Noren – Space In Between

A Japanese craftsman.
His material is alive. He looks at it, he smells it, he feels it.
He sifts some rice powder in his bowl and adds water.
Water is very clear in Chiba, that’s why he moved here.
He picks up his wooden pestle. It absorbs the warmth of his hands.
He starts stirring. The mixture is very fluid.
He grabs a handful of rice powder and throws it in the bowl.
The other hand maintains its circular movements.
His nose smells the air, it is slightly humid. More rice powder, keep stirring.

The floor in his workshop is earthen, it connects him to the outside.
Never lose the connection!
Concrete floor would suck up the moisture of the air.
That would make the rice paste dry too fast.
But rainy air makes the paste too soggy. He cannot print when it rains.
He cuts his stencils when the air is too moist.

His hands keep stirring and adding powder.
A little splash of water.
More rice paste.
Looking, smelling, feeling.
He never wears gloves or shoes.
Bare hands and bare feet in straw slippers.
Summer or winter, warm or cold.
He needs to feel the air in order to compose his rice paste.
He smells it, he almost tastes it.

All his senses provide him with information.
He does not have a recipe.
You cannot learn it. You can only feel it. With all your senses.

From “Noren – Space in Between. Bringing Dualities Together.”
Presentation at the exhibition Noren Social Fabric at Japanese Cultural Centre, Amsterdam

I am grateful to Nobuo Matsubara (the katazome craftsman whose working hands are in the video), Nakamura family (producers of the Noren, space dividers in the video) and Jenni (the mysterious lady in the video) for the inspiration and their precious help in materialising my vision.

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