i ) Cowrie shell : In many parts of the world, cowrie shells have been widely used as money, in jewelry and for ritual and amuletic purposes. They are seen as symbols of fertility, birth and wealth. The word ‘porcelain’, the chinaware, derives from the Italian name of cowrie, porcellana (which comes from the female pig’s genital organ), for the resemblance of lustrous transparency and shiny surface. Sauvage plays polyrhythmic bubbles using the acoustics of the shell’s cavity by filling air and water.
ii ) Mango house : In Okinawa in 2008, Sauvage met an old American man, a Vietnam veteran married to an Okinawan woman. In the recorded conversation with him, he talked about his wife’s organic mango farm built on a land which was “returned” from the US military base. Mango tree is a symbol of love in Hindu mythology and its English name is curiously composed of man and go.
iii ) Terra cotta (Fortune biscuit) : For many years, Sauvage has been using porous ceramic pieces as musical instrument in the amplified water. They emit bubbles by absorbing water and these bubbles sound very differently from one ceramic piece to another. In this performance, the terra cotta (which means “fired earth”) produces the bubbles that exactly sounds like rain.
iv ) Underwater gardening : Bonkei, Hòn non Bộ and Penjing are the arts of making miniature landscapes in basins combining stones, plants and water. Rolf Stein, German-born French Sinologist and Tibetologist, writes in his book ‘Miniature Gardens in the Far East’ (1942) that these gardens are believed to have magical powers that keep maleficient demons away. Stein shows, as one of many alterations of the miniature garden, paradisiacal subterranean worlds equipped with their own sun and moon.
v ) Dugong calls : The dugong, a marine mammal which has been traditionally regarded as a sacred animal in Okinawa, has become the symbol of the current activisms that protest against the construction of a new US military airbase in Henoko Bay, Okinawa, whose sea possesses seagrass meadows – dugong’s habitat. To detect this imperiled species, researchers diffuse in the water the recorded voice of a dugong so that dugongs respond to it. Sauvage tries to imitate dugong’s voice and instead produces the voices of different “animals” before achieving the desired one.
Pacific Pacific is commissioned by Jeu de Paume for the on-line exhibition ‘Fourth Worlds – L’ethnographie imaginaire dans l’expérimentation musicale et sonore’ (June – November 2018), curated by Stefanie Kiwi Menrath.
Tomoko Sauvage – music and visuals
In collaboration with Antoine Parouty (camera) and Anne Laure Viaud (editing)
© Tomoko Sauvage, 2018