1)The reason why “a clay doll” was aimed at for the work?
One day, I pondered: How did people without language or text communicate and express their thoughts? I wondered: it is only natural that an illiterate society suffered great difficulties in transmitting thoughts. But despite the trouble, the will was even stronger and residing within that will, regardless of time, nation or nationality, is the truth. Japan until around the 5th century was an illiterate material culture society. I dive deep into my consciousness to search the motives of our ancestors’ desires, letting the artifacts and their beauty guide me as they wish. The message that survives death, decay and destruction–the truth is in the objects. I believe that my mission is to photograph the truth, thereby immortalizing it with an eternal life. Archaeological works I have photographed include stone burial chambers and tombs. By capturing how our ancestors perceived the most feared fate of every man, ‘death’, I begin not to conceptualize ‘life’ but to experience it.
2) What is your reaction when you look at or handle dogu?
I felt like Taylor from the Planet of the Apes (1968) when I first set my eyes on a dogu. In the last scene, Taylor finds the destroyed Statue of Liberty and is damned that he has returned to his own civilization having traversed through time. My encounter with the dogu is indeed the same as Taylor’s discovery of the statue.
3) As an artist, what do you think about dogu (and specifically about each of the dogu that you photographed that we are including in the exhibition – see attached)? Do you think about what they meant or how they were used in Jomon times? Do you think about what they mean to people today?
A letter without text
Dogu are mostly models of women. Dogu and some other ceramic items are not tools of daily life but are ritual implements, such as stone bars and swords. In the population declining late Jomon period when many of the dogu were made, the articulated motifs are said to represent fertility and childbirth. While ‘death’ is most feared, ‘birth’ is most welcomed. ‘Death’ is a return to the emptiness, while ‘birth’ is a creation by the ancestors to drive forward and build on knowledge discovered by earlier generations. Dogu teaches us that just as we were entrusted with our ancestors’ knowledge, it is our duty to create the next generation to pass on our intellectual beliefs. In an illiterate society, the Jomon people were not ‘transmitting’ explicit didacticism, but were giving us opportunities to think things through. A spirit desires a form. The spirit is implanted into the newly borne life, a life superimposed with knowledge that is loved and nurtured. Dogu are letters without text addressed to us in the 21st century.
4) Do the dogu present to you specific challenges when you make photographs of them?
Effortlessly having aged some 5000 years, my challenge is to create a new ‘dogu form’ injected with new life.
5) Do the dogu present to you specific possibilities when you make photographs of them?
My wish is to create photographs that offer new interpretation to dogu that challenge viewers to consider a truly new form and narratives of the dogu.
6) What ideas did you have in mind when your printed the dogu images as negatives?
Usually on photographic prints, the incised patterns and lines created by the Jomon people appear as dark shadowed marks. I began to think that these lines are precisely the originality (identity) of the maker and similar to our fingerprints, individually unique. In order to feature these lines, I reverse negatives into positive images.