Breathing Lights and Shadows

Photography project with Emiko Tokai

Emiko Tokai is an artist studying BA Fine Art with Choreographic Practices degree at University College Falmouth. In this project, Breathing Lights and Shadows, she wanted to explore people’s interpretations or perceptions of light and shadow. “Personally, I have always been captivated by lights and shadows in nature. They change shape at every moment and soon disappear as if they are breathing animals. This transient beauty heightens awareness and sense of presence. I have also felt that shadow or darkness heals spirits or helps to recover primordial sensitiveness.”

For the project Emiko asked a group of people all over the world, from Brazil to South Africa to Japan, to start a conversation with her using photographs of lights and shadows accidentally encountered in every day life. The idea was that each of us would send her a photograph by email and she would respond to the photo with another photo. By exchanging images in this way we had a conversation through light and shadow. This took place over a period of 3 months. The result is 15 separate conversations. This is mine above. The complete project will be put online soon and I will post a link.

Shadow Play performances

‘Watering Spirits’ was one of several shadow play performances I have been involved in with Dartington student Emiko Tokai. As a young child she encountered shadow puppet shows in Indonesia and became fascinated by the world of shadows. In her own words, “Lights and Shadows – they change shape at every moment and soon disappear as if they are breathing animals. This transient beauty heightens awareness and sense of presence. I aim to recover primordial sensitiveness through my art works dealing with such lights and shadows.” ‘Watering Spirits’ was a shadow play devised by Emiko whereby four performers sat behind behind a screen in a dark room and using candlelight and water and random objects, cast shadows for an audience, creating a kind of meditative experience. Other versions of the play included making simple sounds using a miniature glockenspiel to enhance the atmosphere as well as using a recorded meditation session.

‘Back and Forth’ – A sound project


“Back and Forth” by Minko
King Harry Ferry Artist Residencies
In the summer I was enlisted as the sound artist for the King Harry art residencies. The King Harry passage is a stunning tranquil spot on the River Fal in Cornwall, where people can be ferried across the river in their cars, rather than driving all around the peninsula.
In this sound piece, I explored the daily aural environment of the ferrymen on the King Harry Ferry. Whilst the surrounding landscape is breathtakingly still and beautiful and the river banks lush with bursting broccoli shaped trees, the ferry itself is a busy bustling vessel moving cars and people to and fro across the River Fal, morning to night. The chains clank, the cars rattle, metal gates crash and voices travel constantly on the wind.
I treated the ferry as a large instrument. I listened to the sounds and noises coming from the ferry, and around it, and I also explored the other potential sounds within its large metal structure using drumsticks, beaters and my hands to “play” it. My recordings brought up some interesting responses, one principal and recurring question being, “at what point does sound become music?”
I found that certain repetitive rhythms such as the huge chain slowly moving as it heaves the ferry along and the oyster catchers steadily throwing their full nets from person to person, led me away from the action into a more musical frame of mind, and the musician in me was driven to look for melodies to accompany them. However I also encountered sounds with a different quality, a more linear feel. These sounds such as the ferrymen talking, the engine running, breathed a narrative that sat me in the present moment and carried me forward with them towards a place in the future. These sounds engaged my intellect and my curiosity. It made me think about how differently we react to sounds, and what they lead us to. There is something about a rhythm or a melody that transports you away from the present moment into a universal timeless plane. Whereas the sound of life going on seems to keep you in a story telling space and binds you to the specific. It asks you to listen to what is happening. The melodies and rhythms by contrast distracted me and propelled me into my dream-filled world.
I am not talking specifically about the debate on what is considered to be music, or accepted as music, an exciting ever-evolving subject that musicians must constantly challenge and has undergone rigorous speculation in the last century in particular with experimentalists such as John Cage, Edgar Varese, John Coltrane, The Art Ensemble of Chicago and the hundreds of others that have followed. The boundaries between noise and music are constantly shifting as more and more found sounds are incorporated into compositions to challenge established musical ideas. The ear adjusts and the noise metamorphoses into melody. Dissonance starts to change into consonance. But working on my piece I became interested in the physical shift when sound moves our focus from the narrative to the abstract, from the specific to the universal. When recording the ferrymen talking I felt a different experience from to hearing the oyster catchers whose rhythm lulled me into a more timeless reality. It seemed to only take a few repetitions to remove me from the scene and the real time unfolding.
My final piece explores these questions by moving between these two experiences, and travels back and forth between the two banks; the song and the soundscape, poetry and prose…
The piece will be played on the King Harry Ferry this summer.
You can download it here