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listening to the blues but never really feeling it (2017)


Tsuchimoto started this project together with a poet, Sara Sheikhi with questions of how people recognize and understand the states of others, the contradiction between individual and collectivity in our contemporary society. They criticized limits of empathy in our individualistic culture and behavior through interactive exercises and a poetry reading. They formulated occasions for the audience to become aware of their way of participating and listening in both passive and aggressive ways. The event consisted of a sound installation by k(t(i)), a new collaborative project by Daniel Konar and Hiroko Tsuchimoto, and two performance acts by Tsuchimoto and Sheikhi.

The evening started with a sound installation by k(t(i)) composed from an interview with a Tanzanian woman which was recorded by Tsuchimoto two years ago. The woman talked about local problems that related to women and children. Konar juxtaposed the interview with a blues backing track, with the speech autotuned to the blues scale as if the woman told the story by singing blues. They problematized the act of empathizing with objective problems via audio media as well as reflecting on the history of blues music and the limits of understanding the problems of others in a global context. A while later, Tsuchimoto began the performance by inviting audience members one at a time to the main stage where there was one plant, small cups on a rolling table, and scattered papers. There were two instructions on the papers: "Please take off your shoes in order to feel the ground” and “Please lay down on the ground and stay calm." After a while of calmness, she woke each person up and gave a paper note that said: “Describe that the strongest emotion that you’ve ever experienced”. They wrote down their emotional memories, then they were asked to put the notes in their pockets. Tsuchimoto brought chairs and asked people to sit down one by one. After making a circle and putting the plant at the end of the circle, she gave a stone for the first person next to the person and asked it to pass to the next person. The stone was passed to the next person, and the next person... traveled around the circle. Accordingly, it reached to the last person who sat beside the plant. The person gave the stone to the plant. Tsuchimoto repeated this action with pebbles, sand, and water. She also passed pieces of paper with extracts from Sheikhi’s poem: “I am me and you are you”, “It is not my fault”, “I’m hearing voices but I can’t reply” in between. Behind the experience of the difficulty of passing the water to the plant, Tsuchimoto collected the paper note from their pockets, and distributed each note to another person. At last, she asked them individually to leave the room.

Afterward, Sheikhi took over the performance from the bar area. She slowly started to read her poetry while she was working as a bartender. Shifting between active and reserved modes of reciting, she approached the audience gradually and addressed each member personally. Her words became progressively sharper as the tone of her voice intensified. Towards the end, she made statements of blame to each of them, saying “Your bills are not paid-you are not forgiven-and you are afraid-of the many people living”. Tsuchimoto rescued each member to the main stage where there were chairs for people to sit face to face. They were forced to sit down to look at each other… until they listened to each other…


Performance at Fylkingen, Stockholm, Sweden: Co-production with Sara Sheikhi

(photo by Hironori Tsukue)


Sound installation: k(t(i)) (Daniel Konar & Hiroko Tsuchimoto)

Voice-over: Sarah Emmanuel Mollel


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