Spatial Poetics XIV presents a new way of looking at art

Art is not just about something that hangs on the wall: art implies a progress in action that creates new forms of practice and artwork. This year’s performance, titled In the Shadow of the Archive (July 9 at 8 p.m., at the Vancouver Japanese Language School) draws on a theme related to Japanese history.

It’s about giving artists a chance to explore something they’d never done. We have a time-based frame, but other than that, I just want to have a surprise. Artists always surprise me with what they were thinking,” says Makiko Hara. “It’ll be an interesting and unexpected performance.”

Spatial Poetics, started by Cindy Mochizuki and Miko Hoffman, gives artists the opportunity to have interdisciplinary collaborations with other artists within a determined time frame.

Artists Mochizuki and Maiko Yamamoto explore kendo, a Japanese sport from the Edo period; and Stacey Ho and Julia Aoki present sangaku, Japanese folk geometrical math. Both performances are curated by Hara.

In the shadow of the archive

Artists and curator of Spatial Poetics XIV: Cindy Mochizuki (left), Makiko Hara (centre) and Stacey Ho (right). | Photo by Danielle Tan

Artists and curator of Spatial Poetics XIV: Cindy Mochizuki (left), Makiko Hara (centre) and Stacey Ho (right). | Photo by Danielle Tan

Inspired by family history, lead artist Mochizuki and her collaborator Yamamoto integrate the styles and movements of kendo into their performance.

“The boys in my family have a history in pursuing kendo as a sport. My uncle was a kendo athlete in the 1970s expo in Osaka, Japan. What I think is a big, special event is quite erased now,” says Mochizuki. “I wouldn’t know unless I asked about it.”

Mochizuki is interested in looking at peripheral objects and people on the outside of what gets captured and archived: she wants to see what new things can be discovered.

“In that sense, it’s in the shadow of the archive, not a direct gaze at the actual kendo and the actual objects, but an offshoot of things around it,” says Mochizuki.

Instead of replicating the realness of kendo, Mochizuki and Yamamoto will create fiction using historical elements.

“I’m definitely not going to run on stage and do a full-on kendo performance,” says Mochizuki. “There are a few artifacts that I’ll wear or we’ll have, and we’ll replicate some of them in the gigantic and miniature. We’re creating a fiction, but also beyond fiction, in the some-place-else. There’s a mysterious crane character.”

For Mochizuki, the performance is a starting point for future projects and a touchstone for the different kinds of traditions she wants to investigate and break down.


The idea behind lead artist Ho and her collaborator Julia Aoki’s performance started out with Ho researching about sangaku. With an interest in mathematics, Ho takes courses in the suject alongside her art practice.

“What’s specifically interesting to me about math is that it’s presented as a subject that is completely removed from any cultural context, yet I’m interested in the socio-historical, cultural context,” says Ho.

Ho started looking into the cultural context of math in Japan. What she discovered were beautiful geometric puzzles known as the sangaku.

“I used sangaku as a starting point to talk about math from a specific cultural context; and then to move into other shapes or ideas that sangakus allude to, talking about it through art and primarily image-making. I took up calligraphy, and I’ve been looking into virtual-reality creation and world-building,” says Ho.

Ho and Aoki’s performance will be a story-telling lecture presented with a quasi-fictional voice.

“I’m starting with an idea and talking it through gestures, abstraction, a positivist or historical approach,” says Ho. “My collaborator Julia is writing a beautiful, dreamy text, so it’s very much based on our writing as well as gestures.”

Although the lead artists at Spatial Poetics generate their own ideas, their partners’ input constantly shapes and changes the direction of the performance.

“Spatial Poetics is about stepping forward with art experiment and interdisciplinary art practice. Old traditions are being incorporated into the contemporary ways of looking at things,” says Hara.

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