“Quiet now, there is not a thing besides the low, humming sound of the body
In my mouth, chewing on the words
I cannot speak to them out loud until I’m ready”
The Japanese practice of kintsugi honours and celebrates the repair of what was once broken. This installation takes the fragmented pieces of self, story and culture, and attempts to reassemble them into something new through song. Kintsugi invites the user to create space to reflect on their own relationship to ancestry and examine how that relationship evolves over time.
Created by mixed-race musicians Annie Sumi and Brian Kobayakawa, Kintsugi is an anti-racist, interactive, multi-disciplinary art installation reflecting on racial identity, healing ancestral trauma, and the fragmented history of the Japanese Canadian internment. The audience can pump the foot treadle of the heirloom sewing-machine to reveal the hidden depth of the installation: a cycle of songs and videos weaving the past into the present.
The music contains archival recordings of Choichi Hando Sumi reading his haiku poetry, percussion sounds created from a boat built by Kobayakawa’s ancestors, and lyrics composed entirely from the Government of Canada’s correspondence with the artists’ ancestors listing the belongings that were auctioned off during their internment.
The visuals are an overlapping collage of landscape video footage, cut-up old letters written by the artists’ ancestors, and playful animations created with shadow puppeteers Mind of a Snail. The projections incorporate present-day footage of two former WWII internment camp locations – one where Kobayakawa’s father was born, and the other where Sumi’s grandfather spent his youth.
Directly confronting the experience of reorienting in a post-internment Canada, Kintsugi brings music into the imposed silence of trauma.
The artists are grateful for the support of their Ancestors, the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, Mind of a Snail, CBC Radio, Landscapes of Injustice, and their friends and families.
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