I'm happy to announce that I received the Bartlett Travel Award this year to fund an art research to trip to Japan between 13-25 April! I'll be flying to Tokyo, then travelling to the south of Japan to visit the islands of Yakushima and Tanegashima. My aim is investigating locations in which certain fictional realms can be accessible, and thus affect the way one experiences real life. I will also be exploring what it's like to be revisiting a place when the memories from the first visit I took there seem fictional and disconnected, but I will ultimately be reliving some of those moments.
A few hours on the ferry from Kagoshima, the island of Yakushima is covered in outstanding yakusugi (Japanese cedar) forests, with some of the trees being over 2300 years old. I'm fascinated by it in terms of 'timelessness' – it being an insular space heavily dominated by nature with a history that extends a long way back, beyond any personal memories or concepts of time. It also stretches ahead in a similar fashion, refusing to exist within a singular fixed timeline. It might be a place where non-linear time is possible to experience. Additionally, the forest in Miyazaki Hayao's Mononoke Hime was based on the Shiratani Ravine area of Yakushima, so the concepts of the film might have an influence on how one makes sense of reality on the island - especially considering that in the film the forest is present as a place of isolation, myth/fiction, and circular time.
Across the sea from Yakushima is the island of Tanegashima, which houses the Japanese Space Centre. It's also the location in which the second act of Shinkai Makoto's 5 Centimeters Per Second animated film takes place, where it embodies isolation, disconnection and longing. For Takaki, the protagonist of the film, Tanegashima is a place to leave, and thus consciously functions as an inbetween place that's removed from the main narrative of his life. We see the island though his experiences there, which already have a retrospectively irrelevant feeling to them as they happen in real time. Visiting locations from the film, as well as having a pre-existing narrative in my head of the place, I'm interested in how this inbetweennes will come through in real life.
Additionally, while this is just a personal delusion, within Shinkai's fictional and self-contained Japan, I connect the object of the Tower from A Place Promised In Our Early Days with the space center on Tanegashima. While PPED is on an alternative narrative plane to one following real life, and while the Tower (an alien object that constantly replaces the space around itself with materials from parallel worlds) doesn't actually exist, as far as fictional narratives and their accessibilty is concerned, it might as well be on Tanegashima if I imagine it that way. A place whose primary function is deconstructing reality might be exciting be in.
The Space Centre is also relevant as it evokes memories and feelings relating to Voices of a Distant Star, Shinkai's first animated film, which focuses around themes of physical and temporal distance, and has the timelines of the main characters go out of sync as a result of space travel. These fictions don't relate to specific locations I'm visiting, but might affect the way I perceive time and movement.
During the trip I will be taking both analogue and digital photos to use in my animations. Documentation of personal experiences and memories is what serves as the basis for my practice, and I'll be using a diaristic approach and record as many moments from my trip as possible, with close attention to fictional planes and their accessibility. I will also make drawings and keep a travel diary.