Living in the world today what exactly are we standing on?
In the summer of 2012 a friend living in Niigata told me there was an archaeological excavation site worth visiting. Under the strong sun inside an underground pit around a meter deep five or six researchers were scraping off the soil carefully. Looking hard I could see a patterned fragment partially appearing. Having a researcher manually sweep away the soil over its surface I realized it was a part of Jōmon pottery. At that very moment I got a feeling as if heavy and hot blood was rising through my body standing right there from toe to head. A life that had lain underneath the multilayered strata a world that doesn’t exist anymore — it had just got in contact with the air of this age. What exactly are the strata or the layers of time piled up since the Jōmon era to now? Ever since this experience I have been preoccupied with this question.
I began to frequent Niigata as it is through repetition that I usually deepen my knowledge. One day I was given a chance to be guided around in the archive room of a museum there. The space was entirely filled with a tremendous amount of stacked flat boxes. I had one of those boxes opened for me and it contained a number of Jōmon pottery fragments each perfectly cleansed and numbered arranged in a neat order on a sheet of newspaper covering the bottom of the box. I was told that when putting pottery fragments in order they use random newspaper sheets that are available at the time as a means to preserve them in a good condition. The newspaper in the flat box that I was shown happened to be dated March 13 2011 just two days after the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred. It features a black-and-white photograph showing people being served meals at an evacuation shelter — those unforgettable days. Multiple layers of time were piled up inside the flat box which reminded me of the scene of the excavation site the other day. Multiple geological layers that make up the strata. The time that connects the surface layer and the bottom layer.
Countless fragments of Jōmon pottery are excavated investigated and then placed gently in a flat box with a sheet of newspaper that happens to be around. After that they just sleep without being seen by anyone. Having had their “voice” unheard for 3000 to 13000 years they now take yet another long sleep. We have no ability to catch their voice anymore. Each sheet of newspaper that is used to store them has letters and characters that we understand but it is uncertain whether or not we could ever be able to read and hear what they really say.
We forget events soon after they take place even those happening in front of us. That makes sense because we happen to live in a world where no one can go forward without forgetting things continually. But is that really fine? Does time run in a straight line? Isn’t it possible to think that it actually goes in a spiral manner with each cycle never overlapping with each other? Just like those rope-impressed patterns remaining on Jōmon pottery fragments.
The layers of fragmented time that I saw in the flat box do not allow the supposition that the past present and future are on a continuous stream rather suggesting that they are distorted twisted and intertwined.
It is such multilayered strata of time on which we put our foot down.