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.
Late in the 1970s, three dams were built along the course of the Takase river in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Echoists of the Takase River focuses on the vegetation around one of these dams and on the phenomenon known in Japanese folklore as 'kodama'. This phenomenon consists of sounds in mountains and valleys that make a delayed echoing effect; the spoken words reflected against the landscape are thought to be Kodama: tree spirits answering.
In Echoists of the Takase River we meet a Japanese Sign Language (JSL) interpreter who signs the word 'kodama', while a group of echoists 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 colonize the previously disrupted land. Names like HARIGIRI, NISE AKASHIYA and OOKAMENOKI.
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 generous support of the city of Omachi, Nagano, Japan.