Human Seascape / Terue Yamauchi

“Human Seascape” is based on my years-long journey that took place in the seas surrounding Japan, Korea and the Philippines mainly along the Kuroshio and Tsushima Warm currents, exploring lives and worldviews inspired by people who live with the sea.

The exhibition consists of video work and documents and a series of photographic diary I have produced, and a series of drawings done by the people I have encountered with throughout the course of my exploration.

For me, they are one of the most inspiring living examples of ways of human being that extends our idea of what human is with their very presence beyond existing restrictions we tend to impose on ourselves in contemporary society, a fertile color of spectrum called human that provides me a conceptual compass to explore human experience. I have produced and internationally exhibited a series of works that stemmed from deeply engaging with specific persons I encounter with through the course of my exploration.

I devote myself to capturing the human seascape in which human beings exist solely with their given body and soul in the condition where life and death constantly washes over you as one irresistible wave in a boundless ocean. I believe such a “lifescape” exists simultaneously beyond time, and in every immediate moment that passes by. For me, it is an ontological quest, before, after and beyond all.

It all started about six years ago as I came across an old photo taken more than 60 years ago, depicting two Japanese female divers standing and gazing out to sea. I was totally gravitated into the way two human beings seem totally being harmonized with the surrounding natural environment.

Since then, I have been exploring the life culture of female free divers known as Ama in Japan and Jamu-su or Haenyeo in Jeju and Korea.

In 2013, I came across an essay written by Professor Cynthia Neri Zayas entitled “Ama (women divers) culture as a relic linking maritime Philippine culture.”

This imaginative essay has greatly encouraged me to expand my focal point of the fishery tradition currently practiced in the strait between Korean and Japan into something being part of much wider current of maritime human practice and has inspired me to envision a grand seascape that may unfold imaginative trail of journey all the way to the Southern seas.

To me, what is suggested in her essay is a worldview seen from the sea, inherited by the divers who are living embodiment of the life culture that originates in the sea, nurtured by the sea and carried by tides and currents beyond restriction of borders.

The divers, in their everyday lives and workings, embody tolerance and visceral human experience, as if transmitting ancient memory through their body, what Professor Zayas might have described as “knowledge heritage” in her essay.

Since 2015, having their historical and possible ancestral linkage as a guide post, I extended my field of exploration into the seas in the Southeast Asian region where I started off by visiting Ayoke Island in Surigao Del Sur where they practice small scale fishery that involves free diving, as well as Matina Aplaya Bajau Comminty in Davao.

I will be returning to both of the places this spring during my three-month long research project in an attempt to find a new form of language, be it visual, sound or bodily, that speak of a world view seen from the sea that I am experiencing through my exploration, and to keep imagining the world beyond that.

-Terue Yamauchi


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