“Yeeyy, I would love to” was the response I gave when I was asked by Alice Lang to act as though I was dead. Alice was to install one of her, what we both call, “cocoon works” in a window space for a Wandering Room exhibition Her work was made out of pre-loved fabric sewn together with puckered holes into a shape that reminds me of a giant dried pale-coloured coral emerging on a floor like a tipi. I call her work cocoon, because her work is made out of sheets, stuffed with soft filling, thus it seem like it can envelop a person in a comfortable and protective way. I was to lay still under the work for two hours.
Alice took me to the back to entrance of the window space where I entred through a small door. When I first saw inside of the space, I got worried about stagnant air, or lack of oxygen flow to be more precise, and in my mind came “so I might die tonight whilst I am acting dead?” I admittedly have had fear of death, though death is the only certain and inevitable truth in life. When I was little, for a little while I was obsessed and terrified with a vision of myself placed in a coffin, which was just about to be sent into a cremator every night before falling asleep. This useless fear of the only truth of life, I thought, had lessened with age, but I realised upon first experiencing the inside of the space that it had only been in a hybernation.
I was placed under the cocoon with a pillow between floor and me. My couple of hours of dead act started. From where I was, I had a good view of details of stitching, print on the fabric, and negative space her work created and the light came through that. The stitching was tiny and neat, I felt the eyestrain and lots of finger pricking, but I am not sure if she sews impatiently like I do to end up with bloody flingers. The fabric was soft white with small and pale coloured print work. It seemed something that is made for baby clothes, which I suspect meant to feel safe and comfortable, and I felt that way looking at it. The view through the negative space of the work, I remember it as merely bright air.
The sound came from other side of the window, people speculating about the legs they could see, friends saying hello to me and banging on the widow and laughter. Ignoring the temptation to respond to the people on the other side of the window, I lie flat still remaining as an object. My job was to be a part of the artwork, a dead body, an object and not a person for two hours. The sound of people’s voice became a buzz, pure noise of kind. There was a noise that sounded like muffled heartbeats, which, I found out later, was the sound of the performance by kitten Party. I adjusted myself to the surrounding environment and the novelty of the dead act in a cocoon was fading fast.
After a while, the concrete I was laying on started to feel rigid and bone- chilling against my back, “will this become unbearable?” My attempt to get myself comfortable was arrested by my ambition to be an inanimate object. I was an inanimate object, because I choose to act that way. Quietly, I always have had trouble with the idea of being animate and inanimate. The term inanimate translates as not lively in the same manner as animals and humans are. Why do we compare humans and animals against the other objects when we know that each stone, tree, water and everything else has its life and function, though it may appear not physically move about.
The outside world lost its significance and relevance to my being. In my head it kept repeating, “I am an inanimate object thus I don’t move, but I am an animate existence”. Having these thoughts along with the pure noise and the concrete sensation along backside of my body, I became numbed or void or might have fallen asleep. I am not sure what exactly happened but all the noise, icy plate concrete ground and my ambition to be a still object seemed to have vaporised altogether. I have no idea of how long this state went for. But when I came back to be aware of my surroundings, I got obsessed over the frozen concrete. The concrete never warmed up for the whole time. My focus shifted to my back, how cold it felt. I wanted to get up and leave the bloodless concrete but I could not. The more I got obsessed over it, the more distracted I became. I could hear all the talking outside again, and I wanted to get out, I became fidgety. And I heard my phone, a text message from Alice, “do you want to get out?” “Yaa, I WANT TO GET OUT” and I got out.
By Akiko Yamasaki
From Independent Press