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A Sixth Impression of Kamepao, 8/01/99

Last week I visited a museum at one of the sites where the Kobe earthquake hit in Awaji. The museum "preserved" the site as it was. In some cases they had reconstructed the reckage, for example by using photographs of the damage in the kitchen of the house on the site to re-destroy it to museum standards, which made it a bit dramatic and unintentionally comical. But in the case where the earth had shifted, although they may have liked to, it is hard to re-shift the earth to meet museum standards. It was interesting to see that faultlines not only cause plates to shift laterally but also vertically. It was exactly the tension of these two plates that caused the earthquake in Kobe.

I'm coming to see that Kamepao also has two plates that shift against each other, they sometimes exist on the same plane, sometimes shift heights and positions. I'm not calling this a fault, although to some it might resemble one. Those some may be the ones who look at Kamepao as an artwork and then seek to criticize it as one. Nakahara, as an artist, has been conscious of maintaining a separation between his artwork and Kamepao. Although Kamepao may also be art, depending on how one may define such a complicated little word, it almost doesn't matter. In order to contribute to Kamepao, the issue is not whether or not one is or wants to be an artist. It is more concerned with whether the individual has a direct connection to children, earthquakes, or to some other personal interest in the project. If that connection happens to be through art it can also be useful, but it is not necessary. In fact if that is the only connection, it may even be discouraged. The competition, connection making, name dropping, and pursuit of self which the artworld pathetically founds itself on really plays no part in Kamepao. If a curator or artist is interested, they are interested for personal reasons. If they don't find or have that personal reason, I can imagine that their interest would soon fade.

In this way, to try to criticize the theory vs. the practice of Kamepao, in a critical essay seems well beyond the point. (It seems that it is I who was thinking of approaching it this way). I can't really imagine any disasterous consequences of Kamepao. In the end, what really is there to be critical of? These two plates then are what? One would be what you see in the pictures and what I, the other members, and children experienced over the weekend, the other is what I've written in these reports as well as the other information posted on Kamepao Web. In a previous report, I mentioned these two plates by using the terms micro and macro. Certainly there is a difference in what we see and what we think, both rub against each other and constantly challenge each other. It is this friction that makes Kamepao interesting and more than simply a summer camp. In the case of an earthquake, if the faults can be shocked under controlled circumstances, some of the pressure can be released preventing what some fear as The Big One. In the case of Kamepao, this case of ideological vs. practical friction seems destined to create a more positive shift. In writing these reports, I hope to write from either plate.


In the morning of the first day, the kids, divided into two groups, began working on their chairs and the finger pianos. I was surprised their attention span was maintained for as long as it was, but then again, the project did have a clear beginning and end, and a directed purpose. The main objective for most of the Kamepao members was to have the children make their own pieces. If they had a question or were physically unable to handle a tool or material we would help. They used many tools including a drill press, hand saw, hammer, vise, pliers, and utility knives. We found that if we, or the parents assisting, ended up doing too much of the work, the children lost interest quickly. But if they did all the work themselves, they progressively felt as if they were working toward a goal.

While making the chairs and Muvilas the children were so focused on their projects that they hardly had time to play. But when breaktime and lunchtime came they felt comfortable playing with each other as well as with the Kamepao members. It's always interesting to find the point at which a child will open up to you. It seems to be a game itself. But once they open up, anything seems possible. After lunch, they continued building until they were finished. On the first day, after some had finished their chairs, the scrap pieces of wood quickly transformed into cellular phones or other tools. Playtime had officially begun. After the finger pianos were made, a short amount of time was spent making sound with them, but the purpose seemed to be more in construction than in use. Playtime had officially begun once construction was complete.

From then we all went outside. Catching bugs seemed to be a main attraction with a Praying Mantis-like creature, frogs, crickets, tadpoles as the easiest to catch. Then came the ride in the turtle car, made by Tsuyoshi Kise. Packed with at least 15 kids, the car was pulled around the street surrounding Agora. Although it was a bit of work for us, the kids didn't seem to mind. The pictures may tell the rest.

After the ride came showers, free-time, then dinner. Dinner always tended toward a challenge of who could eat the most servings of curry rice, to the extent that the unfortunate winner ended up clutching his stomach on the floor for the next 15 to 30 minutes. At dinnertime the chairs came into use, as did ceramic plates and wooden spoons made from a previous Kamepao.

After dinner and clean up came the treasure hunt. Kids were divided into groups of 3 with care taken to mix old and young and boys and girls. Then the groups were sent down the hill one at a time in the dark to find one of two boxes that contained the booty: candy, and bubble soap. The box was a large plastic case, the inside coated with tin foil and Christmas tree diode lights that made the inside sparkle. The second box, or the 'bummer box', was easier to find but contained nothing but the sparkling lights and a note that made them aware they hadn't found the right one. After one group found the booty and came back they collected a ration of sparklers and other fireworks and the next group took off down the hill. A strange combination but one that seemed to work well, fireworks and soap bubbles, was more than enough to keep the kids from being afraid of the dark.

After all the kids had found the treasure and used their fireworks, they came inside for the 8mm animation and slide show. Previously, the kids drew on a blank film strip, and blank slides to make their own show. Everytime the film was shown they complained that it was too fast. But it was there own drawing that determined the speed. Depending on how many frames they used for the same image, the image would pass quickly or slowly. The slides also drew constant chatter and laughter which resulted in a standing cheer for an encore (that begrudgingly wasn't fulfilled).

Finally the kids went to bed, and surprisingly to sleep, by about 11:00pm. Although, between 11:00pm and 5:00am, the time they woke up, seemed like only an hour. In the morning nothing specific was planned except for breakfast, so most of the kids ended up going for walks looking for more insects, or used the rest of their bubble soap, or came up with another way to entertain themselves until breakfast and then until their parents came to pick them up. Yet as soon as one child left, he or she was quickly replaced by another child from the next group. Then the whole event started again.
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