My Words are My Memory: Transcendent Art on Naoshima

The Art House Project in Homura on Naoshima took 6 houses many 100-200 years old and a Shinto Shrine and created art in each. I spent 5 hours walking around this small village in a state of awe. Most of the spaces don’t allow photography, so my words are my memory. 

1. Imagine a square pool of water in an old Japanese house filling a room. The only lights are In the water: 125 LED lights counting from 1-9. Each counter represented a person on the island who determined the speed of the change. Kadoya, Tatsuo Miyajima

2. A 30 foot tunnel about 2 feet wide and 6 feet high is lined with smooth marble. You have a flashlight but don’t need it until the end. You turn into the blackness and turn on your light. The walls are rock, cave-like or tomb-like. Then your flashlight reflects light, in front of you is a staircase which looks like it’s made of ice with water dripping down. Go’o Shrine, Hiroshi Sugimoto 

3. You are led into a dark room by a guide who says keep your right hand to the wall. After the first turn it is pitch dark. You make several more turns and she invites you to sit and says, “Please wait 5-8 minutes.” You sit seeing nothing, listening to your breath. Nothing but darkness. Not even hallucinations. Nothing. You pay attention to your breathing so as not to let the fear of no seeing take over your mind. Then without announcement you begin to notice some light shapes on two of the walls and eventually light emanating from a large screen or maybe these are the hallucinations.  The guide invites you, “You can move around in the space now.”  You walk and see nothing in particular but the light is comforting in the dark. It’s not real light but a light that is not darkness. When you reach the place that you think there is a screen, your hand tries to touch and hits nothing. You begin to make your own movies of the lights. Nothing again. The guide beckons you to leave. This time you don’t need your hand on the wall to guide you. In the beginning of language there were no names for color, just light and dark. I experienced that today. Minamidera, James Turrell and Tadeo Ando

4. You take a break to eat and begin to notice big and little things, the sounds around you, the lushness of the land, the colors of everything. Your perceptions. 

5. You enter a large house formerly a dentists office. In one tall room the walls are painted shiny black in areas and a less shiny black in others. The room appears to be rectangular with a flat ceiling. The only light comes from a slot in the wall above you, natural light from a window somewhere. You walk up a staircase and look down into the room and discover the the black shiny ceiling has a huge triangular piece coming out about three feet. Then you notice the walls you thought were straight have alcoves. Later when you go down and step in each of the three alcoves you discover that they are all different and evoke different feelings. Back upstairs you find a 20 foot white plastic Statue of Liberty that’s a Buddha. Haidha, Shinro Ohtake

6. Hanging in there with me? You enter another old house with hard wooden floors varnished black with the exposed beams of ancient trees that were cut down to build the house. In one room on three sides are images that seem to be etched in metal but are really paintings set in the panels that used to make up the walls. The images evoke the Seto seascape around the island and on the final wall it trails into wisps of fog barely visible. In the other room, all three walls are of a painted waterfall, which is reflected in the black lacquer floor. Ishibashi, Hiroshi Senju

7. The Ando Museum has models of his work in an old house in which he added a square concrete room that goes down two stories. It creates a hard new space. Ando Museum, Tadeo Ando

8. Finally you reserve the 3:45 slot for a 15 minute experience alone in a building. The guide brings you to asks a thick yet low door and invites you to open it, step inside and close it.  It’s a 15 by 25 foot space. The only light comes from the bottom of the walls where there is a 4 inch slit that lets natural light enter. In front of you are there sets of columns which look like the tori gates in Shinto temples (the ones shaped like pi.) Surrounding the second set in the middle is a 12 foot diameter circular white ring made of marble. The marble ring has a smooth top about a foot wide with nothing but the ground and the tori gate in it. Scattered around are small flat circular objects and some small pointed objects. You remember from you beginning Japanese language class that flat things have a different counting system than pointed things. (There are numerous other counting systems.)  You doubt that is relevant to this situation. You are not allowed to roam around. You can just sit, look and breath. 

9. That was my day. Thanks for joining me.

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