Your sculptures are beautiful.
I wonder, do you take bone donations?
I am looking for an artist to donate my bones to once I die, to be crafted into artworks.
I am not planning to die soon, but one never knows!
Warm regards, Anna
Thank you for your E-mail.
What a mysterious question this is!
Do you want to become a bone flower?
Or would you prefer something different?
First of all, I need to know about you.
Because I can not make art without your life.
Could you tell me about you?
Would I like to become a bone flower? What a wonderful question to mull over...
Maybe we go on a journey to find out? I can offer my life if you offer your art.
What can I tell you? I am someone who loves questions. I write books. Next I would like to write something relating to art, and artists' perspectives on life. I love walking and cycling up hills - any challenges that help me to find new perspectives.
I am living in Singapore just now and saw at the weekend a ship wreck at the Asian Civilisations Museum including some beautiful pieces carved from bone. I just remember thinking what a wonderful thing to do with one's bones...
Has no one ever asked you before? Now that I have, it seems such an obvious thing to do. Donate one's organs to people in need, but donate one's bones to art... And one's flesh to the worms. (Who are themselves curious beings! Do you know, earthworms go in search of food even when they have a plentiful supply? What drives them?)
I also agree with you.
We have many opportunities to change our perspective in our usual lives.
For humans who don't have sharp tusks or feathers, the greatest ability is imagination. We can change our perspectives using imagination.
For example, if I was a caterpillar...I would transform into a chrysalis. When a caterpillar becomes an adult, I change number of feet, number of eyes, and the shape of mouth. I change food as wellas my movement. I have two different perspectives in one life. To me, it is the same as dying once.
This imagination gives me the unknown perspective of death and life. Who said our journey was only once?
Only one journey - perhaps not... But isn't each moment - and each perspective - unique? I love that each snowflake is unique, each organism.
I agree we can change our perspectives using our imagination - and I believe (to some extent at least) change our reality. The future is malleable: we are always shaping it with our eyes shut. Part of my work is in helping people to find new perspectives by imagining various possible future scenarios, and then supporting them to look again at the decisions they could make today.
If each perspective is a new life, then we enrich life by dying frequently!
If that's so, I could become a bone flower today... Perhaps I could begin straight away: what does a bone flower see?
Perceptive is an important theme, even for Art.
I hope to share your perspectives.
Can we try some practices together?
Please feel the weather at 12 noon, next Sunday.
Sunlight, wind, rain, soil, temperature, humidity...
On the same earth, I will do the same action at the same time.
(Japan time 13:00)
Please recall your snowflakes of the past.
Where were you playing in your childhood? Was it a park? Who did you play with? Was it fun?
What was your favorite toy?
Have you hurt?
What kind of clothes did you wear?
What kind of smell did you like?
Did you go to the hospital?
What kind of pencil were you used?
Were you a shy?
Did you have a secret to your mother?
Have you got a present?
What was your treasure?
Please tell me what you remembered.
I will, with pleasure.
Until soon - Anna
Dear Hideki - my immediate notes, scribbled just afterwards. I'll write this afternoon with my snowflakes. I appreciate sharing this moment with you. A
I also shared the same time. Thank you.
I took a video. I will show you later.
Have a nice afternoon.
In case you can't read my note earlier, here's what I perceived at noon, in Fort Canning park, Singapore:
‐ The feel of charged air humming around me. It's heavy with moisture, and moving a lot - but not in one direction like a cooling breeze; rather in many directions - 'micro-breezes' that make it feel thicker and warmer.
‐ Definite - thought faint - smell of haze in the air, likely from burning the palm oil fields in Indonesia or Malaysia
‐ The sound of cicadas, and another bird repeating a high note with increasing frequency until it became a trill
‐ The soil was red with clay, with some scattered moss, dashed with gravel, scurrying ants. It smells moist, almost sweaty.
‐ The sun was out but mitigated by haze and humidity.
‐ The sound of light chatter and giggles from families and the groups of foreign domestic workers, mostly from the Philippines, who hang out here on Sundays.
And here are some snowflakes from my childhood, conjured up by your questions:
I played with my friend Emma. She's two years younger than me, and much more of an extrovert, always incredibly beautiful too - large eyes, long dark hair, winning smile. She makes me think of a rainbow, so many colours to her personality. I was quiet, but in her company I laughed a lot. She liked the stories I'd tell her, and they'd become more fantastical because she was the audience. Often we enacted them: in one, she'd be the princess, and I'd be the wolf.
We lived on the same street, opposite a field with sheep and cows, which we could play in. When the grass was long we had a game where we'd run and run and suddenly lie down in the grass, and we couldn't be seen - so whoever lay down last had to find the other. At the end of the field was an air raid shelter from the war - a dark pit with a staircase down and an air vent with a tin lid. Emma was forbidden to play there, but I wasn't - so of course we went. Also at the near end of the field was a huge old ash tree, which I loved to sit under. It was chopped down a few years ago, and I miss its presence everytime I go home. It always inspired awe in me.
My favourite toy was a rag doll called Trudie. I loved her to bits: she was knitted for me by an aunt, and stuffed with wool which hangs out like innards. I knitted a little red scarf for her, and used to twiddle it between my fingers for comfort.
The time I was most hurt (before 10) was when my Mum took me and Emma and my sister and our dog to an old ruined abbey - Fountains Abbey - for a walk. Our dog was small (a spaniel called Brandy) and he caught the attention of two rot weilers. The rot weilers went for our dog, which was behind me, and their leads wrapped around my legs. I was pulled along the ground for metres and suffered friction burns behind my knees, and screamed all the way to hospital!
My clothes were most shorts and t-shirts in summer, jeans and jumpers in winter. Mum liked to give me dresses, but I only remember one that I liked as a kid, that was white with three little ice-creams embroidered on it. (I still like ice cream) As a child I wore all sorts of colours, but remember as a teenager I mostly wore blue. Once I went away with Emma and her mum, and her mum teased me because all the clothes I took were blue.
I liked the smell of lavender - not because it's blue too (!) but because we went to Provence in France when I was about six for a holiday, and I remember the fields. I bought a little bottle (very little) of lavender eau de toilette then, and never wanted to use it because I didn't want to finish it. I am pretty sure it's still full.
I liked coloured pencils and crayons, but remember having to write with an ink fountain pen at school, and liking the shapes the ink made when you gave the pen more or less weight. I love ink painting now - very interested in this art form - which is also a momentary encapsulation of the moment, the breath.
Yes, I was shy and loved to go and sit on my own and think. I was happy in my shyness to some extent, although also under-confident and appearing to some a little serious. (Not everyone could make me laugh like Emma)
My secret from my Mum... I did have many! She has a way of asking me questions that suggest the right answer - "You have done this, haven't you? You didn't do this, did you?", and so mostly I gave the answer she wanted - although I would sometimes joke to let her know that was what I was doing. I burned a hole in the carpet in my room once, and hid it for years under a bean bag. She was incredibly cross when she found it, and smacked me hard - which she rarely did. I couldn't really see the problem, as the bean bag was always there, so no one else ever knew.
A treasured gift was a book given to me by my violin teacher, Stan Holloway - a kind and witty Scottish man. The book was 'Kidnapped' by Robert Louis Stevenson, and it was an old hard-back copy. I had already read it and absolutely loved the book, I knew whole chapters off by heart. My teacher gave me his own copy because he could see how passionate I was about this story (adventure, loyalty, friendship) - which takes place in the Scottish highlands. My Mum took me to Scotland and I went off for a long walk in the hills, imagining myself with the characters. I came back with my jeans absolutely drenched from splashing through rivers - and incredibly happy!
I will never forget that moment of last Sunday.
All the sounds were clearly heard. All the light was shining.
I was at the canal near my house. I sat facing the east and I felt another existence on the southwest ground.
It was an ordinary Sunday afternoon. But it was special.
It was my first experience.
And then, yoour answers were perfect!
I felt the feel of grass on my cheeks, felt the coldness of the lavender bottle with my fingers, felt the pain of the leads behind my knees. And I felt like a huge old ash tree appeared in front of my eyes.
I could share some of your childhood perspectives.
I would like to know more. Please let me know when you have time.
Did you exchange something with Emma?
Where did you store a bottle of lavender eau de toilett? What was next to that?
Did you learn a lesson of a violin at teacher's house?
Were you the tall one?
Do you remember the feeling when you first got on the bicycle?
Had you thought you'd like to become a novelist like Robert Louis Stevenson?
Do you remember the story of the princess and the wolf you told Emma?
Did you go for a walk for Brandy?
Did you have a habit or a bad habit?
What was your inferiority complex?
When was your first love?
When did you take an airplane for the first time?
Do you remember the dream that you saw in your childhood?
I loved your film of that moment, hearing the bells in the background and almost feeling the breeze by the water.
I am on holiday now in the Ha Giang region of northern Vietnam, and can hear many sounds from the rice fields - frogs, cicadas, roosters in the morning, the squeals of hungry pigs.
I will answer your questions... will you also share some of your own snowflakes? The first piece of art you remember making? Your favourite memory of autumn leaves? Some scenes with your childhood friends, some of your old rituals, and the places you go to think and be peaceful...?
Emma and I shared all our time and games, but I don't remember particular gifts. When I was 14, her mother (Avril) gave me a white porcelain figure of a girl reaching up to touch a dove's wing - I found it very beautiful, and was sad when she fell and broke a couple of fingers...
I did want to write novels, and poems - I always wanted to write more than anything... and I have now published a couple of books, but not fiction: they are aspirations for the future, different models for business and society, taking a lot of inspiration from art. As I child I wrote some poems - here's one I remember, which I wrote for a cousin's wedding:
Nature weds her
Daughters to the trees, and
Crowns the nuptials
Not ask a new
Ring every year, but a
Heart as strong as
No, I wasn't tall - my sister Ruth was the tall one, and Emma is taller than me now!
I did walk Brandy, often going down a long winding lane called Old Hollins Hill to a village called Esholt, that had a post office, tiny church, little river and pub - and then back home through the woods: pine trees, rhodedhendrons, so many paths and shadows and sounds. I love those woods.
My first love and bad habits I keep for next time... Your turn!
Thank you for your many answers. Your snowflakes always satisfy me.
Your Vietnamese scene reminded me of my childhood. I lived near my grandparents' house. There was a chicken hut in their house, and there was a pond in the garden. They were all hand made by my grandfather. Voice of frogs in the summer night. A chicken singing in the morning. Voice of cicadas in the daytime. There were many sounds in my childhood!
My first piece of art I remember was the camera I made at kindergarten. There was an interesting event at kindergarten. That was a bazaar by children. We used fake money and sold homemade things. I made a camera. The body made of sweets boxes, the lens made of a pack of yogurt, the finder made of a small box of gum. That was my favorite, so I wanted to buy that by myself. I hurried to a store to buy it quickly, but it was already bought by another child. That camera was my art work that sold for the first time.
I also learned the violin. However, I disliked the practice. I preferred to play football with my friends. I went to lesson with my mother 's car every Friday evening. My friends ran after our car. I remember watching them from the window, gradually fading away.
And when I was playing the violin beside the teacher, I always had a strange feeling. When we set up the violin, I can't see my feet. That situation made me uneasy. So, while playing the violin, I always rubbed my feet to the floor and had to see if my legs were not gone. It was my old ritual.
My grandfather was a school principal. He liked to make things, so in real life he wanted to be a craftsman or a farmer. But war did not allow it. He had an oranges field as a hobby. My family harvested in the winter. I liked tree climbing, liked eating oranges on the top of the tree. The warm and yellow orange was like the sun. The sea, the ship, the sky, the forest, the oranges, which can be seen from the top of the tree, all were peaceful.
I am pleased to share episodes with you.
We are snowflakes in this universe. Everyone was born, living and dying in this world. We are fragile existences. But we exist now. Our episodes are the samples. I won't forget your episodes.
When I got the first email from you, I thought I needed to know more about you. Making bones art is merely another form of expression. I want to make your life an art. This art is already beginning.I hope to continue this exchange in the future.
Has your summer come and gone since I wrote? What did it leave with you? Where are you now?
I am starting a new journey in words. A letter to my periods, which have left me for a year or so - and I don't blame them. My mind and body were not on good speaking terms, an impossible way of life.
What journeys are you on?
I have also moved from Singapore now and am living in Hong Kong, by the sea which I look at every morning, over to the hills of Lantau and Kowloon.
What do you see when you eat your breakfast?
I am very glad about your new journey. Changing the environment is to change the perspective. I hope a different wind would send you a better luck.
During this summer, I was taking bones out and cleaning them all the time.
My next solo exhibition will be held in the NY gallery next March. I am preparing it everyday.
The reason I use rodents for bone flowers is that they are primitive mammalian creatures. When I take out bones, I have a rule to eat their flesh a little bit. Eating is a pleasure in daily life, but this behavior reminds me of the fundamental sin of the food we forgot.
Lévi-Strauss said in an essay that eating meat was also a cannibalism.
In the world of myths, humans and animals were not different. They were able to become one another at any time. Because humans were also animals, eating meat was to eat humans and to eat myself.
And because our life is finite, using time is the same as giving away parts of our bodies, I think. For example, exchanging mail in this way is to exchange parts of us with each other. I am interested in projecting these giving / receiving relationships on my art works now.
Another thing I thought in this summer was about two numbers.
Do you know the number of human bones? And then do you know the number of countries? (You may know, I didn't know them)
I noticed that the two numbers were similar. There are no clear correct answers both. They depends on what we think as the standard.
The country is the foundation of the world, bones are the foundation of the body. I would like to think more about how to connect these two.
Funny, I was thinking of you recently.
I also think about you sometimes.
I'm glad I could talk with you again.
So am I! Just walking past these roots in Hong Kong. Where are you? what can you see?
It snowed in Tokyo the day before we met again at LinkedIn.
The real snowflakes.
Even now I imagine your memories well. Especially those of physical experiences. The smell of grass laying down when playing with Emma, pain in the foot when you were hurt by dog's lead at Fountains Abbey, and feeling of cool and damp soil when sitting under the huge old ash tree. (You like the big tree!)
Everyone has their memories. The population continue to increase and memories also continue to increase.
After snow melts, it becomes water, becomes clouds, and circulates through this world. If so, what about our memories? Someday, I will tell others about your memories. Even if you and I die, those snowflakes may circulate. The importance is that many snowflakes have appeared and twinkled in this universe just now. So miraculous! So amazing!
I made HTML of dialogue with you. Can you confirm it? And I added some previous videos.
I loved to read our dialogue again. Thank you for recording it. You ask me to confirm it, how I wonder? With a seal, with ink, with blood? I was eating an orange as I read it - and wanted to squeeze out some juice to mark it.
I heard the chiming bells in the breeze in your videos, and they took me to two places that I loved: the coast of Zadar in Croatia, where there is a sea organ built into the promenade, its bellows pumped by the waves, and the coast of Monhegan, Maine, where there are buoy bells floating on the sea.
Bells always seem to call me home.
One of your snowflakes rang a couple of notes for me: where I find you rubbing your feet to the floor as you play the violin. As a child, I would 'twiddle my toes' (as my Mum put it): thumping the big ones down past the second ones, which I found somehow comforting - grounding, literally! Then last week I went to an Iyengar yoga class where the teacher, George, asked us not to look at our toes as we went down into Trikonasana (triangle pose): he actually asked us to believe they were still there!
I also enjoyed your conscious cannibalism. To eat something is to become it. You become a rodent, the rodent becomes a flower... I have been reading a book about the Evenki, a nomadic people of Northeastern China, by Chi ZIjian, and she relates how the souls of people and animals, particularly the reindeer - and also even the trees, are frequently interchanged. Perhaps eating plants is also a cannibalism.
Your exhibition in New York is coming up! I am excited for you. Did you think more about how to connect the number of countries and bones? Such an interesting juxtaposition - and the question of interpretation, where we place the limits to our fragile classifications, makes it more so. My dad is a mathematician, and I asked him recently why two negative numbers multiplied together makes a positive: it makes no sense to me! He explained it to me in algebra, and I realised it is a convention we have devised because it is useful for calculations.
I am going to be coming to Japan in just two weeks, just over a long weekend. Will you be there?