Photo courtesy of liverpoolbiennial.co.uk
Japanese people have long had an obsession with paper and its endless possibilities. If I asked you to name the first five "Japanese" things that come to mind, it's highly likely that origami would make it on that list.
I have seen Japanese people manipulate paper beyond recognition, and create the most beautiful pieces with something so simple. Cut Paper, a piece by Japanese artist Sachiko Abe, is one of these pieces. Who would imagine that the same item notorious for slicing skin and giving paper cuts could suddenly appear as soft and fluffy as a feather, with just a few quick scissor snips?
Abe has done just that with her piece, shredding pieces of white A4 paper into 0.5mm wide strands. The strands cascade down to the floor from the ceiling, appearing like a giant feathery icicle.
While this feathery icicle is beautiful and certainly draws in the viewer with a sense of awe and disbelief, the real focus of this piece is the atmosphere created around the icicle, and the artist herself who is a part of this performance piece. She sits on top of a ledge in a white gown, serenely snipping away at her paper. Her scissors are connected to speakers that amplify the snipping noise as you approach the artist.
Sachiko Abe serenely snipping paper as an active participant in her art piece. Photo courtesy of artwondereveryday.blogspot.com
Sure, the scene is beautiful and calming on the surface, but for some reason it gives me the goosebumps. I imagine an eerie, ominous atmosphere, as if something is bubbling under the surface that is about to be unleashed at any moment. There is no way a person can sit there for hours on end, snipping paper, and not go insane.
In Abe's case, cutting paper for hours on end had the opposite effect. She discovered this practice of cutting tiny strips of paper while in a mental institution. The practice had a calming effect on Abe and served as a form of meditation. I guess it's true what they say: to each their own.