Toyanogata Lagoon (information)
Ms. Rica Ohya photo: U・STYLE
Ms. Ohya was born in Tokyo. As an artist, she has worked on a global basis including Sweden, Australia, Italy, Korea, Scotland etc. She uses tree branches, soil and grasses in places where she works, and creates unique boats each time. In the spring of 2015, she visited Niigata for ‘Water and Land Art festival’ as an exhibitor and worked besides Toyanogata Lagoon. We had an interview with Ms. Ohya.
Movie: Ms. Ohya‘s documentary movie for her work. 9 min. 42 sec.
Q What is your first impression of Toyanogata Lagoon?
It depends on the weather actually, when I visited there, sometimes it was a cold and rainy day, no leaves on trees at all, hardly anybody in the park, so I felt lonely, but the sky spread airy.
Toyanogata Lagoon in the center of city. People enjoy some kind of sports at the park beside the lake.
Q You made arts related to water around the world.
I went to Australia for an art festival in the past. It aimed for the conservation of the wetlands where many migratory birds use as stopovers. Although they were protected by rules and regulations, people were able to enjoy its nature and surroundings.
I was warned about venomous snakes in the place I was working. However, it was just commonsense which us human should be on guard in unfamiliar surroundings. In fact, I met wild kangaroos there.
Q How did you select the place?
All of a sudden, it flashed like a sign then I decided on the place. Reasoning and my inspiration came later.
Q You made a rice paddy in a boat as an artwork in Toyanogata.
I made a mini-rice field in the boat. The boat rotted away first and the rice paddy produced a harvest later. I thought its contrast was interesting. Some concerned about the rice paddy not getting enough water, but I was confident without any reasons. It was going to be ok. People in Niigata wouldn’t have abandoned any rice paddies! Some passers-by took care of it even when I wasn’t around, so I had a great harvest in the end. I was very grateful to the people who helped me.
There is a walkway beside Toyanogata Lagoon for recreations. Ms. Ohya’s work had been built along the walking trail.
Q When did you start your art work?
I started to work at the time when I heard Great reed warblers sang. At that time I thought the birds would twitter away all the time because I didn’t know what they were, but one day, their chirping stopped suddenly, then I realized that the birds know the ’Time‘. It made me realised that we are fools without any concern about the importance of time.
Ms. Rica Ohya photo: U・STYLE
Q You collected materials for your artwork around Toyanogata. Do you have any particular episode with passers-by during construction?
The people who came by regularly gave some information about materials or brought me things. I picked up a feather for my exhibit, then to my amusement, the number of feathers increased. I had a good guess who did it. I enjoyed every moment with the people and appreciated the materials they brought to me at that time. I also picked up many interesting pieces (dry grasses, birds feather, acorn, sand, soil, clay etc.) which couldn’t have been bought in any shops. I remember when I dug beside the lake, a good chunk of clay appeared. I brought it back to my house and made some potteries. It could be used for my next art project.
Q Did you have any difficulties working outside during the construction?
No problem, because I love outdoors. Regardless of the size of my work I prefer to work outside. I feel claustrophobic in closed room but outside, refreshed and breeze makes me feel as if my soul is cleansed. When I create some artwork in nature, I feel good. Every weather has its own character which I enjoy. In the morning birds sing, sunlight streams through windows, sunset glows warmly and plants grow in day by day…the world is beautiful, and they make me feel a part of nature. As if they are saying, ‘Never mind about arts, look at the world.’ I feel very contented with my creations.
Q The view from the boat was totally different. Did you have any opportunities to communicate with vistors?
There is a big chestnuts tree over the boat. It is covered with green nuts. I remember a visitor telling me the tree and the boat were good match. One day she gave me chestnuts cake. It tasted like “Toyanogata”. I know Japanese chestnuts are harder than western ones so it would be harder to get nuts out of the shells. I appreciated her effort and enjoyed it very much. Chestnut trees grow near water and they become bigger so quickly, their leaves get in the way of the view, which could cause some problems to the park. However I wish they could coexist.
You can ride on the boat. The rice paddies on the boat grew well thanks to some visitors taking care of them.
Q After the art festival is over, you dismantled the work.
I received many voices not to dismantle the boat after the festival. The officials were adamant about taking it down immediately after the festival was closed. But eventually they softened their attitude and I was able to keep my exhibit until 25th Dec.
I had a closing event on the last day like a grand send off for the boat. I dismantled it first and made light a bonfire with the woods. I watched the smoke going up to the air and the ashes returned to the soil. During the event, we made Japanese rice cake in a traditional way with ‘Kine’ partly from the harvest mixed with mochi-gome. It tasted really good. We also had a lecture about the history of Lagoon in Niigata watching an old film. We had a dish called ‘oden’ as well. It was one of the coldest day but we had a heartwarming get-together with visitors and people from the local community.
Although the lagoon is located in the city center, swans and other migrating birds arrive in abundance during the winter.
Q Did you have chance to explore Toyanogata well?
I wondered about the direction of sunset. There was a huge signboard and a red and white iron tower. I was curious about the place, so I cycled over, but unfortunately I didn’t find anything interesting.
Toyanogata Lagoon was formed long time ago when sand dunes closed off and the sea level dropped and also partly due to the construction of embankment.
Q Is the impression of Toyanogata still the same or do you have different one?
I think it would be nice if there were a path around Toyanogata and if we could have an access to the water. The boathouse was closed, more’s the pity.
How about a boat race using rice paddy boats? They are so slow basically so it could be amusing. I think school kids should learn how to handle a boat because I believe they have the DNA in their body. Anyway, I hope the lagoon will become more a part of the community life in the future.
Q Thank you for your story.
Ohya Rica Homepage to: www.ohya-rica.com
Movie by Ohya Rica
Portrait photo by U-style
Toyanogata Lagoon (information)