Echoists of the Takase River
HD video, sound, 03:16 min
publication, offset printing
594 x 420 mm, edition of 250
I had learned to take ‘soundings’ – like someone testing the depth of a well. You throw a stone down and listen.
Plainwater, Anne Carson
In science, the word sounding means: 'to study the underwater depth of lake or ocean floors by transmitting sound pulses into water'. Data taken from soundings are used to map the seafloor, an area that is still largely unknown to human beings. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary sounding can also mean: a probe, a test, or sampling of opinion or intention. Like a bat exploring its surroundings by sending out a signal and listening to the echo in order to find out what’s there.
During a three-month residency in Japan, I explored the meaning of the word sounding and drew a parallel with the Japanese word kodama. Kodama can be translated into English as echo, but is in Japanese folklore also known as a phenomenon that reverberates sounds in mountains and valleys. Spoken words reflected against the landscape are thought to be kodama, trees that are answering.
Late in the 1970s, three dams were built along the course of the Takase river in Nagano Prefecture. Echoists of the Takase River focusses on the vegetation around one of these dams. A Japanese sign language interpreter signs the word kodama, while a group of performers shout both the names of plants and trees that died during the construction of the dam, as well as the names of pioneer species that were the first to colonise the previously disrupted land.
Performed by: Naoto Nakamura, Mariko Nishijo, Mio Nishitani, Chihiro Takahashi, Tomoaki Urano and Akemi Watanabe
Sign language interpreter: Atsuko Tanabe
Sound design: Sveinbjörn Thorarensen
Translation: Sosei Sato
This project was possible thanks to the team of Asahi AiR and the generous support of the city of Ōmachi, Nagano, Japan.