madeleine flynn and tim humphrey


yohakonobi (okinawa)

The project explores two spatial concepts. They are notions of ‘Yohaku-no-bi’ (Japanese term: literally translated as beauty of extra white) and ‘pathway’. Yohaku-no-bi, in the sense of ‘open space’ which focuses on what is left out of a design rather than what is put in. The aesthetics of yohaku (extra white, white space) is often associated with the concept of ‘emptiness’ or ‘nothingness’ of Zen philosophy and it is visualised in Zen garden for meditation purposes.

Naomi Ota’s research in Okinawa revealed a meaning for yohuku no-bi shown by the Utaki (Sacred grove) in Taketomi island, which is non-decorative and literally empty, but a powerful and sublime space. While Zen gardens such as Karesansui (literally, ‘dry landscape’) are precisely designed, with a solemn atmosphere suggesting a resolute attitude, the open space of Utaki exists as very carefree, and fits comfortably within people’s everyday lives.
Some pathways on the island act as a guide to the Utaki space. Utaki is naturally found by following those attractive pathways. The concept of pathway in the project will be interpreted as a transformative element leading audiences into open white space.

White here represents open space but also includes colour of white. One side of Taketomi’s seashore is covered by coral bones, dazzling white under the tropical sunshine. The variety in the details of those corals gave an impression of rich whiteness and feeling of stillness. That could be from the factor of coral’s nature of ‘slow-growing’. (The slow-growing species grows only between 2 and 6 mm/year. The corals provide multi-century records.)

The installation is being developed through a collaborative process combining and integrating material processes in visual art, sonic and lighting allowing for the evocation of multiple pathways as trajectories in light and sound. The visual (material) objects are also sound sculptures, interpreting a disclosure of spatial and temporal relationships between material form and resonating sound frequencies.


Naomi Ota (visual installation artist), Genta Iwamura (lighting designer), Peter Eckersall (dramaturge), Tim Humphrey and Madeleine Flynn (composers/musicians), Soo-Yeun You (choreographer/dancer)

The first development period for the project occurred at the University of Melbourne in November 2010, supported by the UoM, Griffith University, Australian Academy for the Humanities and the Japan Foundation, which enabled Genta’s visit to Australia. Further developments and installation are planned for Japan in 2012.