Insider Series: Cindy Mochizuki

Hannah Marsland

Ritual, folklore, and community are some of the topics Cindy Mochzuki investigates through her richly cinematic practice. Through textile work, puppetry, and interactive performance, her upcoming show at BAF Gallery, ‘The Sakaki Tree, a Jewel, and the Mirror’, will also explore these themes. 

A multidisciplinary artist, Mochizuki’s work manifests in forms including video, installation, photography and textile. In having such a diverse practice, the crucial archival themes of her work are thoroughly and flexibly investigated. For Mochizuki, family and memory are ‘pliable concepts’, constantly evolving and strengthening inter-generational knowledge. After all, the methods through which humans communicate their history, and pass on cultural lore are wide-ranging and flexible. 

A common means of representing familial heritage in her work is through object-based research: investigating how, exactly, an object forms relationship to performance. Arguably, all objects – whether they engage with folklore or not – are engaged performatively. For example, growing food is a performative engagement of agricultural equipment to create nourishment; even nourishment itself, the act of eating is a daily performative ritual. 

In summer 2019 Mochizuki was in a research residency for a project called ‘Autumn Strawberry’ at the Surrey Art Gallery. The residency will result in a two-channel animation about Japanese Canadian berry farmers in the Fraser Valley opening in 2021. For these Japanese Canadian farmers, their fate was altered through the internment and mass uprooting of Japanese Canadians during WWII. These events affected the livelihood of Mochizuki’s own paternal grandparents, whose farms were confiscated by the Canadian government during this time. Although the focus of ‘The Sakaki Tree, a Jewel and the Mirror’ is more cosmological than that of ‘Autumn Strawberry’, there are still personal family connections hidden within the puppets and canvases. The fibre from which the supernatural puppet figures are constructed comes from Mochizuki’s grandmother and aunt, who had aspirations to open an embroidery business. This is one way that Mochizuki brings a hidden family history into this body of work.  

Notions of the archival, the whimsical and personally historical share a commonality; they are invisible to the eye. Within our families, the presence of a loved one can be felt in a moment even if they are not physically present. Mochizuki’s interest in these invisible forces, and how we attach them to objects, makes it easy to get lost in her work as viewers are provided the opportunity to step into an emulated memory that does not belong to them. In 105 Chrysanthemums (2016), an installation of small porcelain and chlorite flowers suspended with thread belonging to her grandmother, Mochizuki presents an amalgamated experience that derives from a place of familiarity: her grandmother’s porch. Although I personally have not stepped onto this porch to look upon a field of wildflowers, objects are indeed powerful and can transport you to a place you have never been, or one that’s chronologically impossible to experience. ‘The Sakaki Tree, a Jewel, and the Mirror’, opening January 10, will again share with viewers a joyful experience that is at once personal and universal.

Cindy Mochizuki’s ‘The Sakaki Tree, a Jewel, and the Mirror’ opens Friday, January 10th at BAF Gallery. Join us for the opening reception from 7-11pm.