The Sea Within - The See Within
Site-specific installation, mixed media, Setouchi Triennale, Ogijima (JP), 2019, room-filling set-up
On a hill on the small island of Ogijima overlooking the Seto Inland Sea, Sarah Westphal created a sculptural installation in one of the empty houses for the Setouchi Triennale. As large numbers of young people have left the small islands in the inland sea for work in the cities, it is the mission of the Triennale to revive the islands. Westphal has spent several months on the island of Ogijima to reflect upon the island’s history and culture.
Since ancient times, the Seto Inland Sea has served as a strategic shipping route, for carrying not only goods but also spreading knowledge, culture and traditions throughout the country. The Seto area became Japan’s first national park (1934). The region is not only characterized by its breathtaking nature, but also by the influence of man and consequently the environmental pollution caused by rapid economic growth and large-scale industry in the 1960s.
Withdrawn from the outside world the visitor is invited to sit down quietly on a bench in the meditative installation The Sea Within - The See Within in which Westphal transformed the space into a scenery of light and shadows - a sea of light. The title indicates as central aspect of the installation introspection, and the relationship between inner and outer world. Viewers are exposed to experience the sea as they stay inside a constructed indoor space with proportions entirely based on tatami mats and with a manipulated water surface that is continuously moving. A film is projected onto a wall that reflects in the water. For making her film, Westphal collaborated with a local Ogijima fisherman to observe the octopuses common to this region. With her film the artist emits the typical light and the sea creatures of the Seto Sea into the floating space. Gigantic tentacles of octopuses hug and snuggle the walls, synchronizing with the viewers breath while haunting the space. Besides the special lighting as designed by the artist, are some windows that are prepared with filters to allow the sunlight to enter the space to change the artwork throughout the day. Nature, artwork and architecture intimately interconnect and create a feeling of time flowing.