A travelling book


A travelling book
John Batten

One of the nicer art projects I have seen this year is Japanese artist Shitamichi Motoyuki’s '14 years old & the world & borders'. Designed by Shin Akiyama, this beautiful tri-lingual (Chinese, English, Korean) book is the culmination of a longer project spread over six years in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Motoyuki and Hong Kong artist Tang Kwok-hin exhibited together at Tai Kwun late last year focusing on a simple but compelling idea: that ‘borders’, in a variety of real and imaginary forms, are constantly in our everyday lives. Borders as boundaries, borders as walls, borders as ideas that impede progress, change or creativity. A border can literally be another person, or a physical road or an imagined bridge. A border can also be a fear, a prejudice or an idea. A border can stop or limit or be a challenge to overcome. Often, recognizing a border is the first step before crossing it and going ‘forward.’ An extreme, but common example is an alcoholic or drug addict whose recovery first requires a full acknowledgement of the addiction. We have borders throughout our lives and a considered response and calm recognition to a challenging border demonstrates “common sense”, or adult-like maturity.

Motoyuki shared his views about borders with 14-year old teenagers in schoolroom workshops he led in different countries. He explains: “The mind of a high school student always vacillates, and I think one of the reasons is that they are still at a transitional stage oscillating between welcoming and rejecting what adult society accepts as “common sense”. What they say consists of “questions and resistance against common sense” and I would like to explore this feeling. This project is a dialogue with them inside high school classrooms….”

In the workshops, the artist discussed and asked students to think about various borders and write a short text about a personal border. The pieces were then published in a separate weekly column in a local newspaper, in Hong Kong it was Ming Pao Sunday. Many students spoke about obvious immediate concerns, such as careers, study, friends, family, or their appearance. For example, “Since my legs are fat, I don’t feel comfortable to show them, neither in my school uniform or my own clothes.”

Many students dug deeper, on the edge of their emotions: “My cousin will go to Australia soon, I can’t go home with her anymore – it’s very lonely. But, I can’t tell her, “Don’t go.””

Some students highlighted a psychological or ideological border: “Uncle died, and the adults cried, but the children didn’t. Children usually cry all the time, not adults. But how come when someone dies, it’s only adults who cry? Is it because they previously lived together? Because they are family? So, at a time like this – other children may feel the same – when children don’t cry and adults cry, more questions arise in my mind.”

The book is not available to be bought, nor is it available at bookshops. It has been given away free and Mitoyuki has set some rules: once receiving the book, you write your name and location in the front cover; after reading the book, you give it to another person who must also write their name in the front cover, and this is repeated over and over. The book will – hopefully and eventually - travel much further afield, around the world. It’s not to be kept by any reader. It will not reside on a bookshelf or be available in a library. It keeps travelling: it is a borderless book, free to travel from hand to hand and mind to mind.

Between its covers are the teenage concerns of this present moment. However, the book also has a timeless universality crossing national borders and cultures. Experiencing the hormone-fueled anger, doubt and rebellion of a teenager encountering their personal borders is often also a traumatic period for a parent. A teenager is also a young person with honest openness and a refreshing sense of wonder.

If you happen to receive the book - and that probability is unfortunately very low - you would see, as Mitoyuki records: “The scenery (that the students) encountered in various daily discoveries…unfolded in these tiny voices.”

旅行的書
撰文:約翰百德

我今年看過最精緻的藝術項目,要數日本藝術家下道基行的《14歲與世界與邊界》。這本由秋山伸設計的漂亮小書印有中、英、韓三語,收錄了來自日本、南韓、台灣和香港的少年心事,是一項六年計劃的成果。

去年年底,下道基行與香港藝術家鄧國騫以一個簡單但令人動容的意念在大館舉辦聯展。他們探討了在我們日常生活中不斷以各種真實與想像形態出現的「邊界」。邊界可以是國界,可以是圍牆,可以是窒礙進度、改變與創意的想法。邊界也可以是另一個人,又或一條實體道路,又或一條憑空想像的橋樑。邊界更可以是恐懼、偏見或意念。邊界可以停止或限制,又或是一項需要跨越的挑戰。一般來說,我們需要認出什麼是邊界,才可跨出越過邊界、勇往直前的第一步。酗酒或濫藥可說是極端但常見的例子,要從中復原,便需先完全承認自己早已成癮。邊界存在於我們日常生活的每一處,面對富挑戰的邊界而能作出深思熟慮的回應、冷靜承認,正正就是「常識」或像成人一樣的成熟理性。

下道在各地的學校課室舉辦了多場工作坊,他跟14歲的年輕參與者分享了自己對邊界的看法。他解釋說:「一個中學生的心思總是會游移不定,而我認為原因之一是他們對接受成人社會的『常識』,還處在卻拒還迎的邊緣時期。他們的話語中具有『對常識的疑問與反抗』,我想探討的就是這種感覺。本計劃是在中學課室內與他們的對話……」

藝術家在這些工作坊中與同學討論,請他們想出不同的邊界,再寫出一段關於個人邊界的短文,再選出部分文章刊登於《明報星期日生活》的連載。很多同學都提到事業、學業、朋友、家人或自己的外表等明顯切身的關注。有同學寫道 :「因為我的腿很粗,常常覺得出門的時候,不管穿便服還是校服,都總會有些不安。」

有些同學則更為深入,幾乎表達了個人情感:「表姐很快便會到澳洲去了,我再不可以和她一起回家––感覺真是寂寞。但我不可以跟她說『不要走』。」

另一些同學則道出了心理或思想形態上的邊界:「叔叔死了,大人都在哭,可是小孩都沒哭。小孩平時常常哭,大人都不哭。可是為什麼有人死的時候,都是大人在哭呢?是因為他們以前都在一起生活嗎?因為是家人嗎?於是我對於這種時候,其他小孩也應該一樣,為何小孩不哭,反而大人都在哭,產生了更多疑問。」

這本書並沒有公開售賣,也不會在書店中出現。它是免費送出的,下道設下一個條件:收到書後,你要把自己的名字和地點寫在封面上,讀完之後,要把書傳給下一個人,而他也需要在封面上寫上自己的名字,這個過程將會不不斷重複。希望這本書經歷很多以後,可以漂得很遠,環遊世界。它不是留給任何一位讀者收藏的。它不會留在書架上或在圖書館中等待借出。它會不斷旅行:它是一本沒有邊界的書,自由自在地從一雙手遊到另一雙手中,由一個人的想法遊到到另一個人的想法裡。

在封面與封底之間,是此時此刻十來歲年輕人所關注的事情。然而,這本書也有不受時間限制的普世性質,跨越了國界與文化。青春期被激素催化的憤怒、疑惑和反叛,是少年人面對個人邊界的階段,很多時也是最令家長心靈受創的時期。十來歲也是年輕人最誠實開放自己的時候,他們的好奇心就像清泉一樣。

如果你碰巧收到這本書––不過那個可能性應該會十分很低––你將會看到下道基行所紀錄的:「 那些同學們在日常中遇上的景色,透過這些微細的聲音逐一呈現。」


https://www.mpweekly.com/culture/約翰百德-專欄-107476?&fbclid=IwAR0MNgRu2EH93wMBWXd5HRLjHFczlFuYwaKFnUqCfISYMPRUjE6ANPrnY_0