Kamishichiken Intervention by Yanna Soares

Intervention in Kamishichiken by Yanna Soares

Kamishichiken in north-west Kyoto is the oldest geisha (or more properly geiko) district in Kyoto. Artist, Yanna Soares, who is just finishing an exchange program here in Kyoto, recently completed the last of her interventions there on the paths where the maiko and geiko walk to the local teahouses. Yanna says,

I have been living in Kamishichicken since September and ever since I arrived, have been completely fascinated with the geiko/maiko world and it’s mysteries. I always saw these women walking around the streets here, and, of course, pretty much like most Westerners, always wondered what happened behind those sliding doors, what are the truths/fictions of how they live, what misconceptions we have as Westerners etc… One evening, I was eating at a local restaurant and noticed that the oldest geiko of the neighborhood was sitting at the end of the counter. Until that day I had only heard rumors about her and how she stays young by drinking sake every night… She is apparently a legend here. As she was leaving, she walked up to me and handed me her business card. I was surprised to see that it was actually a white and red sticker with her name printed in black. I had worked recently with adhesive vinyl and thought that somehow I had to use that form and create a site specific work… I decided then that I needed to find a way to speak to her. DSCF4417I pulled a few strings and finally got to chat with her briefly, and later on, spoke to a young maiko who had just finished her training. The interview was pretty straight forward, I actually just documented her words. I asked her about how long she trained for, why she chose to be a maiko, what was her daily routine like, where she was from etc… The idea to print it on tape was not only because of the business card, but also in order to use the concept of tape as something that documents/records and taping it outside worked as broadcasting. The work was about making this local voice public, somehow trying to demystify the geisha. The linear form of the tape dialogued with the traditional architecture, which is grid-like. Many of the houses here have vertical and horizontal linear wood pieces on the facade and I chose to make the tape with the same width of some of these strips… DSCF4488The idea of the work was to create a type of paced printmaking, one that refers to the act of walking, speaking, documenting… I also liked the modular quality of this adhesive line that wrapped around elements of the architecture and the street…The text was written in English as I was advised that perhaps it would upset the neighborhood if it was written in Japanese. I taped 6 streets here on Friday and left it for 1 day, before I removed it.  Some of the locals were quite amused, I don’t think many people realized the text was about a maiko… The colours of the tape chosen were picked from her kimono… Here’s a small section of her words:
“I am fifteen years old and I came from the North part of Japan to Kyoto to pursue my dream of becoming maiko-san. The first time I saw a geisha was in a book, then on TV and I thought she was the most beautiful thing I ever saw. So, since that day, I have been dreaming of dancing and being like one… I live in this okiya with two more senior maiko. This house is run by the okaasan and girls from all over Japan come to train here. DSCF4556Geisha are the ultimate symbol of impeccable behavior, grace and style…. On the day of my exam to become a maiko, after I trained for many months, I was very very nervous. I practiced so many times. These exams are done in private… I don’t know when exactly, but I’d love to get married and have children one day. If I had a daughter and she wanted to be a maiko like me, I would encourage it.”

Many thanks to Yanna Soares for sharing this work with us!

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2 Responses to Kamishichiken Intervention by Yanna Soares

  1. Konichiwa,
    Could we meet in Kyoto sometime during our stay, July 21-30?
    Can you recommend a teacher for some Ikebana lessons?
    Please look at my website, and read my bio to know who I am.
    Domo Arigato,
    Susan

  2. Michael Lambe

    Sorry but I am not available during that time. For ikebana lessons and other cultural pursuits please consult with Kyoto International Community House: http://www.kcif.or.jp/en/

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