In 2017, Maki Ohkojima, a Japanese artist, embarked on the Tara Pacific expedition from Guam, Micronesia to Japan. Her sailing experience aboard Tara gave birth to a fascination for whales that resulted in splendid murals. Last winter, Maki’s whales swam all the way to Paris and settled in the Aquarium of Paris for a 2-month long exhibition.
How did your experience on Tara influence your work?
My trip on Tara was punctuated with so many encounters! I discovered unknow perspectives and acquired new knowledge by talking to people from different backgrounds. Tara’s scientists and sailors have very deep and rich experiences, and to live at sea enabled me to realise how I am part of this small creature that is the Tara Expeditions Foundation. Watching the Taranauts work with plankton and coral was a valuable experience now engraved in my memory.
When we came across a dead white whale, that is when it all started. Its body was floating on the surface, the skin was melted, birds and fishes were enjoying the feast… Eat or be eaten? I was very moved and started to wonder: how much ‘life’ is melting inside this whale? From now on, I perceived the Ocean like a ‘soup of life’, the cornerstone of living. Whales had now become messengers, a way for us to reflect on the big creature that Earth is. This was the beginning of the whale series.
“The Eye of the Whale” at the Aquarium of Paris © Serge Koutchinsky
Can you tell us more about the exhibition that happened last month at the Aquarium of Paris?
The exhibition “The Eye of the Whale” consisted of six whale murals covering 300m2 of the Aquarium’s walls. I originally created four of them in the summer of 2018 in Japan, on Awashima －a small island close to Kagawa Prefecture in Japan. I made them again once I got to Paris at the end of November 2018, specially for this exhibition. This work is a way for me to share the new perspectives I had aboard Tara: the whale is a messenger from the sea and speak out to us the wonderfulness of Ocean, its creatures but also the crisis on Earth that is not irrelevant to humans ourselves.
Back in Japan, what are your next projects?
Starting in January to March, I’m showing my work in the Aomori museum Art of Japan, in Japan. Last fall, I composed a 10-meter long painting for the “Agros Art Project – Tomorrow’s Harvest”! Agros, in ancient Greek, means “cultivated land” or “field”. Thus, for this project, I’ve researched eating habits and agricultural practices of rice: hunger, prayer for harvest, rituals and dances… By this work, I express the joy, the sorrow and also the struggle born concerning the soil.
Maki Ohkojima Residence in Aomori museum of Art : Hand Wisdom © Aomori museum Art of Japan
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