It's July 12, and a small crowd has gathered at Scarritt-Bennett Center's gallery F. to see the Japan exhibit and hear some of the artists discuss their work. The gallery's air conditioning is broken, and the temperature outside is approaching 100 degrees. A wasp crawls along the back side of a Japanese flag hanging in the front window — a perfect, unscripted metaphor for the show, which features works by Nashvillians who are of Japanese heritage or who have traveled to Japan.
Some of the show's best work can be found in a series of video art pieces that are projected onto a screen in the gallery's back room. "Infinity" is an intriguing time-lapse video — five days reduced to roughly four minutes — that shows artists Mai Yamashita and Naoto Kobayashi running across a grassy area in a figure-eight pattern, ultimately creating an infinity symbol. With each footstep, they weigh down the grass, eventually digging through into the dirt below it. But this shape doesn't seem organic when it's cut into the earth — it's almost like crop circles, which are so precise they're accused of being produced by aliens. The repetition of the pattern, of the two people walking the same trail over and over again until it digs a hole in the earth, is fascinatingly absurd.
Another standout of the series is Ken Sasaki's "Bat." It shows a metal bat being dragged across asphalt, carpet, brick, up stairs, and through a watery creek bed. The soundtrack is simply the noise that the bat creates against each surface. It is hypnotic, and for all its simplicity, it's also compelling. The close-up shot hovering just above the bat as it repetitiously drags is oddly ominous, bringing to mind the scene of little Danny riding his Big Wheel through the Overlook Hotel in The Shining — in both instances, the white noise of friction on various surfaces is soothing, but also builds suspense.
Japan closes this Saturday, Aug. 20. During the closing reception, the Foreign Language Acting Group will join gallery F. to host a haiku poetry and music event that celebrates Nashville’s Japanese community. See gallery F's website for more details.