Mar 22, 2019
Japanese born, New York-based artist, Miho Hatori reimagines identity in her show Salon Mondialité at The Kitchen, March 22–23. Lyrical songs and improvised ambient sounds intersect in the form of an experimental TV talk show, accompanied by musicians Smokey Hormel, Patrick Higgins, and Melvin “Grave” Guzman. Hatori calls forward and re-envisions her faded memories of Japan in connection with her drive for multiple meanings. The show points to the effects of rising globalization, and the tension that questioning one’s identity produces.
I feel it’s hard for me to choose which “kid” is the best [between music or video]. I don’t have kids, but I think about the whole thing of creating space in only one hour of one audience’s life. It’s like creating some home and space to travel, a little bit in the future, maybe in the past. Video is just one of the tools I’m using to stimulate the imagination. I always need the audience’s energy to come out; it is very important for me to feel the energy in the room and my goal is to connect with people. I hope we can all imagine— how one can imagine—the same colors together. Not the word, I don’t need to have words. When I do improvisation, I don’t use too many words. It is about sounds.
I don’t want to give audiences a how-to feel. For example, in my work [Salon Mondialité], I don’t just say/sing lyrics all the time, that’s not my focus. One song I’m doing—actually a song from Venezuela—is first translated to Japanese, then to English. The lyrics have different meanings from the original; it’s similar but a different approach. In that song, I am reminded of an old Japanese way of imagining faraway places (i.e. Venezuela). But, at the same time that imagination has so much respect to that unknown place and different culture, which I think can stand as an ideal humanity. In Japan, the curiosity is so big, and people adopt so many things. In a way, this represents the tiny island. I think that is the reason why I wanted to do this song. To me, these lyrics describe Japanese people’s energy before Globalization.
Salon Mondialité has dark tones, but also has positivity as well. I wouldn’t say positivity, but we might say a “new optimism,"—that would make more sense in my head—because it is not just the regular optimism. It’s a new approach, where it’s both optimistic and real. Reality can be a multiple things, depending on the person. For some people, Salon Mondialité can be like some barbershop in Queens. I wanted to have that interpretation both ways, depending on the person. It’s good if one show can develop in multiple ways in each person. I am not proposing a theory, nor am I interested in the concrete. What is concrete in this world?
“Where is my identity?” has been a question in me long before I came here [to the United States]; I am still searching. I am not really living in an odd world, I have never considered myself a musician either, and so what is my identity? And, I don’t think too much about “what it is?” Of course, when someone asks me: “what do you do?” usually I say, “(I guess) I do music.” I have to say it! I think what I want is my own values. Edouard Glissant’s writing gave me an amazing hint about identity, that’s the reason why I’m doing Salon Mondialité. I feel we don’t need the idea of identity to be tied to a physical place. Yes, I am Asian, but I’m Japanese as well. It’s 2019 already, and I feel like we need to move, leave this old school, like what’s going on?
We can all be freer, but also that means understanding how hard freedom is. I think we need to learn other sides. For example, let’s say my favorite painting gives me a different idea every time I see it, “I wonder what this artist thinks about, [and whether] I like that kind of art and music too.” When some lyrics give me different perspectives, I think they are creations that are living; I think it is a very successful creation. Maybe I’m crazy, but some philosophies say, “This is this.” Some things are not like that. I think there are great philosophies, but some are sort of just looking for “One” answer, searching for it for many years. I think that the world does not care about it. You know, Japan has 800 millions gods. So, I am not thinking particularly in a linear western context, and that relates to Mondialité.
I think about the politics, the duality of right and wrong, about freedom, and possibly about looking for another dimension. That’s the challenge of humankind: to get out of the duality. I think it is very interesting how we also have three Japanese language writing forms: one is Chinese characters [kanji], hiragana, and katakana. So the structure of the Japanese written language is, in a way, very creole. I think in my work, I am amazed by the structure of language. For me, I have no boundary or wall. For example, American people say “Agnes b.,” but Japanese people say “Agnès b.” The Japanese pronunciation is closer to the actual French, this is interesting because Japan often imports the word the way it is. I think Japan is more open, but currently I think it is getting more domestic, unfortunately. But before, post-War World II, people were importing. The one thing I feel blessed for is to have been born around so much music, from all around the world. And the people were so into it. The record stores had great collections—they are serious people. Perhaps I am interested in Japan because I’m Japanese, but I’ve lived in the US for too many years, and I still wonder about the mystery of Japan…
— Edited by Jose Carrazana
Photo by Kimisa H. Miho Hatori’s Miss Information album cover art.