Philosophies of Dirt

Solo Exhibition by James JACK

PHILOSOPHIES OF DIRT

September 29- October 27, 2012

Artist Talk with Daisuke Awata (Art Critic, Tokyo University of the Arts) Sept. 29th VIEW HERE

Artist Talk with Katsuro Anazawa (Environmental Scientist, Tokyo University) Oct. 27th VIEW HERE

A unique 58 page full-color catalog Philosophies of Dirt featuring a selection of James Jack’s work with an essay by Brandon Shimoda (in both Japanese and English) is available for purchase. Please inquire about ordering a copy of this catalog while it is still available by filling out the contact info HERE.

0Philosophy of Dirt is a series of works on paper composed with natural soil pigment completed over the past seven years by James Jack. The poet Brandon Shimoda writes, “His is a process of storytelling as critical engagement, with the artworks manifest as both living testimonial and decisive artifact. With Philosophies of Dirt, contingent sites become models of deep thought, exemplifying Jack’s art as an act of generously unfolding witness and reclamation.”

This series is based on intimate relationships the artist has developed with forty-six sites ranging from one edge of the Pacific in Oregon to the other side of the Pacific in Hokkaido. In each of these sites James Jack has engaged with local stories and developedpage1image11784 relationships with the environmentpage1image12480 relationships with the environment utilizing a place-specific approach borrowing a sample of the land. Standing in sites such as just outside the Pearl Harbor memorial on O‘ahu, Jack is deeply affected by paradoxes in the cultural, social, political, personal and geographic history of each site.

page1image15104

Nature is often assumed to refer to the natural environment limited to trees, mountains and soil. But Asian-American Art Center in New York City director Robert Lee states, “James Jack is the other side of the coin, not an Asian American but an American Asian story. This can be said to be an American trend of thought for whom Nature is a friend, deeply mysterious yet intimate, without impulse to exploit, conquer or fear.” Pondering the indirect surroundings for the work, such as where the artwork comes from and where it goes can initiate the process of linking artworks to a wider environment. Jack states, “I make new artworks that emerge from this gap composed of conflicting social histories, ecological trauma, rich stories and other indirect factors.” Furthermore the artist has found methods of relating to this contingent site that do not express, but actually contain these deep relationships to the environment.page2image13872

Artist James JACK (b. 1979) is currently pursuing a doctorate at Tokyo University of Arts in Studio Art. While pursuing his Master’s degree at University of Hawai‘i, he was awarded the prestigious Crown Prince Akihito Scholarship to pursue artistic research in Tokyo from 2008-2010. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at TAMA Gallery in New York City, Beppu-Wiarda Gallery in Portland Oregon and the Honolulu Museum of Art. Selected group exhibitions include The Persistence of Line at Kentler Drawing Center in New York City, Yokohama Boogie at ZAIM in Yokohama, Art & Ecology at the Portland Art Center as well as an upcoming work that will be featured in the Setouchi International Art Festival in 2013. He is also an accomplished art writer who has published interviews with Byron Kim, Shigeo Anzaï, Shingo Francis and Rei Naito as well as contributing to exhibition catalogs on Mono-ha, Yoshihiro Suda and Enokura Kōji. His numerous art awards include the Annie Wong Arts Foundation in Hong Kong, Fulbright Foundation and the Japan Foundation.

page2image14408
page2image14680

Sunset House Video

A video document on the history of the town, the layers of stories in the building and my engagement with the site for SUNSET HOUSE has been completed. It was premiered in Tokyo together with a reading by poet Brandon Shimoda for the event “O Bon, Memories and the Seto Inland Sea” last month. The video engages with forgotten histories such as a stone quarry in the town of Kounoura and the Mutsumi clubhouse which was the source for the building materials used to make this structure. After making initial site visits to the island of Shodo in 2009 and beginning to work with the historic building in 2010 I literally felt stories were seeping from the walls of the building. Those stories were invisible but could be felt strongly while spending time in the community. The second stage of production at SUNSET HOUSE involved writing those stories on paper and affixing them to the mud walls. Now these memories, hopes and dreams are all inside the walls which have been closed with yakita, or burnt wood clapboards. This process is all documented in the following video document. This trailer is just a sample of the entire film which is just over 30 minutes long [Japanese/English subtitles are forthcoming]. Please contact the artist if you are interested in holding a screening of the film in a theater, cafe or gallery in your city. For more information about the artist please see the following digital portfolio from artists space.

SUNSET HOUSE Video Document (Trailer)

A Project by James Jack

32 minutes 09 seconds

2010-2013

Setouchi International Art Festival

Sunset House

As an artist in residence on Shodo Island I have developed many new artworks, most notably the permanent installation work Sunset House. I began research for the work two years ago, redesigned the interior of the house last summer and have been at work on the exterior over the past four months. The site is charged with social history that became apparent to me through daily conversations with the elderly in the area. From their stories I realized that the pillars, roof tiles and other structural materials for this shed were originally part of the “Mutsumi Club” run by the Osaka Sekizai Company. After a typhoon nearly destroyed the clubhouse forty years ago it was relocated by the current owner and used as a storage shed for fishing nets, garden tools and other odd items. Since the owner has passed away over a decade ago the shed had fallen out of use and the space was becoming stale in the absence of a current use.

5While listening to the local people’s memories of drinking parties, tea gatherings and many breaks from work that took place at this clubhouse I realized the significance of my work in this specific place at this particular time. No different from most of the islands in Setouchi and the Japanese countryside in general, the population on Shodo Island is decreasing. For school, work, convenience and many other reasons young people are leaving the countryside for urban lifestyles and fewer and fewer couples are having babies. Towns such as Kounoura where I am undertaking this artwork show the signs of decreasing population very clearly. In some areas there are more empty houses than those being lived in and it is easier to find a car with an elderly sticker than one without. In the midst of this complex social history of the place I had to find a way to incorporate the memories, wishes and dreams of these people directly into my art installation.

One of the first reasons I was fascinated by this particular shed of all the potential exhibition sites was its raw, cracking mud interior walls. Last year I preserved the characteristics of these walls while mixing white and black stone dust into the compound to create circular forms inside the wall surfaces. (More details of this stage from last year can be found on my website HERE.) This year I envisioned a similar form that suggested a circle for the exterior of the building, but chose to use materials that are commonly used in local architecture. Throughout the process of redesigning the exterior surface, I realized that people’s hopes, memories and wishes could all become an integral part of the walls themselves. I asked the local elderly group to each write a remembrance, dream or wish on a small piece of paper. This became a way for me to learn more about the history of the site and the people living in the community. I soon realized that these wishes were a genuine way for the local community to gain an active voice in the heart of this artwork. Therefore I chose to adhere their paper wishes directly to the mud walls of the building so it would be endowed with the hearts of all those who participate.

The first challenge I faced was the question, “But what is the point if these wishes be covered up by the new wood surface?” In conceiving this artwork I did not want to make things obvious, but rather to suggest the larger existence of what is already there. For example, in drawing two circles into the interior of the structure I chose to draw fragments of two larger circles, one opening up to the sky and another opening to the earth in order to suggest that which lies beyond the architecture of the building itself. The same concept held true for the wishes, but even stronger. Precisely because they not visible on the surface of the artwork the wishes impress an emotional message on the mind. That which is obvious, in front of one’s eyes, does not need to be remembered because it is visible; but that which is invisible must be actively remembered, told in a story or represented in media such as photographs. These layers of meaning in the work evolved naturally from the materials and history of the site. Some adults were skeptical at first, but one by one the wishes started pouring in from all types of people. Some residents were so enthusiastic they wrote 3-4 sheets overflowing with creativity, poetry and personal thoughts. I held two workshops, one for a kindergarden class and another for an elderly club in which everyone recorded their memories of sunsets, hopes for the present and dreams for the future. The affixing of countless wishes to the walls recharged the site with a new energy related to its roots as a clubhouse. But instead the space is now transforming into a place where people old and young, local and foreign, can meet to appreciate nature just as it is.

The materials for Sunset House reflect a deep connection between people and nature. For example I have been working exclusively with yakita, or burnt clapboards, for the exterior of the surface. These clapboards are used to resist the harsh ocean breezes in the Setouchi Inland Sea and have a unique aesthetic appeal. But I felt the structure would become too dark if it were entirely blackened, so I struggled to find other natural materials that would lighten the exterior to a more balanced composition. I found that raw wood could give a rough appeal to the section of the building where I chose to draw a circular form while maintaining a harmony of material with the burnt wood used for all of the other surfaces of the building. Additionally I added a mud wall section around the building near the roofline to draw a closer link between the interior mud walls and the exterior of the structure. Similar to the mixture used inside, I formulated a mix of local stone quarry dust to lighten the local mud used for composing earthen walls. Like many towns on the Island of Shodo, the history of this town is full of stories of a stone quarry that brought great abundance to the people in the area. I have also been purely fascinated with earth pigments for the past ten years and often incorporate these pigments into my artworks.

I will be presenting this work along with another site-specific installation titled Philosophy of Colors for an exhibition opening next week. There are still many components of the site I plan to work with in the future, therefore Sunset House will not be completed until 2013. Both artworks will be open to the public starting on December 10th and the exhibition details can be downloaded HERE. In addition to the new exterior of the building, each paper wish will be included in a video projection on the interior walls of the building. The project has been covered by a number of Japanese reporters so please read more about Sunset House in these articles which can be downloaded here 園児ら作家を”お手伝い” and 子供との描く夕焼けハウス as well as a radio broadcaster who wrote about my work on her blog after a recent visit to the studio which can be linked HERE. For those of you who cannot make it to see the work this month please stay tuned because this is a permanent installation work that will be on display again in the future.

 

Cycles of Memory Exhibit

I am developing a new project for Hokkaido that has been coordinated by the organizers of the exhibition Cycles of Memory (see flyer above). This project deals with the layers of earth and human consciousness, exposing the beauty of what lies beneath us. For this project soil will be drawn from a historical site in Hokkaido and redistributed on a mound near the exhibition venue in Tarumae. This movement of soil brings human daily labor into direct contact with the layers of soil that lie deep inside the earth, changing the color of a public site and exposing the history of a volcanic site. This project is tentatively titled Storied Landscape as people’s stories will be an integral part of the installation process, and the landscape itself will reveal people’s stories of the region and its history. I will hold workshops with the local community on July 20 and July 23rd and a public lecture is scheduled for July 24th at the Tomakomai Museum.

Miniature Landscape at Honolulu Academy of Arts

Kinau2lr_columnedI will be the Orvis Artist in Residence at the Honolulu Academy of Art starting this Saturday, May 14th. This work will be made specifically for the Academy utilizing locally available natural materials. Natural pigment samples will be sculpted into handmade conical shapes in collaboration with museum visitors on Saturdays from 10-4:30 and Sundays from 1-4pm. These cones will collectively form a miniature landscape that will be displayed outdoors in the Banyan courtyard. The cone-making process will be demonstrated in Gallery 30 and the public is invited to sculpt cones that will be a part of the outdoor installation. The goal of this work is to revitalize people’s connection to the land we live on, revealing the wealth and diversity of the soil via a site-determined installation. The work will slowly unfold over the course of my residency period from May 14- June 25th, 2011. Please come by and participate! More information can be found on the Academy’s website by clicking HERE as well as the AloHAA blog.

Natura Naturata

I will have a Solo Exhibition from July 3-23rd in Fujisawa, Japan at Kujira Space. I will do a site-specific installation with natural pigments on the wall, show works on paper and also display a new video work titled, “Mikan Story.” Its a beautiful two-story space with natural light so please come by. The opening will be on July 3rd from 4-6 pm and my artist workshop, “Let’s tell stories of Dirt!” will be held on July 10th from 1-3 pm.

 

Lunar Reflections

james_jack_galleryK copy

Kiryu Saien 桐生再演

kiryu image15th Annual Kiryu Saien Exhibition October 3- November 3rd, 2009

Information Center: Moriyoshi Studio, Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture

〒376-0034 桐生市東2-14-27

TEL/FAX 0277-47-3560
URL http://www.kiryusaien.com
E-mail kiryuu_saien@ybb.ne.jp

Exhibition Hours: Saturday and Sunday 11-17:00