Particles in the Air/Karato by Noe Aoki is a simple work that I really didn’t like the first time I saw it. You really need to see it in the right season or it will not really do much. The more I learn about the artwork the more I appreciate it but I still feel a bit underwhelmed by it. I think it could have been better but it is always going to be in the eye of the beholder.
Particles in the Air/Karato is located next to a shrine and natural spring. The first time I visited was in the spring of 2013 and it couldn’t have been a worse time. The spring was dry, rather not flowing, and the trees were mostly dead. The artwork is a series of hoops suspended in the sky along with a small structure next to it. This was meant to be similar to particles you would see in water, and looking out into the open field it would look like the particles are in the air. Without the green foliage in the fields, the artwork feels dead. There is nothing to really frame the artwork and it never came alive to me.
Fast forward a few years and in summer 2016 it came to life. I still felt it was a bit too simple, or vague, for me to really understand. The trees were full of lush green leaves making the Particles in the Air look engulfed in the forest. The forest was also more beautiful and the spring was flowing.
I actually love the spring that is next to Particles in the Air. The spring is open in the summer and the water that flows is very cold. There are two sections to get water. The closest to the walking path is for washing your hands and feet while the inner one is for drinking. I’m sure both are safe to drink as the water flows pretty quickly. The best thing is that the water is very cold so it helps cool you down and feel refreshed.
Particles in the Air/Karato will always be a curious artwork for me. I don’t love it but when I learn more about it and the symbolism it has, I understand it better and can appreciate it more. I wish I could be more enthusiastic about this artwork but maybe I am just not cultured enough.
Update: The originally published post referred to a well next to “Particles in the Air/Karato”. I have learned that it is actually a spring and have updated the post to reflect this but note that the comment by David was made prior to these changes. Thanks for the info David!
- Particles in the Air/Karato (Official Setouchi Triennale Site)
- Noe Aoki (Official Site)
- Particles in the Air on Teshima (Setouchi Explorer)
For the longest time, I didn’t know what to make of it, but the more I got used to it, the more it feels it belongs there.
It may not be that interesting in itself, but it really feels like it’s a part of this place, along with the shrine and the spring (yes, it’s a spring, not a well).
Note that this spring is very important in the history and culture of Teshima, down to its name “Island of abundance” It’s one of the only springs on the smaller islands, and it is what allows Teshima to be so rich in terms of agriculture, including being able to grow rice (what the other islands can’t do), there’s a reason why the rice fields are downhill from the spring. 😉 I even suspect that Karato was built there because it was next to the spring. Also, yes, you can drink the water and it’s really refreshing as you said (fun fact: when Karato got running water from Honshu, many locals kept on getting their water from the spring because it was just better quality).
Back to the art, one important thing when you view the art, as we can clearly see on your pictures, is that when you only look at it in itself (and not as one element of the place among others), it’s much more beautiful and interesting with the sky and the fields as a background rather than the forest and the hill. 🙂
As I mentioned, I did enjoy it more this second time and I think, like you, I will like it more and more as I see it more and more.
It’s a spring? I will fix it soon. 🙂 Never knew how important it was to the island though.
Yes, looking back at my pictures I realized it is more beautiful with the sky. It seems like it is part of the idea when the title includes “Particles in the Air” that you should see it as part of the sky rather than just being suspended in its current location.
Yes, that’s how it came to me. The second or so time I saw it, I thought, well, it has “in the air” in its name, so maybe I should represent the air in the picture. I turned around the sculpture to have the sky in the background and… it suddenly appeared more beautiful and interesting.