This was the installation piece by Ayomi Yoshida that we visited as a group on Saturday. If you have a chance to visit, the experience is worth your time: Rotunda Gallery, NIU Altgeld Hall, January 15 - March 7, 2008.
"In April of 2007 as I watched the cherry blossoms falling, I wondered if the cherry trees would ever bloom again."
"Cherry trees seem to burst into blossom all at once, and after a day or two, drop their petals just as quickly. In Japan they have long been emblematic of life's evanescence. Traditionally, many festivals and seasonal celebrations are planned to coincide with the cherry trees' full flowering. But as the earth's temperature rises, the trees that used to flower in April are no flowering in march. Festivals conducted every year since the early Edo period (1603-1868) now occur long after the blossoms have been swept away. I once believed that the coming of spring and the cherry blossoms would always happen, but lately I am less certain. Will there come a time when the trees fail to bloom? Of course, if such a thing were to actually happen, everyone would be concerned and saddened. But by then, would it be too late?
While I watched the cherry blossoms fall last year, I though about my installation for NIU. The timing of the exhibition, from January to March, would coincide with the coming of sakura, cherry blossoms. During the 1990s, I had produced work about the disappearance of nature in populous cities throughout the world. These images were single sheet wood block prints. For NIU, however, I decided I wanted to merge my concept of "nature" and my artistic approach to "installation.
"Because the climate is so harsh in winter, cherry trees don't grow in many northern states in the U.S. However , if the earth continues to warm, there may be a time when cherry trees bloom in Minnesota and North Dakota. However, that happy though is tempered by the possibility that Japan would be a desert, or submerged beneath the rising seas.
"'Yedonesis' is the scientific name for Somei-yoshino, a type of tree cultivated from wild cherry trees during the Edo period.Somei-yoshino typically lives for sixty years and bears no seeds or fruit. When it is young, the blossoms are vibrant pink and full of life; as the tree ages, the blossoms become paler, as though presaging the end of life. In paintings that remain from the Edo period, the blossoms are pink, but in recent years whether because of weather conditions or weakening DNA, only white blossoms appear - even on young trees.
"Working with a team of volunteers for three weeks, I adhered nearly 100,000 woodblock printed sakura blossoms to two-dimensional branches on the walls of the Rotunda Gallery in the NIU Art museum. The point of my installation, however, was not simply to meet the challenge of producing and adhering so many printed blossoms. A single living cherry tree sends for millions of blossoms each spring. The installation demonstrated that no matter how many people worked over a long period of time, we couldn't come close to equaling nature. I hope that every one who was involved withe the installation, and everyone who visits the exhibition, will understand the grandness of life, its power and energy, but at the same time will sense the precious brevity of blossoming sakura.
"The growth of plants is governed by the rules of nature. In order to express this natural order, I used square prints adhered in a grid pattern. By opening the exhibition while the installation was still in progress, I could emulate a cherry tree coming into full bloom. It also allowed me to demonstrate how small, single acts, when piled one on top of another eventually amount to something larger. In Japan, when there is a great need or hope, it is customary for many people, almost impulsively, to combine their efforts to achieve a desired outcome. in this way, they realize their heart-felt wishes in the same way, I hope the concept and message of my installation - a work that involved so many individuals - will ready the hearts of even more people.
"Around the time that this exhibition ends, the "YEDOENSIS" cherry trees in Japan will begin to bloom. As always, their delicate beauty will be short-lived. It is my hope that each spring it will always be so."
January 15, 2008