Resin, bronze, rock salt, wood, video projection, webcam, sound
The title Utsusemi derives from two Japanese characters representing emptiness and cicada. Combined together the characters mean the shell of a cicada. Metaphorically the word utsusemi implies an awareness of impermanence, a literary and aesthetic concept cultivated in eighth century Japan known as mono no aware. At its core is a deep empathic appreciation of the ephemeral beauty manifest in synaesthesia.
Viewers enter the installation along a path as they approach 365 cicadas cast in resin arranged in a logarithmic spiral. The sounds of cicadas envelop the space. Cicadas symbolize immortality and the ultimate prospect of transcendent rebirth. Some are known to live in the earth for seventeen years, finally emerging only to shed their skin, sing, mate and die.
A large tightly framed image of the artist’s throat, resembling a landscape, is projected onto this wall. Breathing, a gesture at once sensuous and tempting, can become agonizing and painful at life’s end. The cicadas shimmer and spiral outward from the center while a bronze lotus is suspended above the viewer. Similar to cicadas, lotuses grow in the mud and rise to bloom, symbolizing the human capacity to rise above the world’s impurities.
The entire floor is covered with rock salt, which signifies the Japanese ritual of purification. Light enveloping the space breathes slowly as the artist’s voice is barely heard, creating an intimate experience. The metaphoric center of this installation is a wooden pier leading toward the sound and light, which one must enter alone. The path is an entrance to the liminality between life and death.
In creating this immersive sound installation with 365 spiraling cicadas and a lotus seed pod suspended over a salt bed, I was visualizing the recent loss of my mother and my father’s untimely death when I was a child. The sound of the cicadas that overlaps with me whispering “Come back to me,” in both English and Japanese, expresses my desire for the understanding of the truth of loss.