Akiyoshi Sinella


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An interactive video projection mimicking one of the most iconic Japanese caves – the Yamaguchi Cave – projected onto the wall opposite the entrance with an unreachable end of the path.  The size of the passage outside the cave was adjusting to the visitors’ movement. Getting smaller, and finally dissapearing, when one tried to approach it, and widening as soon as one was stepping back. As the exhibition space was suffused with fog, the striking shape of the exit seemed to be prolonged into the air forming a beam of light following the visitor like a spotlight.

Installation was presented at The Future of This Land group show reflecting the depopulation of the Akiyoshi and Yamaguchi prefecture, known mostly for limestone deposits that brought the stone industry into the region. As the prefecture faces depletion of stone deposits in quarries, questions about the agenda in politics and strategies for the region are raised both by local officials and people living in the area. The Future of This Land was a voice in the debate about Akiyoshi’s potential and direction for future development.

The title pertains to Sinella Akiyoshiana, a seemingly inconspicuous and translucent organism that has adapted to survive in the unique ecosystem of Akiyoshi Cave. This particular species of Sinella is considered endemic, meaning that it can exclusively be found in a single, precisely defined geographic location. A species is bestowed with the title of endemic only if it is not found anywhere else beyond the specified geographic boundaries.

Akiyoshi Sinella is grounded in the Japanese concept of 間 – MA, which refers to negative space, an empty or in-between space that coexists with and challenges its surrounding framework. This ideogram, which consists of two characters representing moon and gate, depicts the moment when moonlight shines through an ajar gate. For individuals raised in Japanese culture and aesthetics, 間 embodies two simultaneous components of a sense of place: the objective aspect and the subjective experience. 間 derives from a combination of Japan’s indigenous spiritual tradition Shinto and Buddhism, which originated in mainland Asia. The emphasis on harmony in relationships and the focus on spoken and unspoken connections that unite people stems from Shinto, while the notion of emptiness and selflessness is attributed to Buddhism.

In contrast to Western thought, which is predicated on self-reference, Japanese culture values the concept of MA. Dutch philosopher Henk Oosterling illustrates this point with the example of an empty room: in Western culture, a room is considered empty until someone enters it, at which point a place centered on the person or object is produced. The moment another person enters the room, a relationship or interaction emerges between them, though this is viewed as secondary to identity. By contrast, the Japanese concept of MA regards the in-between space as more important, as it is where life is lived and movement from one place to another is organized. According to architect Arata Isozaki, the in-between space is the key to sensing the moment of movement.

Akiyoshidai International Art Village, Yamaguchi, Japan, 2018

Interactive projection, fog

Henk Oosterling, A Culture of the ‘Inter’, Japanese Notions ma and basho