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Staff / From behind the scene of Echigo-Tsumari

Singing along the wind as "let's be free": Special exhibitions 2020 Summer at Museum of Picture Book Art

29 July 2020

Our steps forward into the 11th year of the operation of the museum were supposed to be light ones

Photo by YONEYAMA Noriko

It was December 2019, just before the real winter hit the region, when MATSUMOTO Akinori and Michiko came for the inspection in preparation for their special exhibitions in the spring of 2020. However the exhibitions had been postponed due to the COVID-19 and we finally managed to launch the exhibitions, “Be free as you like!!” / “The Sound of Bamboo Played by the Wind” from 23 July.

Photo by YONEYAMA Noriko

Akinori is calm and Michiko is innocent – they are married couple and artists pursuing their respective careers. Akinori is known for “sound objects” he has been creating for long term and has participated in ETAT2015 and Setouchi Triennale. He purposely doesn’t make any plan when he creates distinctive structure as he exhcanges dialogues with bamboo. He takes inspirations from folk music instruments he discovered when travelling abroad mainly in Asian countries. He has invented approximately 300 kinds. He has installed diverse ranges of those in the same space bringing the layers of improvising sounds including the natural sound of the place.

"Hoppe" drawn in various postures / Photo by YONEYAMA Noriko

Michiko has been suffering from schizophrenia since 2000 while started to draw a pet cat named “Hoppe” from 2010. That routine has contineud on everyday and she has produced over a couple of thousands of works in the last decade. Michiko’s day begins with drawing her beloved cat, Hoppe. She thinks nothing while drawing and finishes her drawing in one go. Colours are picked up from acrylic paints which catch her eyes. Michiko hasn’t studied art as such. However, the detailed lines and colourful patters stay in your mind and unforgettable once you see them. She has been invited various places bot within and outside Japan and Hoppe filled with colours and emotions are well received.

"Sound Objcet" - filled with wonders

"Colouring in Hoppe" by Michiko is a popular stop for visitors

Supported by locals - the diary of production began with "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter"

Cutting down bamboos

While bamboo is essential for Akinori’s work, thick bamboo are hard to grow in the reagion with heavy snowfall. When we soak for advice from OMI Hiroshi, our local key person in the Hachi village, he asked around through his extended local network and managed to source bamboos from Mr & Mrs Sorime in Tsunan. Under the good weather with breeze, we started cutting bamboo with a few men from the village and Mr & Mrs Sorimoku.

Drinking a bottle of an energy drink

Drank a bottle of energy drink and had a signature meal “Katsu (pork cutlet – also imply “win”) in the local restaurant. We managed to cut close to 80 bamboos as we joked around with laughter.

OMI Hiroshi and Mr & Mrs SORIME

Akinori is “the rain man” who brings rain everytime he has some important things to do. Even the weather forcast changed from fine and shine to rain as his production approached in mid July. However, the production day was miracly no rain and we started to launch the production with local supporters. As a reaction to the duration of non-activity, everyone worked even better than usual, wearing masks, getting swetty and taking water, and managed to finish the job in one day outside which was expected to take two days.

Local supporters helped production outdoors - it had been long time since we worked together.

Akinori (in blue T-shirt) and Michiko were grateful for the local supporters

Due to her health requirement, Michiko worked only in the morining. As her routine is to draw Hoppe everyday, we asked her to draw on vegetables brought in by locals as well as on driftwoods. Hoppe, unfortunately, passed away in the end of June so she was in sorrow as she created works.

Michiko drawing on Yugo (a large cucumber)

Michiko drawing Hoppe patter on the driftwood

I do rembemer as Michiko said quietly “what shall I draw as Hoppe has gone.” When she finished drawing on the driftwood, she smiled and showd us by saying “look, look. Doesn’t this look like Shizuka (a goat in the museum)!”

The driftwood - it became Shizuka, the goat!

The simple and comfortable sound of bamboo resonates in the museum. Akinori describes “this work is to feel the wind visual and audio senses. ” He continued – “it is easy to make the works animate but it has taken 35 years to make them unbreakable. Once you complete an artwork it doesn’t take much time to create the same one while I try and error for a few decades on making the first model. When I try to follow my idea it doesn’t work. I have to listen to what bamboo wants me to do. ” It reminds me of Tashima Seizo as he said something similar when making works using tree nuts.

Photo by YONEYAMA Noriko

We planned a collaborative production for these two exhibitions between them and TASHIMA Seizo. While it became impossible to make it happen due to the COVID-19, we are pleased to present a space which brings calm to visitors as we all experience this challenging time. I do hope that visitors will feel free as they walk through the exhibitions, see Hoppe, listen to the sound of bamboo and meet the goats at the museum.

Photo by YONEYAMA Noriko

These exhibitions will be on until the museum closes for winter on 23 November. Visit us to hear the gentle sound of wind and meet adorable Hoppe.

MIWA Mayumi, staff member of NPO Echigo-Tsumari Collaborative Organisation

About the museum

Museum of Picture Book Art

Address: 2310 Sanadako, Tokamachi-city, Niigata 942-1402
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Photo by ISHIZUKA Gentaro



Matsumoto Michiko
Born in 1973.
Developed schizophrenia in 2000. Joined Studio Cooca in 2010 and encountered innocent people who easily came closer to her beyond the wall she built around herself. Such encounter enabled her to relax and draw. She was given a beloved pet cat, Hoppe from JSPCA in 2011. Participated in Art Fair Tokyo in 2015. She has been engaging with range of projects since then.

Matsumoto Akinori
Wonder artist / Born in 1951
He has been creating sound-tool / sound objects since 1980s and presented them which make sound by themselves at museums and outdoors. As a wonder artist, Matsumoto uses bamboo as a primary material for his works and makes use of electricity, human power and natural energies such as wind and water to play his sound objects.

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