Shinkansen Nozomi, Tale of the Bullet and the Snail

Japan Bullet 03

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A month to spend in Akiyoshida International Art Village, Yamaguchi Prefecture. A large white Getty-like complex, next to a pond with giant goldfish. There, small bridges connect a network of floating appartments. Invited as Artist-in-Residence, we will float in one of those.

 A week Tokyo, but then the Shinkanzen Nozomi Bullet Train brings us all the way to Hiroshima, our first stop, at 300 km per hour. Flight stewards and stewardesses service around. When they enter a compartment there is a greeting, may be a vow, followed by a deep bow towards the corridor in front. Leaving us, they do the same. Neither friendly, nor unfriendly. Serious bussiness, that is. At first it makes one feel uneasy. I’m not a feudal landlord, nor the Japanese around me, we only paid for a ticket.

After a while, with stewards keeping on coming and going all the time, bowing and bowing again, I begin to realize that this is not at all about the construction or reproduction of a specific social relationship between them and us. Nothing personal. Perhaps it is something between them and this Bullet Train, more likely between them and Society writ large. The Gods, or whatever Confucius had in mind when he planted here the seeds of his wisdom.

I feel strongly inclined to see them as priests or monks. It is us the passengers who try our best to pay our respect to them, the chamberlains of master unknown.

The train races on, at 300 km or more an hour, hardly a noise, as if we’re sailing along on a quiet lake. The landscape reminds me of the flat pastures in Holland, or the endless prairies in the Midwest. It’s time to get my notebook out. My black inkpen, a greenish Sumi ink pot. The corner of a paper serviette may work as a brush. There is an ontological question to be answered. Is it possible to establish some sort of identity between an object that passes by at 300 km an hour and the lines on paper drawn by a devout snail?

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Japan Bullet 05

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Japan Bullet 10

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Japan train 05

Collection: – Yamaguchi Museum of Arts; – Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tokyo

 

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