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Ox-Bow Artist’s Residency Letter of Intent

Gabriel Bizen Akagawa
Gabriel_Akagawa_oxbow_3.jpg Through my work, I examine how nature is an artificial construct that humanity manipulates through physical and conceptual negotiations. Ox-Bow’s intersection of school and the woods inspires my studies of the phenomenon of fake nature. Acting as an ethnographer, craftsman, and gift-giver I will collect, produce, install and distribute art in the Ox-Bow community.

I plan to produce two interrelated artworks called the Medicine Project: one site-specific installation and one public distribution. For the first, I will work with Ox-Bow instructors Norwood Viviano and Dan Matheson, as well as their students, to cast metals using the ground as a mold. I will carve outlines of three symbols into soil and sand: a crop circle (thought to be made by aliens), the (chalk) outlines of two people, and three dots, three dashes and three dots (the Morse code distress signal, SOS). Each is a popular culture signifier of communication in three spaces: the rural, the urban and solitary or displaced. They represent anxiety and the unknown-points of contention between personal experience and scientific truths. I am creating a discourse regarding ephemeral states of consciousness by memorializing them in iron. The drawings will be performed through a fiery ritual, made permanent in modern industrial ore, as well as paying homage to an abstract and ancient relationship to the earth.
As I produce the metal sketches , I will work intermittently on a public collection and distribution component of the Medicine Project. Before arriving at the residency, I will research the Saugatuck/Ox-Bow area in order to collect information on the cultures and ecologies both native and alien to this area. I will juxtapose this research with a sampled cross-section of Ox-Bow’s current state: taking photographs and video; collecting plants, artifacts, materials, and data from the community (through informal written surveys and recorded interviews). These methodologies reflect those of modern and traditional medicine. Both draw their knowledge from an understanding of environments and populations. Part of our anxiety towards contemporary medicine comes from its encoded language and mysterious procedures. The Medicine Project is an extension of mediated and detached relationships with nature.

The collection of various data sets will physically culminate in an installation in my Ox-Bow studio. There, I will mold and cast local seeds and nuts to make Netsuke (or amulets) containing cinnamon. This spice has various medicinal qualities and promotes alertness and acuity. These are gifts for the Medicine Project participants.

(Spice pictured is not actually cinnamon.)