TITLE_ Slow: Trembling Leaves, Automobile Sounds
DATE_ 13-24 April 2022
LOCATION_ Sakyukan Gallery, Niigata, Japan
Afterword for Slow: Trembling Leaves, Automobile Sounds
I fell asleep in the car on the way to Tokyo from the disaster sites. I must have slept for a few hours at least; when I opened my eyes the car was in heavy traffic on a highway driving between skyscrapers. It was twilight. The megalopolis, expanding its reach to the furthest and highest point in the sky, dizzying vertical lines of the dense concrete forest. An empty horizontal line of tsunami-affected areas, and loose even lines of the mountains contaminated by radioactive substances. All the other flat landscapes seemed distant already. You saw nothing.
Ayano Hattori, “You Saw Nothing: Sight, Digital Video, Post-3.11 Japan” 2021
Before the inauguration of the Joetsu Shinkansen (a high-speed railway line that connects Niigata and Tokyo within two hours, a drastically shorter period than with the past means of transport), the people in Niigata travelled to Tokyo by car, enduring a lengthy trip to cross the Mikuni Mountains. This exhibition programmed within a moving-image scheme by Sakyukan Gallery begins with the ‘found footage’ of some photographs taken by my grandfather in the early 1970s, including one that captures such a notable moment for a family that lived in the periphery on their automotive trip to the centre of the country, Tokyo.* Both the production and ownership of private cars increased radically, and the construction of roads was coherently promoted at that time of post-war history from which those family photographs come. It was a moment when the people of Japan lived with the tangible sense of wealth under the rapid economic growth.
The exhibition title Slow derives from capitalism’s conception of time that values speed. Slow: Trembling Leaves, Automobile Sounds is formulated in terms of this concept and presents an effortless slow speed that is almost stopping within the scheme of a moving-image exhibition together with photography. It provides an opportunity to reconsider the act of looking through the difference of moving and still images in the presented slow speed of the medium, through which a contemplation on advanced capitalism is provided.
Niigata, a geographical and economic periphery of Tokyo, shares these commonalities with Fukushima. However, Niigata in the warm gaze of my grandfather who observed his family and Fukushima in the detached gaze of a passenger from a car window are inherently different. The lens of the camera reveals a relationship between a photographer and his or her photographic subjects. The revealed viewership questions what one has seen and understood of the 3.11 disasters – the pain of others – in the gaze of the one second of continuously moving images of You Saw Nothing in Fukushima.
The old branches of wood that I found and have exhibited here no longer have leaves. One cannot see ‘trembling leaves’ on them. In the original Japanese title, the word ‘trembling’ has been phoneticised from the logographic letter of kanji, which is to imply the denial of the understanding through seeing. What set those leaves trembling – earthquakes or winds? How did they look, and how have they fallen? The details of those vanished leaves on the branches can be seen only in the imagination.