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A sound and sculpture installation by Garrett Fisher and Tori Ellison

Inspired by the haunting world of the ancient Japanese epic TALES OF ISE, and the riverbank where a poet meditates on his lost love, MIKAWA combines fiberoptic sculpture, sound, and technology in an contemporary exploration of longing, beauty, and the ephemeral. MIKAWA is an immersive experience where the music and the art are encountered viscerally as the viewer walks around and through the gallery.


In the center space, long panels of suspended fiberoptic and reflective fabric emanate an ethereal blue glow. Gently moving, they suggest shifting light on water. In the far corner of the gallery, a backlit image of an iris becomes apparent; its superimposed representation evokes nature as transformative, ephemeral. Fisher’s composition - THE IRIS - drifts down from surround-sound speakers in a transformative fusion of sight and sound.

In the 1464 Noh play Kakitsubata (“Iris”), a poet whose life has lost meaning leaves the Capital and his beloved and heads east to the famous iris marshes of Mikawa (meaning “river of life” or “body’s river”). Based on a classical poem composed centuries earlier, Tales of Ise, the play may have inspired James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake and is performed in Yasujiro Ozu’s masterpiece Late Spring.


When he reaches a stream where the iris—associated with yin/yang, its leaf male, its flower female—blooms, a traveling companion says, “Make a poem on the traveler’s heart by using each letter of the word Kakitsubata at the beginning of each line.” And so the poet wrote:


KItsutsu narenishi

TSUma shi areba

BArubaru kinuru

TAbi o shizo omo


Colorful Chinese

Kimono she wore, worn soft

To the touch, my love,

How far away from her I’ve

Traveled on this long journey!


Kakitsubata.  The Iris.


With fragile materials and themes from Japanese landscape painting, Tori Ellison’s fiberoptic sculpture interprets Mikawa’s river landscape, where the poet meditates on romantic longing and loss and invokes the Iris, a river deity who reveals the mysterious beauty of the ephemeral. Fisher’s music, itself an imaginary landscape, brings the voices and sound to this otherworldly realm. Ellison’s abstract interpretation of a watery landscape is inspired by Japanese woodblock print and screen depictions of evening light on water. The soundtrack is based on Fisher’s new recording THE IRIS.

MIKAWA was presented at Jack Straw Cultural Center (September 29 - December 8, 2017) as part of their New Media Series. Choreographer Christy Fisher performed a dance inspired by the installation at all of the MIKAWA events. The exhibition was funded in part by a Tech Specific grant from 4Culture with support from the Fisher Ensemble.

The Fisher Ensemble
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