It is the year 2021. It will be almost one year since I was first introduced to Gardiner and our online conversation started. What a year to be sharing moments together. I am so grateful for all the time and input she shared with me. To begin Kokono with a new page, I wanted to ask her how she is feeling, welcoming and looking to the coming year. Here is the response I received!
As I enter the new year I think about the tumult of 2020 globally, and especially here in the United States. Upheaval is clearly continuing and amplifying in these first weeks of 2021.
As I enter the new year I am in Austin, the Texas state capitol, which (like every state capitol) is bracing for potential violence this weekend before the Presidential Inauguration Day. The question of what it means to be “a good American” defines our national zeitgeist. So my work about Japanese American history and identity feels simultaneously out-dated and urgently relevant once again. Tomorrow I will participate in an online event that marks the 20th anniversary of the Minidoka Internment Camp becoming a National Historic Site. (Minidoka is the camp in Idaho where my Obaachan, father and aunt were incarcerated in 1943). It’s good to know that all these years after the war, there are sansei, yonsei and gosei (and still a few nisei) who are committed to keeping this history alive and passing the stories down to the next generations.
As I enter the new year I think about the ongoing project that I carry over from 2020, Everything Must Go: Trade Blanket For The Great Japanese American Assimilation (working title), as well as a new project that is developing in pinhole photography (I am thinking about parallels between sumi-e painting and pinhole photography; the phenomena of sentiment and nostalgia related to specific photographic aesthetics…more about this later!).
As I enter the new year my work moves as slowly as ever. I think about the relationship of creativity to labor, productivity, and time. I spend many hours each week shooting, sewing, looking, experimenting, thinking. Finished works are generated at a snail’s pace. Most of what I make ends up being unusable, edited out, taken apart, in the recycle heap. I often go back to the beginning or wander off course to try a different tactic.
As I enter the new year I discover that this starting over or wandering is often what yields the best ideas so it is becoming my favorite part of my practice. It’s a very inefficient way to work but it cultivates a genuine opportunity for discovery that I would not experience any other way.
As I enter the new year I think about how to have an art practice that is an antidote to and an act of resistance against oppressing forces: political, historical, and economic.
After I leave Texas I will wander out west towards California to see more of the camps. I think they will inspire images but I won’t know until I get there.