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News - 06.16.2019

JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles Presents World Debut of "BAKERU | Transforming Spirits" Exhibition Opening July 17

Experience the Supernatural World of Japanese Folk Traditions
Through Interactive, Motion Capture Projections Created by WOW

LOS ANGELES – JUNE 17, 2019 – JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles is pleased to present the world debut of “BAKERU: Transforming Spirits,” a complimentary exhibition inviting visitors to step into the supernatural world of Japanese folk traditions from the northern region of Tohoku, Japan, through the use of large-scale interactive projections with motion capture technology. At the exhibition on display starting July 17 through October 6, guests will bakeru (transform) into projected characters wearing special masks and participate in several festival scenes reimagined and created by WOW, a preeminent Japanese creative art and visual design studio.

WOW’s BAKERU exhibition is participatory with four interactive projection installations to enhance the understanding of regional cultures epitomized in seasonal folk festivals, particularly those from Tohoku, which place strong emphasis on the transformative power of nature upon which people’s lives depend. Conceived and created after the devastation of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami – which accelerated depopulation and fragmentation of local communities, threatening the continuation of festival traditions – the BAKERU exhibition harnesses interactive digital technology to provide broader access to local culture to audiences beyond the region, including younger, digital-native generations.

The space also showcases connection between the long-lasting folk traditions and the fast advancing digital technology, between the northern region in Japan and the world, and between the everyday space and the space of festivities.

Festivals are temporal environments where gods and demigods, as apparitions of nature’s elements, are thought to exist in tandem with people. The exhibition references four specific traditions originating from different parts of Tōhoku.

  • “Saotome” is a traditional dance from Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, performed by highly-skilled young women with the mysterious ability to communicate with the gods. They come with several friends, dancing in the rice fields to offer prayers for rain and a bountiful harvest.
  • “Shishi-Odori” is a religious dance found in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, where dancers mimic beasts lunging forward and backward to pray for bountiful harvest. Its name literally means ‘deer dance,’ and similar dances can be found in cultures around the world.
  • “Kasedori,” is a tradition from Kaminoyama City, Yamagata Prefecture in which youth dressed in straw rain-capes run through the city in the middle of winter. People splash the Kasedori with celebratory water and offer them food. The straws that fall from their costumes are considered sacred.
  • “Namahage” is a fearsome deity who lives in the mountains near Oga City, Akita Prefecture, and visits the city once a year on New Year’s Eve, searching for lazy or misbehaving children to frighten. He travels to each household, receiving hospitality and gifts until he is appeased and eventually returns to the mountains.

These annual traditions fulfill practical needs of education and community building, and they also remind people of the multiple symbiotic connections to the natural world; for example, rain fosters crop to grow, the ocean brings fish, and diligent cultivation promises harvest. However, as nature itself is increasingly being neglected, those festivals are facing imminent disappearance.

In essence, WOW is translating the transformative process embedded in the innately playful and wondrously immersive festive environments of Tohoku’s seasonal customs into the contemporary language of digital expression, facilitating community building and perpetuating the traditions and their survival.

JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles will introduce exhibition-related programs and workshops which complement the world debut of BAKERU: Transforming Spirits on the Events Page soon.

BAKERU: Transforming Spirits is made possible in collaboration with the following:
Presented and organized by JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles. Sponsored by ANA (All Nippon Airways) and Panasonic. In cooperation with Gyouzanryu Maikawa Shishiodori, Tokyo Shishiodori, Oga City, Baba no Taue Odori Preservation Society, FabLab Sendai FLAT, Fukunaga Print Co., Ltd., cap LLC. and Ito Yutaka. Art direction by WOW. Curatorial support provided by tateito-yokoito LLC. and Tohoku Standard.

JAPAN HOUSE is an innovative, worldwide project with three hubs, London, Los Angeles and Sao Paulo, conceived by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It seeks to nurture a deeper understanding and appreciation of Japan in the international community. JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles occupies two floors at Hollywood & Highland. The 2nd floor features a gallery space and the 5th floor hosts a Japanese restaurant, relaxing library, and event venue, along with spectacular views of Hollywood and Downtown Los Angeles. JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles offers a place of new discovery that transcends the physical and conceptual boundaries creating experiences that reflect the best of Japan through its spaces and diverse programs.

Location: 6801 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028

WOW is a creative studio innovating experiences in art and design. Based in Tokyo, Sendai, London and San Francisco, WOW is involved in a wide field of design work, including advertising and commercial works, installations for exhibition spaces, and user interface designs for prominent brands. The studio’s practice is based on a vision to bring positive change to society, and its original artwork and products have been exhibited both in Japan and internationally. WOW is passionate about exploring the tremendous possibilities of visual design; searching for solutions that are useful for society while revealing something true and profound. BAKERU: Transforming Spirits

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