Hiraki Sawa, Hako, Chisenhale Gallery, 2007- Dominic Rich Oct 2007
Hiraki Sawa’s solo exhibition at the Chisenhale Gallery includes his recent video-animation installation, Hako. Hako, involves six 12 minute looped projections (each with its respective name ). They are cast onto their own large, propped, deliberately placed rectangular boards. They act as the only source of light in the gallery. Hako uses animation, narrow depths of field, varied visual rhythms and audio tempos to create lonely situations and a disorientation of the senses. Familiar symbols like a house, a boat, a clock, a cultivated garden suggest vague and esoteric narratives.
Hako translates as box in Japanese. Sawa is referencing his interest in a strand of psychotherapy known as “Sand Play” or box therapy. The idea is to use the unconscious mind as a form of healing. Through the somatic experience of arranging objects and figures in a box full of sand one can lose self-awareness thus engage their unconscious psyche. One can imaginatively create an inner world of symbols, finding an individual “space” related directly to their unconscious. Sawa must see a connection between this idea and his art practice, possibly attempting to reinvent it.
Sawa’s interest is evident throughout Hako, most particularly in the ‘For a Moment’ projection. In the frozen shot of a seascape sits an ambiguously silhouetted building. The notions of foreboding isolation and the relief of anonymity are felt simultaneously. I am informed that this is footage of a Japanese nuclear power station. As this information had previously been lost in visual translation, Sawa has allowed me to understand the silhouetted building using imagination. I have created a subjective symbol, perhaps placing it in my own sand box.
Using the power station as “real” footage, Sawa creates a continuum between it and his animated symbols. The projection pursues, waves lap along the shore beneath the power station. A crudely animated Ferris wheel fades in. A boat sails on the horizon; it is difficult to recognise that the boat is a superimposed animation. Sawa’s boat negates the chance of finding a divide on his continuum. This blending of appropriated footage from fabricated image presents disorientation, uncertainty and confusion. This provides a frustrating and exciting void, a lack of knowledge that can only be filled with imagination.
Although I have suggested that Hako, could be interpreted as a reinvention of “Sand Play”, any art which investigates sensory experience will always hold more than the presentation of one concept. However, Sawa’s is clearly influenced by the notion of “Sand Play”; the disorientating experience disarms, self awareness is faded by intrigue. The ambiguity of symbols and the suggestion of narratives force understanding to be created through ones own imagination (whether I am healed remains inconclusive).