There are some folk stories that have been told for generations in Koshirakura.‘A Monkey Passed’ is the story of a single father who once lived in the village with three daughters. A monkey offered to help him one harvest season, but demanded one of the man’s daughters as his wife in return. When the father refused,he became very ill. To break the spell, the youngest daughter agreed to marry the monkey. But after they were married, she managed to trick him, sending him along the river before going back to her father.
With this and other tales in mind, we decided to devise narratives in response to four structures built in previous years – the Bus Shelter, Viewing Platform, Watermelon Place and Azumaya – to see whether rethinking spatial settings and functions could rekindle existing buildings.
The rules we set out to follow were:
1. Utilise elements of the existing landscape.
2. Write scripts and scenarios that could have taken place in the village.
3. Construct extra props to help stage the scenarios.
Three minutes of unedited footage were shot on four sites: in each case the cameras were carefully positioned to capture the structures as view sequences.
Team 1: set up a network of vistas starting from the Viewing Platform. A further series of window frames were constructed as props, placed apart but always visible from one another.These framed views are also linked by a series of existing paths around the village.
Team 2: The Bus Shelter in winter. Heavy snow slides off the roof intermittently. Inside, a couple are having an argument. The emotions of the built environment and of the couple are interlaced in the turmoil of the argument. As such, the building responds not only to natural climatic change but also to emotional climates. The couple become friends again when the bus shelter quietly opens up, a cool breeze clearing the air within. A little gift appears from under the dogama earth-seat.
Team 3: A man with an umbrella waits in front of the Bus Shelter. Across the road, by the Watermelon Place, stands an unfamiliar girl. Not far away, along the stepped retaining wall, sit a group of local women, chatting as they take a break on their way home from the fields. There is no sign of the bus, but the man seems unperturbed by its late arrival – or perhaps he is just unaware of the precise schedule. Instead, he seems to have found an excuse to approach the mysterious girl. The locals fall silent, realising what is about to happen. With a cup of cold spring water in her hand, the girl beckons. Unable to resist, the man draws closer.Then he hears a sound and turns around to see that the bus is about to leave without him. He looks back at the girl – to find she has disappeared. He runs after the bus, waving his umbrella in the air, but the last bus of the day has gone.
Team 4: A charming old lady with a basketful of tomatoes is said to appear in front of the Viewing Platform at certain times. One day a stranger sees her, and she gives him a tomato. The tomato grows and grows and starts rolling up the hill, towards the Azumaya.
Four short films became the basis for the making of ‘Koshirakura Story’. We organised ourselves into two production teams: one for further filming and editing, the other for designing and building a local cinema screen.
The space in front the shrine was chosen as the site for the cinema. The screen was aligned with the axis of the shrine. Projecting from the ground plane of the shrine, it extends over the stone steps that lead towards the village. The steps function as seats for the audience.The structure also becomes a new entry gate to the shrine.
Fabrics of different density were tested as projection screens, both for image reflection and movement in the wind. In the end we decided to use a great length of rope (3 km) stretched vertically between two wooden beams at 3 cm intervals. We discovered that the image could be seen from both sides of the screen, as the light reflected tangentially on the sides of each strand of rope and penetrated the gaps between.The structures were made with dry joints to allow easy disassembly and storage beneath the floor of the shrine during the off-season. Four anchoring points were marked by small pile-foundations surmounted with round stones.
The screen was adjustable vertically so that it could occasionally be used as a canopy over the main access to the shrine. A small shrine was also made to house a data projector. And a few seats were made from maple trunks.The production team shot additional clips in order to complete the story. Personal ads and promotions from local shops and petrol stands were also added.The film became a journey through the village, accompanied by Chikako Takahashi’s narrations and combining invented stories with actual spaces. We explored new spatialities and ambiguities by means of the present topography and histories of Koshirakura.