Image license: CC-BY-NC-ND


I really like the owl-like echo in the background of this sample of a very shy spring I walked past once. The way the water hits a layer of leaves at the bottom, which just about soften and disperse the sound.

The object is a tsunami stone. It is part of a series of stones left by ancient generations after various tsunamis, along the Sanriku coast in Japan. They were inscribed with messages telling inhabitants about inundation, height and edges, where to build, where to be safe, places out of reach. Effectively, these stones serve as markers of safety. Memorials and warnings, spilling over knowledge across time, for the same place. A very permanent text message, or a set of instructions.

This was a difficult object to associate a sound to - I have never experienced a tsunami, and being imaginative / representative about it felt detached. It got me thinking about empathy, about stretching our loss to occupy that of others. And how we talk about those losses in museums, and place things in altars. Research, I suppose, is the most dignifying way to show an object and the life that occasionally existed with / around it. How we carry knowledge and let it be a warming legacy that serves the cyclical ways of water.

It reminded me of an essay by Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams, which I hold as my equivalent of a spiritual object. Maybe we don't need objects to make us feel things, maybe it suffices if they just stretch our radius of attention, make our reach a little bigger. It also made me think about how we localise ourselves in other lives, places, times, things we don’t have language for.

I went for the sound of a spring in the end, hoping there was an outpour, a birth. That eventually there was joy and regenerative forms of water, as much as a generation can witness. A very quiet fluidity. Where there is a kind of maintenance of information, the preservation of mourning, the cumulative understanding of a place and its edges.

Elise Misao Hunchuck

An Incomplete Atlas

of Stones

2015 - 2017


In collection(s): Hydrophonics


Audio license: CC-BY

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