BAKERU: Transforming Spirits, on view from July 17 to October 6, is a participatory exhibition inviting visitors to step into the supernatural world of Japanese folk traditions through a process of transformation (bakeru means ‘transform’ in Japanese). It is also a space of connection in various ways—the connection between the long-lasting folk traditions and the fast-advancing digital technology, between the northern region in Japan and the world, and between the everyday space and the space of festivities.
Showcasing interactive digital technology, Japanese creative art and design studio WOW created four large projections to activate contemporary technology to enhance the understanding of traditional cultures in Japan. Regional cultures epitomized in seasonal folk festivals, in particular, those from the northern region of “Tohoku,” place strong emphasis on the transformative power of nature upon which people’s lives depend.
BAKERU is designed to simulate this space of the extraordinary in juxtaposition with the ordinary. The interactive technology becomes a vehicle to transport participants into the space of the extraordinary, spurring their transformation into supernatural beings. Just as in this exhibition space, the world of the supernatural and that of everyday life exist in tandem, and BAKERU stands to remind us that we, as humans, are always in close proximity to both sides.
JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles,
Level 2 Gallery
Hollywood & Highland
JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles, Level 2 Gallery
6801 Hollywood Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Credit: Presented and Organized by: Japan House.
WOW’s BAKERU exhibition is participatory with four interactive projection installations to enhance the understanding of regional cultures epitomized in seasonal folk festivals, particularly those from Tohoku, which place a strong emphasis on the transformative power of nature upon which people’s lives depend. Conceived and created after the devastation of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami – which accelerated depopulation and fragmentation of local communities, threatening the continuation of festival traditions – the BAKERU exhibition harnesses interactive digital technology to provide broader access to local culture to audiences beyond the region, including younger, digital-native generations.
The space also showcases the connection between the long-lasting folk traditions and the fast-advancing digital technology, between the northern region in Japan and the world, and between the everyday space and the space of festivities.
Festivals are temporal environments where gods and demigods, as apparitions of nature’s elements, are thought to exist in tandem with people. The exhibition references four specific traditions originating from different parts of Tōhoku.
· “Saotome” is a traditional dance from Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, performed by highly-skilled young women with the mysterious ability to communicate with the gods. They come with several friends, dancing in the rice fields to offer prayers for rain and a bountiful harvest.
· “Shishi-Odori” is a religious dance found in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, where dancers mimic beasts lunging forward and backward to pray for bountiful harvest. Its name literally means ‘deer dance,’ and similar dances can be found in cultures around the world.
· “Kasedori,” is a tradition from Kaminoyama City, Yamagata Prefecture in which youth dressed in straw rain-capes run through the city in the middle of winter. People splash the Kasedori with celebratory water and offer them food. The straws that fall from their costumes are considered sacred.
· “Namahage” is a fearsome deity who lives in the mountains near Oga City, Akita Prefecture, and visits the city once a year on New Year’s Eve, searching for lazy or misbehaving children to frighten. He travels to each household, receiving hospitality and gifts until he is appeased and eventually returns to the mountains.
These annual traditions fulfill practical needs of education and community building, and they also remind people of the multiple symbiotic connections to the natural world; for example, rain fosters crop to grow, the ocean brings fish, and diligent cultivation promises harvest. However, as nature itself is increasingly being neglected, those festivals are facing imminent disappearance.
In essence, WOW is translating the transformative process embedded in the innately playful and wondrously immersive festive environments of Tohoku’s seasonal customs into the contemporary language of digital expression, facilitating community building and perpetuating the traditions and their survival.
WOW is a creative studio innovating experiences in art and design.
Based in Tokyo, Sendai, London, and San Francisco, WOW is involved in a wide field of design work, including advertising and commercial works, installations for exhibition spaces, and user interface designs for prominent brands. The studio’s practice is based on a vision to bring positive change to society, and its original artwork and products have been exhibited both in Japan and internationally. WOW is passionate about exploring the tremendous possibilities of visual design; searching for solutions that are useful for society while revealing something true and profound. https://www.w0w.co.jp/en/ | http://bakeru.jp/la
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