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A dose of dumb: Japanese special understanding of umbrellas

Christo umbrella project in Japan

Sorting through more old newspaper clippings, I find an interview ("Helping creative talent to bloom", Japan Times, November 03, 1991) with an art exhibition organizer, Kazuko Koike, who speaks about the 1991 Umbrellas environmental art project by Christo that placed hundreds of huge umbrellas throughout valleys in California and Japan.

Ms Koike says the locals in Japan welcomed the project, while those in the US thought it intrusive and irrelevant. If that's the impression she got, well, then so it is (though I have low expectations that she can demonstrate a difference empirically). But here's the problem quote:

The siting of the umbrellas reveal previously hidden space. Such a concept is easily understandable in Japan. The project also reveals differences in culture, in local geography, in the very soil. It picks up and pinpoints the preserved nature of the countryside that is so dear to us Japanese. 

I myself drove up to see the Japan installation in Ibaraki in 1991, just like Ms Koike (though I arrived just as it was being shut down due to the tragic death of a sightseer in the US when a wind gust uprooted a heavy umbrella. I even saw Christo there in a press room, though had no chance to meet him, as he was dealing with the emergency.) As such, I have a personal interest in the Umbrellas project. 

Let's set aside the question of what "differences in culture" were revealed to Ms Koike, and her suggestion that countryside scenery is uniquely "dear to us Japanese". My question for Ms Koike is this:

"Westerners" in California and "Westerners" in Japan (like me) flocked to see the Umbrella project, which was conceived and built by a "Westerner". Yet you suggest there's a "concept" inherent in the project that is easily understood by Japanese only. Is that a fact you can verify? Or is it an arrogant assertion not backed by evidence? I sure hope it's the former.


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