"13th NIPAF 2006"; Nagoya Culture Center; Nagoya, Japan. 2006
Sumimasen is a work that surfaced from its immediate context, both cultural as well as material. As a foreigner living in Japan, many things seemed unusual to me. One of the things I have never seen elsewhere is the use of small, flat cushions (zabuton) as seats in smaller theatres (also known as ’live houses’). It is common practice in these venues to have chairs in the back rows, and zabuton in the front rows to accommodate more people. Even more unusual, the zabuton at the Nagoya Culture Center were made from cardboard. They were cut up, old carton boxes gum-taped into small, butt-sized squares. It was a frigid February night; spectators who had arrived too late to secure a chair in the back rows found themselves on the floor, insulated from the cold tiles only by the zabuton.
Excusing myself very politely with ’Sumimasen’ (’Pardon me’), I pulled a zabuton out from under a spectator sitting in the front row and set it in the centre of the ’stage’ area. Moving methodically through the audience, I extracted each and every zabuton from the spectators in the front rows and added it to my growing zabuton stack. The forty or so cardboard zabuton that I piled up created a small column about two feet high. Carefully sliding the stack across the floor and through the audience sitting unprotected on the cold tiles – excusing myself all the while – I made room for my stacked zabuton between two chairs in the back row. My stack reached the exact height of the chair seats. I sat down on my zabuton stack and blended in with the audience in the back rows facing the lit, empty stage. I/we sat and peered expectantly at the stage area and at each other for a full minute or two before the next performance was announced.
photos by: Hayashi Hiromi