Review by So Wai-lam 蘇瑋琳的回顧
About Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial
In the summer of 2018 I participated for the first time in the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennial and artist residency programme. In this programme, I wished to learn about this place through the “people”; other than the sound elements, I also discovered a lot of interesting things from everyone I met there.
I mainly stayed in Tsunan during my residency in Echigo-Tsumari. If one does not drive and wishes to visit places, such as Tokamachi, one can only resort to the very sparse train or bus services. Most local people drive or must walk half an hour to get to a place. Since I do not drive, and Tsunan offers no rental bicycles, I always got around and to nearby places on foot.
There is a walk that I especially liked between where I lived and the train station, which took about 20 minutes. There were a lot of fields close to the dormitory where I lived and walking in the summertime one could easily see green paddy fields. Little streams lined the paths and flowed into the fields at different junctures. Walking further, I could hear the faint sounds of the streams, which got louder at the larger junctures. Going further on, the water flowed through channels of different depths and widths, passing over concrete manhole covers, and the sounds changed. In the morning one could hear different species of birds chirping, hidden in the trees. There were people watering their plants and watching TV at home. The sound of water coming from afar was the sound of the Shinano River, and as one approached the street corner the sound grew louder, as if signalling my arrival at the train station. Drawing nigh to the train station, one sometimes heard hurried footsteps, those of secondary school students striving to catch their train, failing which would mean another hour’s wait.
At that time, I thought since most people here travel by vehicle, it might be interesting to conduct a sound walk with the local residents.
In addition, it was also one of the aims of my residency to learn about the regional radio broadcasts. I had read in the book Farmers’ Horizon: Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, Urban x Rural, Japan x Hong Kong Connect an interview with the broadcaster Mr. Sato who worked at Tokamachi Radio Station, so I contacted him. During my own conversation with Mr. Sato, he shared with me many of his thoughts on sound, and promised to broadcast my work on his radio programme, which was very encouraging for me. Later, I accidentally found out that these local radio programmes were broadcast in the shopping arcades in Tokamachi during the day, which came as a surprise to me because radio programmes are rarely broadcast in public spaces in Hong Kong. While shopping arcades tend to be busy, there were not many people during the day, and it was very quiet walking down the street. When no vehicle was passing by one could distinctly hear the radio broadcast. What if the residents hear my or their own imitation sounds in the street? What happens when the sounds of the environment overlap with the sounds of people?
I was already back in Hong Kong when the work Sound Translator was broadcast in September this year, but I was able to listen to the live broadcast online. Before playing the work, Mr. Sato read an introduction to the work, and although I did not understand Japanese at all, I was both excited and nervous listening to the live broadcast, picturing myself delivering this sound work to everyone.
Since I had to conduct basic interviews with the local people during the residency, I had the opportunity to visit a number of families. In addition to farming, these local people also managed some family businesses. I believe it was due to the impact of the festival and the enthusiasm of the local people that I received so much assistance and care. Even given the language barrier, we could communicate through translation applications on our mobile devices or by handwriting. And from people’s household objects and their configurations I could discern their various histories, habits, and cultures. They would share with me all kinds of things and invite me to take part in their daily activities. I felt that their attitude towards life was as simple and natural as the environment of this place.
I accompanied an old lady from a Japanese restaurant in her car, to visit various offices collecting used lunch boxes. She also had a pack of candies in her car for people who were working outdoors and needed the sugar. I also visited a very cute mother, whose Japanese-style wooden house was fantastically decorated, and who collected a lot of interesting toys and beautiful Japanese paper. There was a big world atlas inside her bathroom, with coloured pins on it representing the places visited by her three children. I later learned that there are often world atlases or multiplication tables in Japanese bathrooms, so parents can study with their children while they take baths together.
I came upon a barbecue party of some residents and mowed the grass with them afterwards. Another day at noon, I had a barbecue at home with some friendly mothers, while the children played with insects outside. A meticulously decorated house was occupied by a couple where the husband was a folk artist who had made over a hundred works in ten years. He designed and made many of the things in their house, though he humbly denied being an artist, saying that it was a hobby and he did it for his leisure. I also became acquainted with the owner of a century-old sushi restaurant who was very good at throwing a boomerang and made them from different materials.
I paid a visit to an old man who very much enjoyed his life; when he was younger, he built a treehouse in his backyard with his wife and friends. He liked jazz, and it was enchanting to look at the woods from inside the treehouse, surrounded by the songs of cicadas and jazz music. I joined a young mother and her daughter in a taiko class in preparation for the summer festival. There were many more kind and interesting people whom I was very lucky to meet. Their kindness and selfless sharing enriched my entire stay.
During the interviews, I asked the local people what their favourite sound of this place was. They would usually imitate the sounds of the wind, birds, and animals etc. I myself prefer the sound of water. But thinking back now, my answer is actually the sound of laughter. What I like most is their laughter after imitating different sounds.
It was sound that connected us all. Thank you everyone for your voice.
我又試過遇到當地一些居民的燒烤聚會，聚會後便會一起割草；試過和一班友善的媽媽們中午在家中燒烤，孩子們在大自然與小昆蟲耍樂； 看到一對夫婦的家周圍充滿心思的佈置，原來丈夫是一位民間藝術家，十年內做過過百件作品，家中有很多東西都是由他設計和製作，但他謙虛的說自己不是藝術家，創作是興趣，只要想到便會做； 又認識到百年壽司店的老闆，他同時是一位迴力鏢好手，會自己用不同物料製作迴力鏢。