projects > Widows, Orphans, Melancholy Objects

Reading Lee Ufan to the Ancestral Homeland (now a city dump)

Crystal City, Texas is the location of a former WWII American concentration camp for families of Japanese, German and Italian heritage. My own family's quarters were located in this approximate location from January 23, 1944 through sometime in 1946.

This work is a meditation on longing, loss of language and being a perpetual beginner in the reclamation of language. Here I attempt to read a romaji transcript of excerpts from Lee Ufan's book of essays, The Art of Encounter (London: Lisson Gallery, 2004). The romaji transcript is created for this work by Aya Nakamura.

The first excerpt is from the essay, Identity and Difference:

When I was a child I watched my mother singing to herself as she washed the rice. I asked her, "How can you enjoy doing the same thing all the time?" Mother laughed and said, "I may be doing the same thing, but I feel different each time I wash the rice. Sometimes, I feel refreshed by the coolness of the water, and sometimes I feel good because a bird is singing. There are times when the rice, the water, and my hand come together in just the right way, and there are times when nothing goes right because of grandfather's scowl. In any case, I have to live with this repetitive washing of rice." I pondered my mother's answer over and over as I grew up. For me it was a primal experience of identity and difference that still lives in my heart.

The second is the essay, The Desert:

I like a scene composed of a few broken stone columns in the desert. That is because it is possible to see in it a tension between forces that obliterate and forces that lead to continuity. The form of time appears within this conflict. And it is through these traces and fragments that the desert becomes a large place where seeing is possible.