Koretsune Sakura
University of Oslo. Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages. Guest researcher / Trainee of “Program of Overseas Study for Upcoming Artists” Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan

ある捕鯨船の記憶: ノルウェーと日本で発見されたふたつのイメージを結ぶアートとリサーチの実践



The Memory of a Whaling Catcher Boat: A Practice of Art and Research to Tie Two Images Found in Norway and Japan

Norway and Japan are among the countries that continue to catch whales. Whaling practices of Norway and Japan began to cross at the end of the nineteenth century when Japanese entrepreneurs visited Norway to study the cutting-edge whaling technique called the "Norwegian system whaling technique". Traditional whaling was conducted mainly by nets in Japan until then. Technologies, including the equipment, ships, and skills of gunners, were transferred from Norway to Japan in the early twentieth century, significantly contributing to the development of the modern whaling industry in Japan. Working with Norwegian whalers would influence Japanese workers and local communities, but the cultural aspects of this international collaboration are still understudied. Long-term voyages of pelagic whaling provided whalers extra time to create crafts from whale materials. Norwegian and Japanese whalers painted baleens as decorative objects, and there seem to be similarities in painting styles and motifs.

The presentation will introduce one remarkable baleen painting dedicated as ema, or votive painting, to a local Shinto shrine of Hagi, Yamaguchi, Japan. Nearby to this town, the earliest whaling companies in Japan to use the Norwegian system were established. A whaling catcher boat is depicted on the ema, and the boat is recognized as a vessel built in Kristiania, or today’s Oslo. There is a possibility that the same boat was recorded in one of the glass negatives by Henrik Govenius Melsom, a Norwegian gunner who served on Japanese whaling ships in the early twentieth century. I will introduce the memories and histories associated with the ema and glass negative and the process of studying them between Norway and Japan. I will also refer to my practice in a collaborative exhibition of art and research in which the connection of the ema and glass negative was highlighted.