2016 Blog KYLA

Kyla Ranger's Japan Blog 2016


Japan Trip Reflection

All artists whether they be painters, musicians, dancers all have this ability to look at things in a different way. To see something that on the surface might seem like nothing at all, yet instead of nothing they see opportunity. I remember being a little girl spending hours watching my mum working in her studio. To me it was magic as she transformed stiff, sticky fine-grained lumps of clay into things of beauty. I have always enjoyed how ideas unfold and grow. And this was something I got to be a part of every single day while working at Crossroad Arts.

On the 7th of January 2016 I boarded a plane to Japan with Steve Mayer-Miller, embarking what was quite possibly my last Crossroad Arts adventure.

Personally, for me, the beginning of anything is always the most difficult part to all journeys. And this was a journey which took many unpredictable turns. In fact it had a rather bumpy beginning to say the least; I missed my domestic flight which put the a great deal at risk. Not at all a good way to start any work trip! Luckily I eventually did make it to my connecting international flight and before I knew it I found myself 40 000 ft in mid air, halfway between my home and my destination. For the next 10 days my personal life was on hold and I was about to immerse myself in an unfamiliar world, and be a small part of this final project. It was like I had been handed my very own enormous lump of clay, and just as my mother did time and time again, I now had the opportunity to create something.

I was responsible for creating a short film documenting aspects of the trip, write a blog, participate as a dancer, and also collect as much footage and photographs as possible. Editing and creating the film as well submitting the daily blog I found a lot more challenging than I had predicted. Time was of the essence. We were often on the move heading somewhere. Whether to facilitate workshops in Yamamoto Town, or to collaborate with dancers and musicians in Nara City or even to create an art instillation along the river at the snowy base of Zao Mountain. Busy, busy, busy. And at times I felt exhausted, but I was also nourished and inspired by what was around me and by the people who we worked with. My mom always said that art is something that comes from within. So to create something with others you would need to establish some sort of bond or relationship before or during the creative process.

I often found my mind wondering back to two particular moments. Each of these moments I discovered something new about connections and bonds shared between people and the environment. The first was the day we travelled two hours outside Nara City to film an improvised dance, led by Japanese choreographer Shin Sakuma. This was really the first time I focused on being behind my camera. In doing so I learnt that through the eye of the camera you see the small things that really matter, yet are often overlooked. It is like holding everything underneath a microscope. You experience things in a different way, it was brilliant! I felt more connected to nature yet… there was this disconnected to people which was something I had not experienced before. It was as if my camera created this invisible barrier between me and dancers. I was a fly on the wall and even at points I felt like an intruder. I had this uncontrollable urge (which at times got the better of me) to participate and interact with the dancers. I felt like I was to some degree missing out on the moment and not experiencing it fully. However later I began to realise that I was simply experiencing and appreciating the moment in a different way. I saw things that others didn’t.

Watching the way Shin Sakuma worked was fascinating. His focus is on the process and not the outcome. He is an artist, he is very aware that relationships play an important role, and from what I can see he bases his workshops on connections between people and nature. Sourcing his inspiration by what he sees around him. He takes his time to develop and experiment with an idea which are often quite abstract yet simple. And he leaves room for others to contribute and or take lead. I also admired the way he was able to maintain the upbeat, light-hearted and playful disposition which kept everyone in good spirits. He I an inspiring artist with an incredible ability to read people and act in response to the way they are feeling.

The second experience I had was when we were participating in a workshop at Tanpopo. The atmosphere within the room was chaotic, everyone was doing something different. It was beautiful experiencing the vibrant and unpredictable freedom within the space. I watch as musicians played different rhythms, as dancers moved playfully around the room and as people simply let go and allowed themselves to be swept away by the powerful current of chaos. A woman in a wheelchair caught my attention, and I watched as she moved slowly around the room. That was when I noticed the music had slowly changed. A room that was initially filled with noise was filled with a melody; everyone had somehow tuned in with one another and turned chaos into something structured without me even noticing. I stood up and approached the woman in the wheelchair, placing her hand in mine. Slowly we began to move together. Our bodies like clay being moulded into different shapes as we danced with one another. We created a strong bond as we moved through time and space, enjoying the spontaneity of the dance and we maintained contact throughout. With touch you feel a connection and through this unspoken language we finetuned our senses and woke up our ability to listen and respond to what was happening in the moment. She was my focus, and everything else was irrelevant. Now I felt more yet this time saw less.

Each of these experiences have related to connection in different way. Through the camera I was nourished by what saw and I felt a connection to the landscape but a disconnect to the people.  When I danced with that woman I was nourished by what I felt physically and felt a strong connection to her but my surroundings were irrelevant. A blade of grass does seem interesting unless you take the time to look at it more closely. And to interact with someone who has a physical disability and cannot speak is difficult unless you take the time to express yourself in a new way. I was not working with a ball of clay; I was working with a group of people. And together all built, moulded, shaped and created something out of nothing, and that is the beauty of art. You just have be brave enough.