ICHIGO ICHIE is a solo exhibition by the Japanese artist Etsu Egami, which showcases a rich variety of works, from rough translations of spiritual maxims (from Japanese to English) to accept the shortness of life to a more colloquial once in a lifetime. In Japanese, this sentence is as profound as Zen Buddhism, elevating the appreciation of fleeting moments to an ideal way of life. In English, ‘Once in A Lifetime’ is the theme of the national anthem of the rock band, as singer David Byrne of Talking Heads repeatedly asked, “Is this not my beautiful house? Is this not my beautiful wife? How did I get here?” The difference between the tone of each language is the perfect example of mistranslation, misinformation, and misunderstanding that Jiang has been exploring since school, or perhaps throughout her life.
Faces a primary subject matter for the artist. When she travelled in the United States, Europe, and later China, she must have spent years staring at another person’s eyes, trying to figure out what they said to her. In these places where her mother tongue can neither be spoken nor understood, she personally encountered situations where she could not communicate. Those moments of total lack of communication—or through the understanding of tone and facial expressions—are deeply rooted in the artist’s psychology.
Nowadays, the facial depiction is controversial and even dangerous. For example, people are very hostile to facial recognition technology, and people are afraid of using it as a means of controlling activities and infringing on the subject’s privacy. It will grow old, it will show emotion, and it may even reveal some truth about this person. But it is different from art, it is impermanent. How to capture this quality without destroying the portrait?