by Tatsuo Sugimoto, designer, professor, and a student in SFPC Summer 2019 in Yamaguchi.
My name is Tatsuo Sugimoto. I am a designer, researcher and teacher at Saga University and Tokyo Metropolitan University starting this October.
I am also a co-translator of books, including Casey Reas and Ben Fry’s “Processing”, “Generative Design” and “Generative Design for p5.js”. My recent research interests are data visualization and software studies. I worked as a media artist in the 2000s. In 2005, I was invited to organize an exhibition “Banquete 05” with many artists including Zach Lieberman in Madrid, Spain. At that time, I was following his activities. That’s how I heard about SFPC which he co-founded. I wished I could participate in SFPC for a long time.
The pedagogy in SFPC is very special, or I should say it is unique around the world. Some people who love art and technology are gathered together and further explore the possibility. As a teacher in design school, out of my curiosity, I am also eager to understand the concept of poetic computation as I strongly believe the experience in SFPC would be very useful for my teaching skills.
In the discussion on the weekend, Tomoya Matsuura, one of the teacher assistant, said he felt himself to be one of the aliens and tried to build a community when he joined SFPC. I also felt myself to be a stranger as well because my position was completely reversed in this camp. I’m used to being a teacher. Nevertheless, I was a student here, one of the participants in the SFPC camp. It’s amazing that I could come back to classes and indulge in learning new knowledge again. Even though I may be the most senior in this camp, learning is boundless. We keep learning in our life, so it doesn’t matter how old you are.
To my surprise, it was quite hard for me to finish a bunch of daily assignments, while I really enjoyed being a student and took lectures these days. Frankly, I started feeling a bit of sympathy with my students since I always gave them a lot of homework. However, I would keep doing it. It was because assignments can clearly show what we have learned from the classes.
The Sunday activities recalled my old memory. When I was a student in the 1990s, I read a book written by German software designer Kai Krause. Despite being a technical book, he encouraged readers to leave their PC at home and go out one day a week. Nevertheless, I couldn’t figure out why he said that at the time. Today I could totally understand his intention because I believed we could be inspired by the nature. Touching nature was vital to think about a new idea. We had one day off during the middle of the intensive workshop. On that day, we left our laptops for a while and enjoy nature in Yamaguchi as field research.
It was unbroken sunshine which was lovely weather for the trip. We got on a bus with teachers, TAs as well as YCAM staff to Ohmine Shuzou (A local sake factory in Yamaguchi). Sake is a type of Japanese rice wine. Luckily, we were all adults, we could have a drink with teachers and students here. Of course, we would make sure we won’t get drunk as it was in the morning. We tried different types of sake on that day and made comparisons. As you may know, sake in Yamaguchi is the most famous in Japan, even the prime minister of Japan Shinzo Abe also served the sake with external embassies when they were having meetings. Most Japanese breweries have a long history and produce in traditional old fashioned factories. The building of Ohmine was eye-catching because of its modern design. The building was painted in two colours, white and black only. There was a logo on their building and the bottle of sake and it was the shape of rice. They were very good at branding as the design looked extremely cool. The bottles of sake were incredibly sophisticated. I had never tasted such a great sake like Ohmine in Yamaguchi.
We walked around and looked at the clean and tidy fermentation room of sake over the windows. After the bio workshop in YCAM, we had sake and beverages again. Drinking in an open area, we were surrounded by verdant rice fields. It was a nice beginning with good tastes and pleasure. We drank, we talked, we shared. It was a big contrast to previous studying classes. We had a chance to release stress and got ideas from nature. We talked a lot while further understanding each other better. I talked about cameras with other participants, including Naoki, the photographer of the SFPC camp, because many students seemed to be camera enthusiasts.
Then we moved to Akiyoshidai camp to have lunch. It’s a barbecue outside. I couldn’t remember when I had a barbecue outside last time. We arrived at the campsite earlier, and the food has not been transported there on time. While waiting for the food, Taeyoon began his yoga and meditation class which I liked very much. Breathing exercises surrounded by trees was really refreshing. We did some stretching exercises and tried to integrate ourselves with nature. This moment was amazing. We felt as if we were a part of the environment instead of a citizen. We’re born on this planet and became a part of nature.
After that, we struggled to start a fire, but everyone spontaneously helped each other. Some students prepared meats, some students washed vegetables, and some of us set up a fire. We’re well organized as there was a small community. After starting a fire, thanks to all YCAM staff, we just enjoyed the BBQ because they kindly prepared all the stuff for us, and some of us kindly served us sake they just brought.
Last but not least, we explored Akiyoshido, a huge limestone cave in Yamaguchi. I felt windy and the temperature came down immediately when I stood in front of the cave. The cave was one of the biggest caves in Japan. Visitors could walk around about 1 kilometre, but the total length of the cave was about ten times of it. In the cave, we found many kinds of limestone which we had never seen before. Nature was a gift for us and we also bought our own gift. There were some souvenir stores, some students bought local stones and some had ice cream as gifts for themselves. Definitely, those gifts and the trip made our day.
Finally, we took a group photo at Akiyoshidai, one of Quasi-National Parks. Just after shooting a photo, Taeyoon suddenly ran around the field just for few pictures. His behavior was so free-style like an innocent child.
During the trip, I always kept in my mind that what “Technology as a gift is”. I noticed I was conscious of the natural environment much more carefully because SFPC classes provided chances for us to think about it from many different perspectives. The limestone cave was formed over a long period of history. The dropping water shaped many kinds of stones which could be called long-term generative forms. The process showed that simple rules could lead to surprising results as Jane, one of the teachers of SFPC camp, had said in her class for playing. Jane introduced some fascinating games that have only a few rules. So I could also interpret these stones as a result of a simple game. Seeing these stunning sceneries, I also recalled Ito’s DNA bar CODING workshop. In this workshop, he said DNA exists everywhere in the world. According to his view, I should be able to find DNA in the cave, so I was wondering how I could do a DIY bio workshop there.
All YCAM staff arranged this trip for us. They guided us kindly and organized the field research very well. I guessed they offered us to have a chance to understand more about Yamaguchi and each other. The trip was amazing. It was a big gift for us. Thank you very much.
The air in the field refreshed our mind. Our learning journey had passed so quickly. There were only three days left. Next week, we would go back to our classes and focus on learning again.
I would like to end up saying thank you for SFPC and YCAM team again. They asked me to write this blog post. The opportunity is rare, I take it as a sweet gift from SFPC camp as I’m a lazy person actually. And thanks to Felix, an intern of YCAM. He helped me to correct and edit my English.
This posting was edited by Felix Lo and published by Taeyoon Choi.
Photo: Naoki Takehisa
Courtesy of Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media [YCAM]