Arrival exhibition at Nikkei National Museum, Canada. 2016@
As a finalist for the AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize 2013, Canada's largest international photography prize, Chino Otsuka, currently residing in the UK, was awarded a residency anywhere in Canada. She chose the Nikkei National Museum and this exhibit developed through the results of her research.
"As my research progressed, I became more and more interested in the stories of young women who came over from Japan as "picture brides," young Japanese women usually between 17 and 20 year's old, who came to Canada in the early 20th century. Their marriages were arranged by showing the prospective bride and groom photographs of each other.
Most of these women travelled from Japan and saw their husband-to-be for the first time when they arrived in Canada. I was drawn to their innocence, ambition and courage - their journey. They all longed for a new life in a new country. Yet when they arrived in Canada, the life they had imagined was completely different. Hardship and many tragedies would follow them as many of them were sent to the internment camps during the Second World War. They struggled and endured throughout their lives." Chino Otsuka
Arrival is an audio-visual installation. Four diptych images are accompanied by narration taken from original transcripts of picture brides, spoken by several generations of Japanese Canadian women. The work focuses on their journey evoking a sense of anticipation, their dream and longing, around the brief moment in their life when they arrived in the new country.
Otsuka is best known for a project entitled Imagine Finding Me, where the artist digitally montaged photographs of her adult self with those of her childhood self. What makes this series more than a gimmick is Otsukafs ability to convince the viewer of a liminal space between ascribed relationships (mother, daughter, sister, aunt) and those we achieve throughout the course of our lifetime (friend, teacher, student, client).
For her current exhibition, inspired by a 2014 residency at the Nikkei archives, the UK- based Otsuka has produced an immersive multi-channel installation that combines new photographs with those of young Japanese women who came to Canada as gpicture bridesh in the early 20th century. Also included are the personal belongings of four of these brides.
As with Otsukafs earlier work, Arrival succeeds in the creation of a new space, one that gcapture[s] the time of anticipation, hope and adventureh that these young women experienced as they left home for parts unknown, but also its darker side of disappointment and, invariably, hardship. Making this work particularly relevant to younger audiences is how similar the gpicture brideh phenomenon is to what is presently available through social media marriage sites the world over. Michael Turner
This exhibition is made possible by the generous assistance of the AIMIA/AGO Photography Prize, the BC Arts Council, the Province of British Columbia, the Deux Mille Foundation, and private donors to the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre.
Nikkei Naitonal Museum, Canada
Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art, DC, USA