SYSTEM OF SUBSTANCE
2008

'bento' containers & 'furoshiki' packages

“For there to be a mastery of the real…it suffices that there be a system, even if this system is apparently illogical, uselessly complicated, curiously disparate.” - Roland Barthes, Empire of Signs

As I traveled through the shrines, temples, and cities of Japan, I became particularly aware of my own physical presence and impact. Although temporary, along with others' my presence leaves a lasting mark on these places, and vice versa. The temporal nature of physicality, and the Japanese people’s ability to accept and engage in this impermanence influenced me a great deal.

The boxes here and the actions applied to them represent the divergent yet correlated experiences I experienced traveling in Japan. Each bento-like container and its substance relates to each: a category from the CIA World Factbook and a notion put forth by Roland Barthes in Empire of Signs. The individual category & container, like these aspects of Japan, is insignificant individually but can be understood fully through its relationships.

The boxes:
Plastics = Industry/Goods
Nori = Natural Resources/Food
Moss = Terrain/Landscape
Stamped Tags = People/Gestures
Incense = Spirituality/Religion

Others traveling with me took part in expressing their impressions of locations we visited by arranging the bento boxes using these categories. Additionally, viewers were encouraged to interact with the containers, physically experiencing each substance by selecting those that represent their own concepts of Japan, and placing the substances in their own ‘furoshiki,’ a gift to take away with them.

RESEARCH & PROCESS