(I understand / Seaweed), 2014. Cast iron, wood, mirror.
To the western reading eye, these two Japanese words, "wakata" and "wakame", look very much alike. Their meaning, however, is quite different. The first means "I understand", the second, "seaweed". Since "me", in English, refers to the self, it would be natural to think that of the two, wakame means "I understand". When I traveled to Japan a long time ago, these were pretty much the only two words I knew. One day, I was in Kyoto with some friends in a sake bar. As they were all chatting together in Japanese, one of them took pity of me and asked, "do you understand anything we are saying?". I nodded politely: "wakame". What I like about this piece is that if you don't speak Japanese you cannot understand those two words. If you understand the words, most likely you are Japanese: but then you won't understand why they are put together. It would be hard to fathom why anyone would confuse these words. Either way, you can't understand, you don't know: and that's the meaning of "wakaranai". Even though "wakata" is what's visible in this work, "wakaranai" is what pervades it. This is a work about that intimate space in which the crossing over of a particular knowledge or experience is almost impossible - it's a self-made language, which can be understood, at best, only partially, by one culture or the other.
As for the mirror, it's a spatial device, functioning in the realm of physical space, not a linguistic device. It restores the readability of the words - not their meaning.