Stories moving from the beyond

Paper | Photo by Theresa K. Howell

The Rock, Paper, Scissors exhibition is being shown in the Nikkei National Museum and Cultural Centre during the 150th anniversary of Canada and on the 75th anniversary of the internment of Japanese-Canadians.

Cindy Mochizuki’s exhibit visualizes a time long ago and moves forward into a destiny not yet known. Although her works often live in the past, this time around she is looking ahead.

“This is the first time that I have brought in the future, but this work is not necessarily chronological,” she says.

The picture

Inside the three-dimensional theatre space, a story entices the listener. Moving through the room, an animated video plays on the screened wall of a storybook “Ryotei” restaurant. A sculpture represents Paper, the initial story that began Mochizuki’s project journey. Walking deeper into the space to the left, a constructed brown, vintage wooden stand-up Kodak camera is propped atop a small volcanic rock mound. Inside the peep hole is an animation of Japanese-Canadian coal miners walking through a mine. Here the story of Rock is illustrated. Alongside Rock, a large projection screen alternates vintage video footage of men working in the various resource industries –
such as coal, lumber and steel – with a futuristic standalone film called Scissors. This video features a 30’ Giant and an aged ghost named “K.”

The story

Rock & Scissors | Photo by Theresa K. Howell

It is said that Japanese men crossed the Pacific Ocean to work on the coastal B.C. islands by way of “Yobiyose” letters.

“The Yobiyose letters mentioned were used to convince families to move to Canada from Japan,” says Mochizuki.

Meanwhile, the twin landscapes are echoed within the storylines. The environment played a major role for the inception of the project.

While touring around the coastline of Tottori prefecture, the ‘shadow-side’ of Japan, Makiko Hara, curator of Paper, saw a commonality to BC’s coastline.

“Initially, the landscape is what inspired me with its similarity to the Sunshine Coast,” she says.

Hara then discussed a possible project with Mochizuki. Combined with a Japanese boat tour, the idea was the breakthrough for Paper, the first audio component. The narrative exhibit has evolved and transformed through various geographical migrations from Japan to BC plus conceptual evolutions from boat to museum.

Mochizuki’s works are often layered with symbolic meanings achieved through contemplation and reflection. The sculptural pieces paid careful concentration to the chosen materials. Hara explains that the title, Rock, Paper, Scissors, echoes back to the resources that “‘bind the two countries’ connection as well the immigration” of Japanese citizens. Throughout the last two centuries, the immigration of Japanese-Canadians stemmed in large part from the need for workers in the mines and lumber camps. As part of BC’s dark history, Japanese internment camps have also been a component of this relationship. With the exploration of this project, Mochizuki is trying to find a way to bridge the two cultures through narratives about shared commonalities in everyday life.

The ending?

Mochizuki says the key to listening to narratives is “to come back to the story again because it has a capacity to change because you have changed.” The stories float between different geographies as well as time; concepts become malleable.

In relation to its larger meaning, the series relates to the migration of immigrants coming over from Yonago, Japan to the shores of BC.

“There are historic details especially in the story of Rock, which relates to Cumberland where Japanese and Chinese workers had worked for very low wages in dangerous conditions back in the 1900s,” Mochizuki says.

This exhibit explores present day conversations but arises from memories, which inevitably remain timeless. It currently runs until April 30 with an artist talk on April 1.

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