japanese art, design and culture
Spoon-Tamago

Obon | Miya Ando’s installation of 1000 bioluminescent floating leaves

photos by L Young

Miya Ando (previously) recently traveled to Puerto Rico where she floated 1000 resin and (non-toxic) phosphorescence-coated leaves in a small pond. During the day the phosphorescence collected and absorbed energy from sunlight, giving them a soft, blue glow at night. Using indigenous Ficus leaves to create small boats, the ephemeral 24-hour installation pays homage to the history of boat travel and refugees in the country. But it also mimics Puerto Rico’s natural phenomenon of bioluminescent bays, which are full of single-celled bioluminescent dinoflagellates: half-plant, half-animal organisms that emit a flash of light when agitated.

Titled “Obon,” the project was inspired by the Japanese festival of the same name – a ceremony to honor and commemorate the departed. Ancestral spirits are believed to return home during this festival. And on the last day, lanterns are floated on rivers to guide the spirits back to the netherworld.

I wish I could have seen this in person but Ando told us that the impermanence, coupled with the very clear leaves, made the project feel delicate and wondrous, like when you see a firefly. “The leaves sat in the pond all day and were very unassuming and clear but all the while they were absorbing light. Then visitors arrived and in the darkness I was amazed because there were so many people at the unveiling yet it was totally quiet as people stood and sat at the edge of the pond and just watched these little leaves glowing and floating and moving slowly around.” Sounds magical!

Obon was commissioned by the Fist Art Foundation, a Puerto Rico-based non-profit organization that seeks to foster an understanding of contemporary art through site-specific installations and educational programs.

Source: Miya Ando

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