HANAYO “Unpō’s Raccoon Lady” Hanayo is a multitalented artist, she works as a photographer, geisha, musician, and model. Her photographs and collages capture and color her daily life in a fantastic light. She doesn’t limit herself to just photography but also creates installation works using her photography and music. As an artist she has exhibited among others, in the Palais du Tokyo(Paris);as a singer she has collaborated with Mayo Thompson, Jonathan Bepler, Masami Akita, Masaya Nakahara, etc. also she has also collaborated with Tony Conrad in the music for one of his plays. Her photographic publications include MAGMA, berlin, Tenko, and her music albums include Gift, wooden veil, etc.
In the past, her artistic process has been to take inspiration from the location of the exhibition space, find a connection with her current self and display it in the form of an exhibition. The first time she came to SYP Gallery, she got lost on her way over and that experience left a feeling of strangeness associated with the area.
Around Akebonobashi,there are many hills with strange names such as Yūrezaka (PhantomHill), Kappazaka (KappaHill), Nenbutsuzaka (Buddhistchant Hill), Kurayamizaka (GloomyHill) and Kumokirizaka (SpiderDeath Hill).
Investigating this, she came across a local legend called “TheLady who rises at night” and from which the exhibition’s title is derived. The legend goes as follows:
In the Edo era, in the surrounding of Daikyocho area(Shinjuku,Tokyo) lived the painter Unpō Ooka. The helper he had in the house was an old lady who suddenly got sick from an unknown illness. She lost weight and wasn’t able to stand on her own feet during the day, and one night Unpō could hear a loud noise from inside her room. The gentle Unpō, who had no family of his own and therefore was very caring to her, stood by her during the illness and since she was not getting better, he decided to ask for advice from a doctor friend of his. The doctor said that it appeared to be a curse from a raccoon(amythical creature in Japanese folklore) and tried various methods to spell it out but nothing worked. One day, a very odd thing happened, the old lady, despite of being illiterate, was able to compose and recite a poem and even paint a painting. That very night, Unpō decided to peep into her room only to see a big raccoon’s tail sticking out of her futon. The raccoon tail was tapping inside the futon and suddenly its hair became white and died along with the old lady.
Hanayo says:“pandemicsas the Black plague or the Spanish flu used to be seen as something of the past, however it has become a reality for us. Thinking about the phenomenon that Unpō had to deal with, or about the connection between the time those streets were named and now, it could offer us a hint on how to face our present circumstances”.
In this exhibition, present and past, legend and actuality, strangeness and reality come together to form a video installation.
Spirit Raccoon Hanayo Video Reiji Saito Sound Masaya Nakahara