Searching for an Island

IMG_8162 copyI am holding a series of workshops on Momoshima Island this week for a new artwork to be made for the project “100 Ideas on Tomorrow’s Island: What art can do for a better society.” On the first day we will generate ideas of what this island might look like, what kind of plants are growing there and how it might be named. The second day will include walks in the Tomari town neighborhood investigating the local history and stories of boat journeys. On the third day we will take an actual boat trip to search for this unknown island while taking notes, observing sounds and watching for signs of an island that is rumored to have vanished.

For part of my ongoing research into contingent environments I was stimulated to hear a local story on a visit to Momo Island a few months ago. There was a distinctively large stone named “dango” on the tip of the penninsula right behind the small shrine in the town of Tomari. It was a sign post in the local community and part of the seascape that could be seen from most outlooks on the Seto Inland Sea. One day an intensive storm came into town. While everyone was securing their houses and boats to protect from damage the dango stone was swallowed up by the sea. Its soft sandstone base is all that remains now in the view of the sea from the small road on the tip of the town. Changes in the place are expressed in the living memories of the stone in the stories told by the island residents.

Sunset House Video Release

The creative energy of four musicians, one artist and an entire community were expressed in this musical event held on November 3, 2013 at Sunset House: Language as the house of Being. A special video has been released to share this event held at the end of the Setouchi International Art Festival with new audiences. Please enjoy at the following link below:

Artist: James Jack

Musicians: Ryu Furusawa, Akira Tanabe, Makoto Noumi, Bruce Huebner

Sponsored by: U.S. Embassy, Tokyo

Co-operation: Kounoura Village, Shodoshima Town, Shigeru Moriguchi, Etsuko Hamawaki, Makio Kuroshima, Yoshiaki Kawata, Mikio Tamura

Videography: Goun Video Graphic

Sunset House Musical Gathering video link

“Solvitur Ambulando” exhibit


November 7- December 7, 2013

HONOLULU- The Honolulu Museum of Art, Honolulu Museum of Art School Mezzanine Gallery will feature the collaborative work of James Jack and Toshiaki Tomita in the exhibition Solvitur Ambulando. This exhibition has been made possible by collaboration with curator Marion Cadora and features diverse media including water, audio recordings and images that have been collected during walk events held on both sides of the Pacific over the past twelve months. In the intermediary city of Honolulu counterparts from both sides of the Pacific will intersect to form a significant dialogue that cherishes our relationship with the land underneath our feet.

This project Solvitur Ambulando (“solve it by walking”) is composed of stories, questions and dialogues occurring in our time of uncertainty. It is part of a creative search for new relationships to land given the realities of our situation after the 3.11 disaster in Tohoku. If the disaster is not limited to Japan, then folklorist Norio Akasaka’s discussion may be true, 3.11 has pulled a reality from a few decades ahead. If so, it may not be possible to fix this, rather we must stretch and extend our minds to grasp it. Tomita and Jack see these difficult circumstances as the impetus to take imaginative walks that explore new visions of reality.

For the exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art the artists will create a mind map for a future walk event specifically for Hawai‘i. This will be created through various participatory elements such as the changing installation Story Circle as well as Wall of Ocean Currents participatory works that will be composed by visitors during the exhibition. The artists will also exchange a drawing back and forth during the exhibition period to be displayed before the closing. Together with ephemera from past walks these generative elements will compose a metaphorical “walk across the pacific” in real time at the Honolulu Museum of Art School.

Jack and Tomita have created open structures through the practice of walking and talking. In her introduction to the exhibition curator Marion Cadora writes, “Is the wider Pacific Ocean a boundless space—inviting anyone to navigate it freely, its definition open to negotiation?  Or is it a fragmented entity; isolated by its own terrain, privatized bodies of water, and imagined territories? It is unknown until we make the journey ourselves.” Based on walks that have occurred in Tokyo Bay as well as for the Open Engagement conference held in Portland, Oregon the artists have continued walking at a distance, feeling the links between one island and another. This exhibit will also include special developments that occur during this exhibition to facilitate the creative foundations for a walk to be held in Honolulu.


Artists Jack and Tomita are engaged with conversation as their medium and have received numerous awards and acclaim for their artworks and publications. The two artists have been collaborating on projects since 2010 such as Living in Story and Storied Landscape and began their current project in 2012.

James Jack explores the social composition of land in through layers that compose his artworks. This year his work has been featured at the Setouchi International Triennial in Japan, Institute of Contemporary Arts in Singapore and the Busan Biennale Sea Art Festival in Korea. He is currently pursuing research and teaching in the painting department at Tokyo University of the Arts.

Toshiaki Tomita creates artworks that are a story about the process of becoming intimate with images. His work has been exhibited at the Seoul Arts Center in Korea, Yokohama Triennial in Japan and the Odense City Museum in Denmark. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Art at Hokkaido University of Education.

Marion Cadora has worked at the De Young Museum and the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco as well as the John Charlot Collection and the Intersections Visiting Artist Program at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She is currently Assistant Curator at the John Young Museum of Art in Honolulu.

Solvitur Ambulando Exhibition

Honolulu Museum of Art School Mezzanine Gallery

Website info HERE

Musical Gathering at Sunset House

A special musical event held during the last weekend of the Setouchi Triennial exhibition at Sunset House: Language as the house of Being featuring Ryu Furusawa, Akira Tanabe, Makoto Noumi and Bruce Huebner. This event was a celebration of all those who have supported the exhibition over the past six months as well as signal of what is to come in the future for this art project.

sunset_0018Sound artist Ryu Furusawa recording the sound of two basalt stones clicking against each other in preparation for his live performance “silent scene” at Sunset House. His sound piece included sounds of the Setouchi ocean as well as other local recordings made on Shodoshima specially for this event.

(From left) Akira Tanabe, Makoto Noumi and Bruce Huebner perform the song “Haru no umi” at the conclusion of the musical gathering to an audience that overflowed into the entrance, garden and surrounding environment of Sunset House.

An article on the background context for this art project by Darryl Jingwen Wee was published on artinfo (link HERE) as well as a slideshow posted (link HERE) today. The existence of this house of being has blossomed into a wider community than ever with the unique energy of this musical event generously sponsored by the American Embassy in Tokyo.

Unknown History: Eternal

arches_utah_waseda_unknownFour selected works on paper from the series “Philosophies of Dirt” as well as one pigment installation are included in the group show “Unknown Histories: Eternal” opening today at Waseda Scott Hall Gallery.  This is the fourth in a series of exhibitions curated by artist and archivist Chika Kato which investigates the multiplicity of history since March 11th. The exhibition is dynamic and each artist addresses history in their own poetic way, some focusing directly on the disaster of 2011 and others addressing issues of memory.

I have been reflecting on these works while considering which ones are most appropriate for this exhibit and discovered the places where the dirt was collected have changed significantly this year. My father’s house is now sold and this faint dirt drawing is one of the only traces I have of the ground where my family spent so much time. Also the story of the fight to save La‘au Point on Molokai‘i Island has recently been published.

I will speak about these drawings and the philosophy of dirt during a TALK EVENT together with guest Michio Hayashi (Art Critic, Sophia University) on Saturday, August 24th at 4pm. There will be an opening reception afterwards commencing at 6pm. The exhibition is open until September 4th for more information and directions to the venue at Waseda please see this link HERE.

Also I am pleased to announce that the second edition of the catalog “James Jack: Philosophies of Dirt” has just been published. The first edition sold out early this year and it is a pleasure to have completed this edition just before Satoshi Koyama Gallery prepares to move to Singapore in September. The content is 99% the same as the first edition with just one new artwork featured and some slight adjustments to the Japanese text font by Brandon Shimoda. This is a wonderful way to appreciate the artworks in the intimate book format. For orders outside Japan please send an email on the contact section of this website HERE or for orders in Japan please order directly from the gallery HERE.

Echo: The Poetics of Translation


Storied Landscape, Project in Tomakomai, Hokkaido, 2011.

I am participating in a symposium that will investigate the topic of “environment” from the perspectives of four artists. Please come join this opportunity to discuss nature up to and including our urban environment. My presentation will include the memory of dirt in historical layers that are crucial to the series “Philosophies of Dirt”. There will also be a newly created installation of four dirt pigments created specifically for this event along with the work on paper from this series.

TIEAF2013 – Tokyo International Environmental Art Forum –


会場 駐日韓国大使館 韓国文化院 ギャラリーMI 〒160-0004 東京都新宿区四谷4-4-10

< Location > The gallery MI at Korean cultural center of  the Embassy of Korea

4-4-10, Yotsuya, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, Japan 160-0004

イベント Event

*シンポジウム 8月6日(火)16:30〜    モデレーター: 椿玲子(森美術館アソシエイトキュレーター)Symposium: August 6  16:30-    Moderator : Reiko Tsubaki

参加アーティストによるシンポジウムを開催。環境アートについて各国のアーティストが意見をかわします。*オープニングレセプション 8月6日(火)18:00- Opening reception: August 6


James Jack / ジェームス ジャック (USA)
Chul Ho Lee /  チョルホ イ
Chanil Hong / チャンイル ホン
Sang Chul Jun /  サンチョル ユン
Hoseob  Yoon /  ホソッブ ユン
Kwang Woo Kim /  グァンウ キム
Sung Ra  Kim /  サンラ キム
Shotaro Yoshino / 吉野祥太郎
Shoko Miki / 三木祥子
Yoshitaka Nanjo /  南条嘉毅
Hitomi Iwano / 岩野仁美
Ushio Sakusabe /  サクサベウシオ
Kouseki Ono /  小野耕石
Eva Högberg / エヴァ ホグベリ (Sweden)
Bill Wolff  /  ビル ウォルフ (USA)
Frédéric Houvert / フレデリック ウーヴェル (France)
Billy Styles /  ビリー スタイルズ (UK)
Christophe Charles +Kazue Kaku / クリストフ シャルル+郭一恵 (France + Korea)

Artist site visit to Palau Ubin Island including former granite quarries, Singapore, July 27, 2013.

I am also creating a new artwork in Singapore as part of the project “ECHO: The Poetics of Translation” a theme conceptualized by Charles Merewether for Tropical Lab 7. This experimental work I am developing is based on the social landscape of Singapore and will open on the same day August 6th at LASALLE University. For more information see this LINK and for current updates on the project see HERE.

After an intensive week of workshops, seminars, research trips and other related activities, Tropical Lab culminates in an an exhibition of works by the participating artists. The 2013 exhibition will be curated by Milenko Prvacki, Senior Fellow at LASALLE College of the Arts. The Tropical Lab Exhibition will be open for public viewing from 7 to 14 August 2013, from 10am to 6pm, Tuesday to Sunday (except 12pm to 1pm) at ICA Gallery 2, PRAXIS Space, Project Space, Earl Lu Gallery and Brother Joseph McNally Gallery at LASALLE College of The Arts, 1 McNally Street.

Video document HERE

TROPICAL LAB 7 – ECHO : The Poetics of Translation
Opening: Tuesday, 6 August 2013
Guest of Honour: Prof. Steve Dixon, President, LASALLE College of the Arts
Venue: ICA Gallery 2, PRAXIS Space, Project Space, Earl Lu Gallery and Brother Joseph McNally Gallery LASALLE College of the Arts, 1 McNally Street, Singapore
Exhibition Period: Wed 7 – Wed 14 Aug 2013
Gallery Hours: 10am – 6pm (closed on Mondays and public holidays)
Admission: Free

Participating Artists:

James Jack- Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan
Lisa Frankland – RMIT, Australia
Danny Liu – RMIT, Hong Kong
Wahyu Utami Wati – Indonesia Institute of the Arts, Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Ahmad Nursalim – Bandung Institute Of Technology, Indonesia
Chika Takagi & Koharu Kimata – Nagoya University of Arts and Sciences, Japan
Kayla Ward – Massey University, New Zealand
Bridget Tay & Pheng Guan – LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore
Helena Hernández Tapia & Lucas Guidetti Perez – Lucerne School of Art and Design, Switzerland
Lucile Dupraz &Kyung Min Roh Bannwart – Ecole d’art de Lausanne, Switzerland
Rattana Salee – Silpakorn University, Thailand
Zeynep Ozel – Sabanci University, Turkey
Isaac Whitcombe & Guy Blundel – Winchester School of Art, University of Southampton, UK
Joshua David Y’Barbo – Chelsea College of Art, UK
Gabriel Stones – Royal Academy, UK
Jim Edward Threapleton – Camberwell College of Arts, University of the Arts London, UK
Damien O’Connell – Central St. Martins, University of the Arts London, UK
Karen Pearson – University of Plymouth, UK
Kambui Olujimi & Alexandra Van – Columbia University, USA
Bridget Batch & Leander Schwazer – California Institute of the Arts, USA

Play with Nature, Played by Nature

“Play with Nature, Played by Nature” Curated by James Jack.

2013-jack-james-selectedMain exhibition installation views at Satoshi Koyama Gallery. April 12 – May 18, 2013

Works by Fumio Aono, Mary Babcock and Maika‘i Tubbs (left to right).

Works by Ringo Bunoan, Maika‘i Tubbs, Jackie Brookner and Fumio Aono (left to right).

For additional information regarding the exhibition please see the gallery website or AAA archive.

Sunset House: The House as Language of Being

I have been working in Setouchi on the garden for Sunset House over the past three months for the Setouchi Triennial. Although this project has been about the relationship of the house with its surroundings over the past three years, the local stones utilized in the garden now make this relationship more clear. After discovering remaining basalt stones nearby the site of the former stone quarry in the town where this artwork is, I worked with the elderly population to reclaim these stones and create a walkway through the garden that leads in a meandering path to the entrance of Sunset House. These stones embody the wealth of the town as it was the first location for Osaka Stone Company starting in 1934 and continuing until 1989 when their operations in Kounoura town were put on hold.

When I first started work on Shodo Island one of my strongest impressions were the currently operating stone quarries in Fukuda, the north area of the island, where the landscape is being carved by dump trucks, dynamite and cranes to mine granite stone. But contrary to earlier precedents where nature and industry are presented as clashing forces such as the film Koyaanisqatsi (1982) I saw these as sites composed of layers of distress, prosperity and emotions. While the most famous uses for stones from Shodo Island include the walls around Osaka Castle and the Tokaido Shinkansen tracks, far greater quantities of stone have been sent to dam construction sites than any other single use in the past century. Upon leaving the island yesterday I was reminded of the shifting landscape as I left on the ferry from Fukuda, observing once again the “squaring” of the landscape as a site where desire and trauma intersect. This is one of the reasons why I chose to construct the garden with granite from this area of Shodo Island: the contradictory nature of these stones and their shifting meaning in the surrounding habitat.

This year I felt the need to include not only the bright side of the community (and myself) but also to find ways to express the more difficult aspects of life in this artwork. As I thought more about the garden as I first encountered it, images of broken glass, rusty metal and other garbage held a strong presence in my memory. These waste products contain clues to our own lifestyles, to that which we do not want to pay attention to but that which we need to consider as it jeopardizes our connection to the environment. I thought about the heaviness of the stones and the sores in the land that leads to Sunset House. These characteristics also exist in the social landscape, the people who make this community, and so I asked them to record their feelings of sadness, stress, worry or discomfort onto the underside of the stones as they were arranged in the garden. This was a challenging task because many people are not familiar with vocalizing these feelings, especially in public, and now I was asking them to visualize the darker side in order to complete the garden.

But after reflecting on the lightness of the white surfaces of these granite stones the relationship of lightness anddarkness slowly became clear. In fact the light, airy, cloud-like aspect of the surrounding garden for Sunset House would only be possible if we inserted our reality of trauma, distress and troubles into the soil. I felt these negative feelings created nutrients for the garden that would sustain it for many years to come. Rather than just covering the “dirty” soil that I found three years ago when visiting this site, together with one hundred people I rejuvenated the garden with energy that comes from what was considered waste but now becomes nourishment. Just as each stone holds the potential to become one in a castle, a train track or a dam- people too hold the potential to become key participants in a system for regeneration. I discuss some of these aspects in a recent radio interview on the project with Shima Radio which can be heard here. People have responded deeply to these contradictory aspects of the place in my work as this project is presented as part of the Setouchi Triennial opening this week.


Winter Show

Two of my artworks are now on display in a group show at Satoshi Koyama Gallery in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. On the opening day there was an artists roundtable discussion in which we discussed our creative pathways and discovered junctures between us. At first the fluorescent light works of artist Mitsunori Kurashige felt very cold and a bit stale to me, but as our dialogue opened I realized his works are more about the viewer’s experience of space. He spoke of the view of the works from down on one’s knees and the intersections between the creases of theskg january 2013 wall and his blue lights. Once we realized that we had a mutual friend, artist Shingo Honda, there was a natural affinity in our approaches even though our artworks couldn’t look more distinct on the surface.

I spoke about my new photographic work that is part of the “Philosophies of Dirt” series created just this month. This work is based on my deep fascination with film strips, I remember developing film as a teenager, the excitement I felt when stretching out the wet negative film strips to dry. The light that passed behind these images now in physical form captured something raw, not only in those moments when the images were taken, but in the present moment gazing through these unedited film strips. Each image recalls a story in the connection between my own life and these places, part of which is held in a small sample of dirt that enters my studio but also part of which is contained in these photographs. The windows that I create in each drawing for the series “Philosophies of Dirt” are not so different from the windows of the camera, neither one is clear, but instead they contain the cloudy traces of experiences that are still occurring now.

Please come by and enjoy this exciting new exhibition open until February 9, 2013. Also there are only a couple of catalogs from my solo exhibition still available at the gallery so inquire soon to get your copy. This 58 page full-color catalog includes an essay by poet Brandon Shimoda alongside select drawings from the series “Philosophies of Dirt.” Order here.

Philosophies of Dirt

Solo Exhibition by James JACK


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.


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.