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Evelyn Mitsui
From November 16th 1995 to December 16th 1995
Traiter de la vie, la mort et d’autres histoires

"Negotiating life, death and other stories", is an assemblage, a collage of objects and stories told by my parents… tales composed of many things, including memories, folklore, and perhaps fiction. This piece depicts the irony and humor, found in life, ceremony and folklore in pre and post war Japan. Thrown together pell mell, scrambled and out of context, the myriade of elements are left unexplained and cryptic with the intention to provoke the viewer to draw his or her own associations.

Three stories are present...
The first story, told by my father, is about his memories and thoughts of the burial ceremony of my grandfather, who died when my father was twenty-four. The body is washed by the eldest child of the family, then clad in a white cotton kimono. The kimono must be made by the women of the family-ripped, not cut-and hand sewn. Then the body is cremated in a simple wooden coffin. The bones are then transferred from a common container to an urn and are passed from family member to family member, mismatched chopstick to mismatched chopstick. For my father, the last part of the ceremony shed a whole new light upon two things in particular, "Never eat with mismatched chopsticks, and never pass food from chopstick to chopstick". He was told. "It will bring bad luck."

The second story is told by my mother, an anecdote about eating tomatoes during the war. My mother and my grandmother are sent out of Tokyo, to the country to stay with relatives for safety. The village is bombed any way: all is destroyed, food is scarce. However, my grandmother keeps serving fresh tomatoes with their meals. The question is finally raised, "Where are these tomatoes coming from?" My grandmother reluctantly concedes her secret; patch of tomato plants behind the house has flourished over a cracked septic tank.

Kappa, a Japanese folkloric water character, bridges the two stories together. He is a trickster, part turtle, part monkey, beaked like a bird, with webbed hands and feet. Upon his head is a dish which must always be filled with water- for if the dish were to dry up, he would lose his powers. Young girls were warned to be wary when swimming in lakes or rivers for Kappa would steal their virginity. Boys were cautioned not to stand too close to the hole in the outhouse , Kappa might grab their testicles and rob them of their virility.
- Press release (Optica)

Evelyn Mitsui is a second generation Japanese Canadian. She has lived, over the past three decades, in three different countries, on three different continents : Lesotho, South Africa, Geneva, Switzerland and Toronto, Canada. She received her BFA from York University, Toronto in 1990. She has exhibited actively since finishing school, in group shows, exhibiting mostly site specific installation art in non-traditionnel spaces, warehouse spaces, building basements, hotels, ie : "Chambermade" in the Embassy Hotel in London, Ontario; "Chambre d’hôtel", in a youth hostel in Quebec City for the 15th anniversary celebration of the artist-run centre La Chambre Blanche. Most recently, however she is attempting to acquaint her work to the gallery site, her last group show was at the Mississauga Art Gallery, Ontario. In the summerof 1994, she was named a resident at the Banff Centre in Alberta.