Ananda Serné

Netherlands / Japan 3:16

‘Sounding’ in science means to study the underwater depth of lake or ocean floors by transmitting sound pulses into water. Data taken from soundings are used to map the seafloor, an area that is still largely unknown to human beings. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary ‘sounding’ can also mean: a probe, a test, or sampling of opinion or intention. Like a bat exploring its surroundings by sending out a signal and listening to the echo in order to find out what’s there.

In the late 1970s, three dams were built along the course of the Takase river in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. Echoists of the Takase River focuses on the vegetation around one of these dams and on the phenomenon known in Japanese folklore as “kodama”. This phenomenon consists of sounds in mountains and valleys that make a delayed echoing effect; the spoken words reflected against the landscape are thought to be Kodama: tree spirits answering.

In Echoists of the Takase River, we see a Japanese Sign Language (JSL) interpreter who signs the word “kodama”, while a group of performers shout both the names of plants and trees that died during the construction of the dam, as well as the names of pioneer species that were the first to colonize the previously disrupted land. Names like HARIGIRI, NISE AKASHIYA and OOKAMENOKI.

I wondered how the echo of OOKAMENOKI would sound like in the Takase valley and how I could visualize a phenomenon like “echo” or “kodama” other than by drawing a graph. This work is the result of these contemplations.