With interactive Spatial Poetics, artists reflect on painful chapter of Japanese-Canadian history

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      The perception of museums is often that they are calm spaces for quiet introspection. But this week, Spatial Poetics XVII: Once Lost will look to turn that stereotype on its head.

      Once Lost brings performance, documentary filmmaking, ceramics, and history together to present a new perspective on Japanese-Canadian history in a one-night presentation at the Vancouver Maritime Museum. The project is a collaboration between the museum and the Powell Street Festival Society, which organizes the largest annual Japanese-Canadian festival in Canada. This year’s festival will take place in early August.

      Actor, writer, and director Mayumi Yoshida was one of the artists invited to collaborate on Once Lost. She moved to Vancouver from Tokyo eight years ago, and says that Once Lost is unlike anything she’s ever done before.

      “Technicalitywise, it’s a different process for sure,” she says. “But the core is always storytelling.”

      The show incorporates the Maritime Museum’s Lost Fleet exhibition, which focuses on the confiscation of nearly 1,200 Japanese-Canadian–owned fishing boats by Canadian officials on the British Columbia coast in 1941. The exhibition features photographs and artifacts as well as several models of Japanese-Canadian–built fishing vessels in its collection.

      The exhibit works as an integral part of Once Lost, with the audience moving around the space and interacting with both the artists and the museum.

      Once Lost is a simultaneous collaboration between artists working in a variety of mediums. Ceramics artist Hide Ebina will showcase pottery works around the exhibition space. Documentary filmmaker Fish will screen a film. Mark Wickstead and Naomi Horii will contribute other soundscapes and visual art.

      Yoshida collaborated with three local actors to provide vignettes based on the museum exhibition.

      “The three of us are going to be living one of the characters, sort of in showcasing the point of view of people from that time,” she says. “My character is actually the present time looking back at what happened.”

      The four actors will recite poetry and monologues from positions around the exhibition space, expressing different perspectives on the lost fleet. Yoshida says she wants the audience to be as involved as possible.

      “We want them to have an immersive experience where the soul of the Lost Fleet exhibit is sort of living in different parts of the museum,” she says.

      Yoshida says that the tragedy of the Japanese-Canadian fishing fleet is relatable to current debates around immigration and how racism can play a role in government decisions. Ultimately, she hopes the many different aspects of the performance will come together to inspire the audience’s curiosity.

      “I hope that they get curious and look further into what it means,” she says. “We’re kind of relying on them to be curious about what they want to learn more about the exhibit and the performers and the art.”

      Spatial Poetics XVII: Once Lost takes place at the Vancouver Maritime Museum on Friday (June 15).