fronts. Barbershop, key cutting shop, a samisen workshop, sugarcane and souvenir shops, post office, architects practice, bento (lunchbox) shop, and a tatami makers’. Pulling up outside the tatami makers’ open roller shutters, I ask a man in his seventies, who is working inside, if I can watch and photograph as he uses a machine to sew a decorative tape along the edge of the mats. Soon his wife pads towards us and shows me the huge needle and thread once used when they sewed tapes onto the tatami by hand. She tells me about their grown-up children living in Tokyo, and shows me the sacks of straw in the back. Then we look at the family’s certificates – similar framed certificates line most offices. She gives me some iced tea and the three of us sit in their back room with their little dog – which is dressed in clothes, as most Japanese dogs are.
'Every need, say hunger for fresh air or food, is a lack that denotes at least a temporary absence of adequate adjustment with surroundings. But it is also a demand, a reaching out into the environment to make good the lack and to restore adjustment by building at least a temporary equilibrium. Life itself consists of phases in which the organism falls out of step with the march of surrounding things and then recovers unison with it – either through effort or by some happy chance. And, in a growing life, the recovery is never mere return to a prior state, for it is enriched by the state of disparity and resistance through which it has successfully passed. If the gap between organism and environment is too wide, the creature dies. If its activity is not enhanced by temporary alienation, it merely subsists.'
Dewey, J. 2005 (1934) Art As Experience. London: Penguin. [p.p.12-13]
'Memories, not necessarily conscious but retentions that have been organically incorporated into the very structure of the self, feed present observation. They are the nutriment that gives body to what is seen. As they are rewrought into the matter of the new experience, they give the newly created object expressiveness. [...]
'To the being fully alive, the future is not ominous but a promise; it surrounds the present as a halo. It consists of possibilities that are felt as a possession of what is now and here. In life that is truly life, everything overlaps and merges. But all too often we exist in apprehensions of what the future may bring, and we are divided within ourselves. Even when not overanxious, we do not enjoy the present because we subordinate it to that which is absent. Because of the frequency of this abandonment of the present to the past and future, the happy periods of an experience that is now complete because it absorbs into itself memories of the past and anticipations of the future, come to constitute an aesthetic ideal. Only when the past ceases to trouble and anticipations of the future are not perturbing is a being wholly united with his environment and therefore fully alive. Art celebrates with particular intensity the moments in which the past reenforces the present and in which the future is a quickening of what now is'.
Dewey, J. 2005 (1934) Art As Experience. London: Penguin. [p.p. 93; 17]