In their latest creative project, Music Temple, Emi Honda and Jordan McKenzie take their love of nature and a desire to communicate on many levels to transcend the expectations of standard art forms.
“Enough people talk about themselves. I want to speak about nature,” says Honda.
The multimedia project, where neither sound nor visual installations stand alone, comes to Centre A this September. Its appeal is to a wide audience, regardless of age, language or background.
“The temple idea comes from our wish to raise the natural world from a place of abuse to a place of respect, honouring something that is vast, mysterious and greater than us,” says McKenzie. “[Music Temple is] a new format which is something between an art show, a music show and a video project.”
A journey into nature
Growing up in a family-run Buddhist temple in her native Japan, Honda is used to the elements of darkness, coolness and tranquility. She credits McKenzie for coming up with the name of their latest project.
As part of the presentation, Honda says the viewer is welcomed through a thin, cotton curtain that drapes over a bamboo tree. Inside, we see a miniature display: a monarch butterfly, lush trees and eggs in a nest intertwining with a makeshift town. A cylinder slowly rotates, casting pictures of moving landscapes onto a projector screen. Photos and images abound almost everywhere and coloured lighting fills the space.
“The foreground and background [image] is very effective that way,” says Honda, who has training in piano, visual arts and 3D landscaping.
The sound installation, which includes organs, keyboards, guitars and drums, is controlled by a timing system operated by McKenzie.
Music, art and moving
It has been 10 years of collaboration for Honda and McKenzie, who say they were first introduced to each other through their respective work.
“Jordan saw my art work and I knew about his before we even met,” says Honda.
Honda says she first met McKenzie in Victoria and the two artists started working together on music. They also began collaborating on different art projects. After a few years, they moved to Montreal in search of more opportunities and formed their art and musical group, Elfin Saddle.
For shows and performances, Honda and McKenzie have traveled to up to 20 cities – from Montreal to Boston and down to the southern states of America. Honda says the differences in hospitality varied from one place to another. Whether it was subtle praise or an open-armed embrace, Honda says the characteristics of each place are simply different and that you can’t tell anyone to change their character.
Identity and exploration
Honda says she has no need to hide hers either. Any Japanese nuances coming from her music are not forced or contrived—just natural, says Honda.
“I don’t want to fake it to get attention,” she says.
For McKenzie, music is communicated non-verbally through the language of sound, image, object and movement.
“I’ve always sought to transcend my own difficulties with verbal language by creating work that speaks in other ways, and with greater complexity than language allows,” says McKenzie.
He says the hope is their work is just as accessible, for example, to a Cambodian viewer as it is to a Canadian viewer.
With Music Temple, Honda and McKenzie aim to bridge the various aspects of their creative work into something innovative but familiar. It is a project aimed at both young and old.
“I hope that the slow unfolding of the sound environment can offer people a break in pace from the velocity of contemporary life, a space that, like a forest, offers its beauty gradually,” says McKenzie.
Honda says the most difficult question to answer is describing the genre of their music or art. She prefers to call it original, not concerned about categorizing herself, her work, Elfin Saddle’s work or even the target audience.
“Music and art belong to the people who make it. For the audience, it is what is received in their hearts,” says Honda.