Many of us are tossing up our lives during the pandemic. Sometimes as a fantasy of “what-if”. Other times literally moving households, jobs, and relationships, or passing from this world entirely. We might move towards old haunts and old loves, and that comes with its own ghosts and baggage. And so, alongside a life-long fascination with light, I’m diving into the shadows.
Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, in his essay, In Praise of Shadows, describes the beauty of darkness, where there is no harsh light to scare away eros.
“In Nō theatre, the merest fraction of the actor’s flesh is visible – the face, the neck, the hands … a remarkable erotic power”, even when the actor is not conventionally attractive. Tanizaki complains that a senseless and extravagant use of light has destroyed the beauty of Kabuki theatre. He celebrates the ancient art of blackening the actor’s teeth, her iridescent, green lipstick that hides the red of her mouth, and admires the ghostly beauty of these older women.
Tanizaki exhorts the reader to revel in the darkness of our personal spaces. Rather than feel the pressure for perfection and its proof of immortality, where modern lighting reveals all the cracked surfaces and accumulated dirt, we might allow our spaces to be rich and old in patina, disappearing within low, or no, light.
I’m collaborating on the last track for my solo album (which directly references Tanizaki’s essay) with New Zealand composer Martin Lodge, taonga puoro musician, Horomona Horo, and beat wizard, Caleb Bird. In homage to Tanizaki’s essay, Martin has also titled the music, In Praise of Shadows. He envisions wide cultural drifts and fragments, that dream side by side, bound together in meters of 15.
It’s fitting that Shadows may start with the sound of beating one of our water tanks, which stood empty for months, often in 3 digit temperatures and smoke, waiting for thick rain to come.