On other pages of this website, I shared some pieces that were a part of my exchanges with Jon Sasaki for the Yume. Digital Dreams project (the pickling poem sweet brine & the audio poem the play of slippages) and also our final collaborative piece Misconstructions.
Here, on this page, I thought I’d share a few more of our back and forth exchanges. While they don’t give the full extent of our conversations, hopefully they will offer a sense of the way we engaged with this Yume process and an inkling of the trust, respect, and friendship that developed over our weeks and months of working together.
* * *
The first thing that Jon sent me, was a photograph that he took when he was in Steveston, B.C. while he was there back in 2019, for his project We First Need A Boat For The Rising Tide To Lift Us. I could hardly believe that the very first thing that I received was this photograph of a furo, that Ojiichan (my grandfather) built, in my mother’s old family home. It felt uncanny. I mean really, what are the odds?
From that moment, with that beginning, I had a good feeling about our collaboration.
In response, I created this audio piece which I sent to Jon, along with the image of Ojiichan’s tools.
* * *
Another time, Jon sent me an image that was labelled inept paper dolls.
I really enjoyed spending some quiet, reflective time with this image, the day it arrived. And as I continued to sit with it, a poem surfaced … and that led to putting brush and inks to paper … eventually leading to the accordion folded bookwork, I always say that I can’t draw draw — but isn’t drawing just a moving line?
In order to keep the flow of our exchanges going, I sent him photos of the bookwork as well as the text for the poem, via email. Since it’s such a different experience though, to physically hold and read a piece, I knew that I needed to make a trip to the post office the next day, to mail Jon the actual bookwork.
The following is the text of the six part poem that was written on the pages of this bookwork.
I always say
that I can’t
just a moving
and shadow folds
hand in hand
and interior spaces —
not rooms, per say
in the body.
as I enlarge
I feel a whispering
in my lungs
each cut out
where fingers held
while scissors cut
& shadowy dreams —
are these cut outs
I’m curious about
the word, “inept”
on the photo’s label —
it makes me think
of the word
silkscreened by Katarina
on the front of
clothes found at a church
made anew and
sold to fellow artists.
she wondered who
would buy that shirt.
yup, it was me
who proudly wore
“inadequate” for years.
* * *
On February 7th, Jon sent me a photograph that he took in a hotel in Wakayama, Japan.
“The room only had one little window and it opened to a 1 foot gap between my hotel and the adjacent building,” he said, “so the decorator installed a lightbox with a beautiful beach and mountain scene… it felt like a cheesy but effective workaround.” Then he asked, “if you had to spend 2 weeks in a room with no windows, what would your lightbox scene be?”
Two images came to mind, almost immediately. The first was a photograph of Takakkaw Falls — which has always felt like a powerful, spiritual place to me. But it was the second image, that I knew was the one I’d want to have in that room with me.
still, not still is a composite of two images that I’ve worked with separately, in the past — a photograph of glacial ice that I took at Athabasca Glacier and an old photograph from the Meiji Era, of a young woman riding a stuffed crane. In response to Jon’s question, I saw these images in my mind as one … as a lingering … as something still in me, unfinished … and I found myself wondering, if I closed my eyes, would a story come to the page or off my tongue, from this still, not still image? Maybe, when falling asleep in that room with this image, some bits of the story might surface from the dreams of night.
* * *
On March 11th, after we had taken a bit of a break from the intensity of our back and forth exchanges, and were ready to dive back in, Jon sent me a drawing that he called Improvised Kites.
This piece took me by surprise, as it was so unlike anything I had received from him previously … well, to be honest, so much in our back and forth exchanges was unexpected … and that’s in part, what made it such a delight. It really felt like a treat every time something arrived in my inbox. And I found myself thinking, on more than one occasion, what a lovely way to get to know someone … through an exchange of delightful, thoughtful, and at times curious arrivals.
Initially, I wrote and sent Jon a much longer poem in response to his drawing. That poem later got shortened down to this version.
responding to Improvised Kites
three boys with their makeshift kites
creating play from the found
and from what they happen to have
(a stop sign, cardboard from a used FedEx box
and a pair of pants).
this drawing of making do
of improvising, of quiet play
repurposing stories of weight
and inherited lifts.
the boy with the pants kite, doesn’t run
to get his kite to lift
he simply stands
staring out, or back
* * *
On March 25th, one of the things that Jon sent me was the following image.
There was an experiment that I wanted to try, using a Zoom chat with Jon, as material for creating a poem … or for trying to create a poem. I started out thinking that maybe I’d write a haiku, in response to Jon’s A Freeform Haiku. In the process of working with the Zoom footage however, that’s not what surfaced. Instead, the experiment led to this rather quirky poetic play … a one minute video that speaks a bit about our collaborative process of being in conversation, of listening, of responding, and of having some fun.
I’m someone who tends to follow my instincts and hunches. If an idea pops into my head, especially if it doesn’t quickly fade, I just want to try it out. I get curious. I get excited. I find myself wondering what might happen or what might be revealed, if I just allow myself to be in the moment and to play.
What I truly appreciate, is that Jon was willing to let me try out my experiment even though he expressed an unease with seeing himself over Zoom. Thanks so much, Jon!
* * *
While there were many different threads and ideas that cropped up in our conversations and back and forth exchanges, one that kept reoccurring was the importance, and at times necessity, of being able to adapt to whatever circumstances and challenges one finds oneself in. Adaptability … repurposing … learning to make do … to build with whatever we have on hand or with what can be found.
While we might not always address these things directly in our work, we both recognized that this was part of our inherited histories. This embodied kind of knowing is present I think, even when we don’t necessarily articulate it specifically. It’s simply and complexly, a part of who we are.
It has been such an enriching experience to participate in the Yume. Digital Dreams project, to be in collaboration with Jon Sasaki, and to get to know the other artists who were a part of the project. And at last night’s vernissage, it was wonderful to hear and see the different approaches and creative works shared … each offering glimpses into each team’s creative exploration. By bringing us all together for this project, Matt Miwa and Julie Tamiko Manning have introduced us to each other … and who knows where this might lead in the future.
Deep thanks to both Matt & Julie, and to all artists who were a part of this initial Yume. Digital Dreams project. Dawn Obokata, Kayla Isomura, Linda Uyehara Hoffman, Kunji Ikeda, Michael Fukushima, Lillian Michiko Blakey, Shion Skye Carter, Miya Turnbull, Teiya Kasahara, Noriko Kobayashi, Will Shintani, and Hitoshi Sugiyama … thank you for sharing your works, and your creative and collaborative energy, with us all. And Jon, thank you for your trusting and your deeply thoughtful and caring collaborative spirit, and for your friendship. Much gratitude to you all.
(Tuesday, May 17th, 2022)