Spaces of Inclusion

With support from the California Arts Council, Kala Art Institute will partner with artist Taro Hattori on a collaborative residency at Kala and two community settings, Burma Refugee Family Network (BRFN) and the Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants (CERI) to explore the stories of refugees in the Bay Area through music, video, storytelling, site-specific installation, and performance, culminating in an exhibition and performance series at the Kala gallery. Performance will  feature a music composition by Byron Au Yong, known for composing songs of dislocation prompted by a broken lineage.

Building on a two-year creative relationship with Kala through Print Public, Taro Hattori collaborates with two Bay Area refugee organizations to develop Spaces of Inclusion, new work about immigration experiences translated through music, video, storytelling, installation, and performance. Spaces of Inclusion will culminate in an exhibition and series of performances to premiere in September 2019 at the Kala gallery with various off-site events before the gallery exhibition. 

Spaces of Inclusion builds on Taro Hattori’s current and past projects, large-scale sculptural works made from everyday materials like cardboard, drywall, and bricks, videos exploring belonging, and participatory experiments about political challenges and social conflict.

Taro, was born and raised in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Chicago and New York to study theater design and installation, before settling in the Bay Area. Recently Taro finished  his project Rolling Counterpoint, a roving Japanese tea house that he built during a residency at Montalvo Arts Center, and took to partner sites to invite people in to have conversations, share stories and experiences.

 As the Montalvo’s press release describes Rolling Counterpoint: “Historically, the Japanese teahouse served as a space for contemplation and communion with others…in 16th-century Japan, against the backdrop of civil war, tea masters became political go-betweens while teahouses served as radically egalitarian spaces of nonviolence and provided opportunities for rational discourse, conviviality, political consensus and peace.” Spaces of Inclusion builds on the foundation of the teahouse, creating new spaces where people can share stories and experiences, address conflict, foster understanding, and imagine new ways of being together. The current political anxiety and a sense of collective angst here in the US have brought questions about belonging to the forefront of the public imagination. What does belonging mean in the today? How do we promote a sense of cultural empathy? Spaces of Inclusion will delve into these important and timely questions.

For this project, Taro will be working with two local organizations, the Burma Refugee Family Network (BRFN) and Center for Empowerng Refugees and Immigrants (CERI). During these community-based residencies, Taro will hold workshops and interview refugees about their journey and lives, touching on themes of belonging and displacement. After completing initial interviews, Taro will ask the refugees to participate in video sessions to be used both in the video installation/live performance at the Kala gallery and as inspiration for a composition to be created by musician Byron Au Yong, known for composing songs of dislocation prompted by a broken lineage.

 For the video sessions (to be completed during Taro’s Kala residency), each of the refugee participants will be asked to step inside a brick structure created by Taro, read a letter they wrote for someone they have lost in their life, then sing a song for that person, and finally destroy the structure and get out. Each of these performances will be conducted and documented privately. Byron Au Yong will work on the composition to accompany the videos. Born to Chinese immigrants in Pittsburgh and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Byron’s work is often about the American Dream, nature and sustainability. Like Taro, Byron creates across disciplines with an attention to intercultural collaboration and the ways people connect with the places they call home.