At the main studio I have been busy. The bowls need one last coat of paint. The tablecloth needs to be cut. Chairs need one last coat of paint as well. Speakers need to bought. And lastly, everything needs to be wired. Yay! Less than two weeks and counting...
Tuesday, February 5, 2008
The cold wind raced over the dormant fields. In the spring, the field will be covered with signs of new life but for now there was nothing more than a few hungry mice braving the chill for food. The wind’s icy fingers tapped lightly on the windows of an old farmhouse but were ignored by the family huddled around the kitchen table. The wooden table was old and scarred but shone with polish and love. The people at the table eyed each other suspiciously over the cards each held in their hand, cups of green tea gone cold at their elbows. Each person eyed each other as if trying to read thoughts. No one spoke for there was too much at stake. It was “ameba” so the people who lost would have to pay double. When the last card was thrown the youngest, no more than eight, threw up her arms and yelled “fukeru!” With good-natured groans, the other two players shoved sixteen dimes across the table. The eldest woman shook her head and said to her son, “You’re going to have to watch that one, Katchi”. Katchi looked over at his grinning daughter and rolled his eyes. While a small smile he shuffled the cards and dealt the next round.
Three months later, that same grinning little girl sat at a very different dinning room table 3,000 miles away from the farmhouse. Outside the weather was warming up and a different old man’s flowers were coming into bloom. Inside an old colonial house the last deep notes of “Ein Prosit” hung in the air. A matured woman (she preferred not to be called old) entered the room with a cleaning rag in her hand and a scold ready on her tongue, “You shouldn’t sing such songs in front of our grandchildren! It’s going to teach them the wrong kind of German!” The old man winked at the little girl and the dug into his Friday Night Salad.
Currently, I am exploring the process of how people pass on their cultural identity and how it is assimilated our everyday lives. There are many different ways that we as human beings gain a cultural identity; be it through our ancestry, location, foods, travel, etc. However, I believe that there is one key location where the majority of culture is passed on—the table. The act of sitting down at a table -it could be any table- and having a conversation with another is essential in passing on and receiving culture. It has been in my experience that the table is one of the few places where cultures can cross and meld harmoniously.
The metaphor of the table acts like a bridges between generations, cultures, and it will be the main focal point of my installation. I plan to show videos within five different place settings. These videos will be contained in 5 inch monitors placed within a porcelain bowl. Some of the videos will talk of the Japanese internment camps, others will speak of my Japanese culture; there will be stories from my German side as well. For instance when the Crouchers crossed the Canadian boarder during World War I, no one was allowed to talk except for the children because all of the adults had very strong German accents. However, most of the videos will speak about a meshing of cultural identity, for that is what is in me.
I am not from Japan nor am I from Germany. I am Hapa (Hawai'ain for “half-breed”) and I am American. As such, I have a hybrid of cultural identity. I eat sashimi and nori. I even know how to make sushi. Every year our family gets together for Mochitsuke (a traditional Japanese festival of rice desserts). Every New Year I eat sweet beans and drink sake, also Japanese traditions. I cannot buy, make, or do things that involve the number 4 or 7 due to the unluckiness of those numbers. Onlookers might think this is neurotic but in fact it is part of my Japanese ancestry. I would like to say that I am more comfortable with hashi than a fork, but that would be a lie. Why? Because I am Hapa. I like Friday Night Salad (a Webers' tradition) and I can play cribbage with the best of them.
Thus, I will create films that involve cross-cultural identity, to do justice to what I, and others, have become. My final project will look at the roots of my cultural identity but I hope that it will reach other people as well. Through my own personal narrative I aim to reach out, perhaps to bridge out to a greater cultural identity...our American cultural identity. I hope to make people re-evaluate what is cultural identity, how do we make it, and how we pass it on. In our world, there is so much strife between cultures but if I am an example of how cultures can come together to create a new culture then there is hope. This hope will be represented in the form of a gift that the audience can take with them if they choose to. To take it home, look at it, hold it, and think about how it could apply to their life.