An interview with Jin Hashimoto
Updated: Apr 10
Artist Leading the Way | Taipei Artist Village: Exclusive Interviews with Artists-In-Residence
This interview was carried out by Maria Dolfini (M) and Chung Ying Ying (Y) in conversation with the artist Jin Hashimoto (J)
Scroll down for the Chinese version.
M+Y: Could you firstly introduce yourself and the reason why you chose Treasure Hill Taipei Artist Village as residency programme? Being fascinated by the concepts of presence, memory and time, how have you interacted and responded to the geographical location of Taipei?
J: I am Jin Hashimoto, a Japanese artist. I have obtained a Bachelor and Master degrees in Metalsmithing at the Tokyo University of The Arts and since then I have been working independently on my art practice.
For what regards Treasure Hill Taipei Artist Village, I actually did not know the history and characteristics of this place at first, I have chosen it out of chance. I selected the residency through an exchange programme sponsored by the Japanese government. This programme was promoting international residencies for Japanese artists in different cultures; I chose Taiwan and Taipei because of my interest in Wansei history. In fact, in 2016 I had already participated in two groups exhibitions in Taipei, at the F&F gallery and G Gallery respectively.
Moreover, in 2017 I completed a residency in Kaohsiung, in the south of Taiwan, for three months. In Kaohsiung I was staying in a place near where my grandmother used to live when she was a child in Taiwan, so her memory naturally started unfolding in my head and I began researching my family history and the phenomenon of Wansei.
After this residency in Kaohsiung I went back to Japan, but I have always wanted to return to Taiwan to continue what I had started; this residency at Treasure Hill Artist Village was then the perfect opportunity. My family, in fact, lived in Taipei for a long time in the past. So, there has always been a strong connection with this city and country, however I never got the chance to work on Wansei history before. This exhibition at Treasure Hill focuses on Wansei, thus it completes my journey towards the pursuit of my roots.
M+Y: As you just mentioned, the works in your current exhibition ‘Memory Code 1895-1946’ at Treasure Hill Taipei Artist Village address the history of Wansei. Wansei literally means “Taiwan-born” and refers to those Japanese who were born in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period (1895-1946) and were forced to repatriate to Japan after the Second World War, facing complex identity issues and discrimination. It seems you have thoroughly researched the theme of Wansei; why is Wansei a personal topic to you?
J: The connection between Taiwan and I dates back to 1895. At the beginning of Japanese colonial period, my ancestors Inosuke Takahashi and Hama arrived in Taipei and got married shortly after. Two generations later, my grandmother was born and grew up in Taiwan until the age of 17 years old when Japan was defeated in World War II. Therefore, the memory of my grandmother is my personal connection to the collective history of Wansei. From my point of view, it is natural to return to my roots and past; without past, the present does not exist. It is fundament in my art practice to feel the personal memory of my ancestors as if it was my own personal memory.
Although I interviewed several Wansei in Japan, my interest mainly lies in my personal family history and memory. However, in order to gain deep insight into my family tree I need to understand the historical memory around this phenomenon. I am not saying that I am not interested in the collective memory of Wansei, but in general this is my perspective on life and art: we need to start from our personal views and the small phenomenon around us in order to achieve greater perspective on more universal issues.
M+Y: Could you introduce your current solo show ‘Memory Code 1895-1946’ at Treasure Hill Taipei Artist Village and any particular elements that you would like to highlight?
J: This exhibition includes different art mediums: photography, wood sculptures, paintings and installations. Although these artworks might appear different and evoke a dissimilar range of sensations, all of them are made with the same objective: I hope the viewer can feel the temporal gap and spatial distance between the past and the present. For example, wood carving in my practice symbolises the present: I am carving. But through the carved wood, placed in front of other materials, we can see the past: a photograph of Keelung in Memory Code – Keelung port 1946 or an old map of Taipei in Memory Code.
In this sense my art is not realistic, but abstract. Not because the artworks are not figurative but because of how they convey the past. In fact, I believe that history plays a realistic role and is preserved in historical documents in archives, visual art instead needs to unfold the past and present through abstract and conceptual creations.
M+Y: For most of the artworks in the exhibition you adopted wood as medium and carving as technique. The process of making in your art is very interesting and requires great patience and precision. What would you say is the meaning of carving in your art practice?
J: “One must always maintain one’s connection to the past and yet ceaselessly pull away from it. To remain in touch with the past requires a love of memory. To remain in touch with the past requires a constant imaginative effort”
- Gaston Bachelard
My art practice is deeply inspired by the thought of French philosopher Gaston Bachelard. The present is the accumulation of many different phenomena, actions and information. The accumulation of these moments is a code that can be broken. Similarly, the meaning of wood carving is an accumulation of small gestures and moments which take place in the present. For me the time of making is thus very important, the process is fundamental. In fact, I spend a long time carving the wood! I want the viewer to perceive this stretch of time, to feel my presence through the work. This is what I call the ‘accumulation of time’ in my oeuvre.
Carving is also crucial in my painting series Memory Code-Keelung and Memory Code-Kaohsiung . I overlap many layers of acrylic paint and I eventually carve the surface to create shapes. I refuse to work only with one layer, since it is only through the process of carving that I can ‘accumulate time’. I want the viewer to feel this sense of time.
M+Y: In Memory Code It is very interesting how the carved wood is placed on the surface of paintings or photographs, almost creating a sort of filter or framework for the image, thus directing the audience towards a specific viewing experience. What role does wood play in this series of artworks? Can you briefly introduce your installation Memory Code and the materials you employed?
J: Yes, you are right, wood does play the role of filter. As I mentioned before, to me carved wood symbolises the present. As we can see the picture only through the filter of wood, the past is filtered by the present factor. The distance between the wood and the other material in the artwork depends, as the temporal gap between past and present varies. For example, in Memory Code wood and photography are very close, while in the installation Memory Code the wood stands far apart from the soil and it almost protects it.
In this installation Memory Code, I use soil and wood as main mediums.
To me, the material of soil represents the past and the earth; we are in constant relation to it. Moreover, the soil relates to a concrete idea of ‘nationality’, which to me is the relationship between and individual and their land and country not a politically construct concept. I believe that people who lived or live on the same soil share the same roots. On a universal level, soil is also the middle ground which connects humans to the cosmos.
As I mentioned above, the wood hanging above the soil represents instead the present filter through which we see and perceive the past. Through the carved wood placed on the pictures of Wansei’s memory and soil as symbol of the beginning and the end, I wish you can feel the special connection between the past and the present, Wansei and us.
The other artworks in the exhibition are based on very specific memories: a picture of Kaohsiung and Keelung harbours respectively in Memory Code-There and Memory Code – Keelung Port; graphs depicting the statistics of Wansei repatriation to Japan in 1946 in Memory Code – Kaohsiung, Memory Code- Keelung Port 1946, Memory Code-Keelung and Memory Code – Kaohsiung.
The soil in Memory Code instead connects personal human memory to collective and historical memory; again, from the small things around us I expand and reach bigger and universal concepts: the movement is from the earth towards the universe.
M+Y: The Canadian scholar Harold A. Innis explores the role of different media in transmitting information throughout time and space; depending on our intention, we might choose a different medium. Taking architecture as example, the intention behind the stone or marble structure of Western churches and the wood of East Asian temples are totally different, despite both holding a space for the gods. You seem to have reflected on such questions before, like you always use iron and wood. However, Iron and wood are extremely different materials and possess different characteristics and connotations: iron renders a sense of sturdiness, firmness and solidity, while wood has a softer nature and it is easily damaged or deformed. So how do you usually choose the materials in your art practice? What elements do you take into consideration?
J: Iron and wood are both natural elements coming from the earth, so I do not see them as necessarily distinct. In the end, we share the same roots.
I always try to adjust my body and mind to fit the material I am using: it is a feeling.
For this reason, I was using iron as an art medium when I was a student; at the time I was young and strong, so iron fitted my body shape and personality perfectly: I felt like iron! Iron is powerful, massive, incandescent and heavy, it requires a lot of strength to be handled.
For example, ‘Memory Code’ (2011) in Tokyo Ueno Park is 3 tons and 5 meters! Since in our modern society everything has become monumentally big and high – such as the cityscape populated by high-raises –, if I decided to keep using iron as a medium, I would have had to create colossal sculptures to keep up with the trend of the time; but I did not feel like it anymore, so this why I started using wood instead.
The transition period was painful for at least a couple of years, it was not easy to adjust to a new material and learn how to handle it. However, now that I am not so young and vigorous, I feel like wood fits my mental and physical conditions better. In fact, although wood appears as soft and fragile – especially in my artworks – it is very resilient, it holds a hidden and ancient strength within its veins. Now I definitely feel like wood.
M+Y: Apart from exhibiting your works in art galleries and exhibition spaces, you also created public installations, like the sculpture you just mentioned, ‘Memory Code’ (2011) in Tokyo Ueno Park. With the passing of time iron sculptures are subjected to the exposure to natural elements – such as sun and rain–, thus become rusty. The rust which slowly appears after the completion of the artwork seems to add an extra layer to the temporal framework of the work, almost extending its elapsed time. I find this phenomenon very interesting; how do you perceive the ‘sense of time’ in your art practice?
J: Indeed, the iron sculpture becomes rusty with time, changing the artwork's surface. As you can tell, I always think about the sense of time. In the remote future, since iron is a natural element, this sculpture will eventually return to the earth and merge with it. It will surely outlive its creator, in fact the life span of iron is much longer than human’s life!
However, for me the choice of iron as medium is not much of an environmental choice as of a conceptual a philosophical belief: reflecting on the life span of iron can change the way we perceive ourselves, the present, human life and the universe. In fact, in modern society led by fast rhythms, we lost the perception of time and the joy of simple gestures. My intention is to stretch this time and to allow ourselves to know the history and the processes behind our actions; only in this way we can experience things around us with intention and dedication.
So going back to your question, the viewer who witnesses the iron rusting and slowly becoming part of the earth again, will also sense the ‘accumulation of time’ and reflects on the lapse of human life. I hope this will eventually encourage us to change our way of living.
M+Y: Being such a prolific artist, what would you say it is the essence of your work, the thread connecting your oeuvre from beginning to end?
J: I am always seeking to represent what we can feel and sense but ultimately are not able to see or rationalise. In my oeuvre, I attempt to share the feeling of the invisible. I would say this is the main theme that runs through my art.
M+Y: Last question, since 2009 you have had many exhibitions and been awarded several prices such as the Tagboat Award in Japan in 2016 and the Independent Art Fes Taipei in Taiwan in 2017. Moreover, your works have been shown in New York, South Africa and several cities in Japan and Taiwan. How would you comment on your present residency in Taipei Artist Village? What are your plans for the future?
J: I am very satisfied with the residency at Treasure Hill, however I also recognise that this is only a starting point, there was not enough time to complete my research on Wansei and my ancestors. So I am definitely planning to continue this project in the future! At the moment, I am working towards a solo exhibition at the Kuo Mu Sheng Foundation in Taipei, opening at the end of the month.
Then I am planning to apply to another residency programme and hopefully get the chance to remain in Taiwan for another couple of years. Furthermore, I will cooperate in an art project on the Wansei topic with the Taiwanese artists Wuhan Chou and Anchi Ring (Inukichi Books Group), who are also residency artists at Treasure Hill.
Finally, I am considering collaborating with a Taipei-based art gallery to mount a solo exhibition next year and possibly to exhibit my works in the art fair ONE ART Taipei 2020.
藝術家帶路 | 台北國際藝術村: 駐地藝術家專訪
採訪人: Maria Dolfini( 以下簡稱M )、鍾盈盈(以下簡稱Y)
藝術家: 橋本仁( 以下簡稱J )
M+Y: 首先，能不能先請你為大家簡單介紹一下你自己，並說明此次選擇寶藏巖台北國際藝術村為駐村地點的理由為何？在橋本仁先生的創作中 ，作品多半圍繞著「存在」、「記憶」、「時間」等相關主題，而寶藏巖本身也是一個乘載豐富歷史以及居民集體記憶的場所，因此我很好奇你此次的創作如何與本地的地理、歷史環境呼應？
J: 我和台灣的關係可以追溯到1895年。在日本殖民初期，我的祖宗高橋猪之助（Inosuke Takahashi）和はまHama）來到台北，不久之後就結婚了。兩代人之後，我的祖母在台灣出生成長，直到17歲時日本在二戰中戰敗。因此，我對祖母的記憶可以說是我個人對灣生集體記憶的聯節。從我的觀點來看，尋根和想回到過去是很自然的。沒有過去，現在就不存在了，所以在我的藝術實踐中，把祖先的個人記憶當作是我自己的記憶是我創作時的基準。
M+Y: 來自加拿大的學者殷尼斯（Harold A. Innis）曾經提出一個論點，訊息的傳遞因為意欲穿越的時空向度不同，而會選擇不同的媒介。以建築為例，同樣是獻給神明的空間，西方大理石的石造教堂和東方的木造神社背後考量的因素可能完全不同。在你的作品之中，你似乎也面對著類似的問題，在你曾經使用過的媒材：包括鐵和木頭，這兩種截然不同的元素有著不同的特質和內涵，鐵給人堅毅、剛強的印象，而木頭卻帶有溫柔質地，並具備容易被重組、更新的特質，因此我很好奇你在創作時是如何決定素材的呢？考量的元素又有哪些？
M+Y: 除了藝廊和展覽會場裡展示的作品以外，我發現橋本仁先生也有很多公共藝術作品設置的經驗，例如上述東京上野恩賜公園的Memory Code。鑄鐵作品經過時間的淬煉，又經日曬雨淋會產生生鏽的狀況，這些在鐵鏽就像是作品的延伸，繼續往前推移著時間。我對這樣的「時間感」非常感興趣，你能不能為我們多解釋你如何看待這樣的概念？
M+Y: 最後一個問題，橋本仁先生自2009年以來已擁有許多展覽和得獎經歷，在2016年也獲得日本的Tagboat Award大賞及2017年台灣的Independent Art Fes Taipei大獎，展出地點包含紐約、 南非、日本、台灣，在世界各地都有展出經驗的你，對目前在台北的駐村有什麼感想呢？另外，以想請問你接下來的計劃為何？請與我們分享。
最後，我正在考慮與台北的某個藝廊在明年舉行個展，並有機會在2020藝術台北ONE ART Taipei上展出我的作品，所以敬請期待囉！