no mind as a map to nowhere: Mina Nishimura in Conversation with Seta Morton
April 14, 2022
Over this winter and spring, I had the distinct pleasure of being pen-pals with 2021-2022 Renewal Residency Artist, Mina Nishimura. Between our constant apologies for delayed reply, Mina and I explored some processes and fragments of her artistic practice. In our exchange we discussed moving between and within multiple realities, ghostly presence, absence, Pokémon Go, cultural concepts of “mindfulness,” “無心” (no mind), fog, and mosses. Please read our full exchange here.
— Seta Morton (Managing Editor of the Danspace Project Online Journal)
January 20, 2022
I should have emailed you on Tuesday and now it’s Thursday. I’m not sure where the time is going these days. Apologies for this delay but I’m excited to begin a new conversation with you!
You recently shared a map with me—a map of what’s been on your mind and artistic practice lately: On a virtual grid, you’ve drawn a constellation of thoughts, quotes, links, and images that you’ve connected together by pathways of many lines and arrows.
Three images first caught my eye: a screenshot of Pokémon Go, two parallel moons, and a split image of a mansion house above a dark and mucky copy of the same house, in the “upside down” world from Stranger Things. Below these images you’ve noted, “parallel world as the metaphysical reality that connects our physical reality”—this cluster of notes connects to other clusters, some discussing a physically distanced reiki practice, ideas of surrogacy, what you call the “Ghostly Body,” and more.
Following the curving paths of your map, I’m really interested in these parallels and inversions that I’m seeing you draw between physical absence, energetic presence, haunt, imaginary space, and time. I wonder if you can tell me more about these considerations and constellations? In your map, these thoughts appear to be cyclical but do they have a distinct beginning for you?
February 1, 2022
I apologize for my slow response, and thank you much for your patience.
I am not confident to put my response into language, as my thoughts around “ghostly body” are very slippery…
I guess among three references—Pokémon Go, Stranger Things, and parallel worlds in Haruki Murakami’s novel—Pokémon Go represents more like a virtual reality, if specifically speaking, and might be different from the two others which are more like fictional realities. But generally, I am interested in those metaphors of alternate reality, which affects and changes our actual reality while portraying “absence of presence” and “presence of absence.” When you exist in both worlds- alternate reality and actual reality, you’re not sure in which world you’re physically present. Even if alternate reality was the extension of your mind world and your body stands in the actual reality (let’s say, here), I think you’re not fully here. You’re here but not here at the same time!
And if we flip the perspective and, let’s say if you’re taking a journey now in the alternate world, you’re probably “there” but not there fully, because you’re “here” with me at the same time.
This way, I am interested in multiplicity of “being” as I believe “being” is not a fixed one state or condition. And when I decompose and reexamine “being”, it changes my physical presence (the way I am here) because it changes energetic composition and reality. And often, subtle changes in our awareness (our imagination alters our awareness radically!) directly changes energetic condition→which changes our way of “being”→which changes the way we perceive/understand the world→which changes my action and physical reality
OK, I should stop here before my thoughts get super tangling…thank you sorry for reading my meandering writing…!
February 10, 2022
Finally circling back to this conversation! I’ve been sitting with your thoughts for a few days now….
I’m thinking a lot about the internet—how we are all these cyborgs now, almost always plugged into our devices, occupying physical and virtual spaces simultaneously. I’m also thinking about the constant demand to be plugged in (to access information, work, loved ones, etc…) alongside the constant invitations of “wellness” to “unplug,” turn away from our screens and be more “present.” This is often a culturally appropriated language of “wellness” and “self-care.”
I’m more interested in your explorations here though—a multiplicity of being that does not inherently value one form of reality over the other (alternate/actual/virtual/physical) but instead, ruminates on the being with both realities. Blurring those lines inbetween worlds, creating many channels or pathways to travel between them.
I wonder, what are some of the ways in which these slippery states of multiplicity surface in your choreographic and movement practice?
February 19, 2022
I am sorry it took me a while to circle back to you…I am glad that I could finally sit quietly and write back to you!!!
And wow, it was really interesting that you brought up subjects like “wellness” and “self-care” in the light of our expanded reality into a virtual realm. Your mention of the appropriated notion of “wellness” somehow made me think of a tricky state of “mindfulness” and culturally appropriated use of the concept. Original word for “mindfulness” in Japanese Zen practice is “無心”, that can be translated as “no-mind”!
“Mindfulness” directs people to fully focus on the present moment and space while clearing away all unnecessary thoughts. As much as I see a benefit and usefulness of “mindfulness” in exercising a healthy life, I can’t help but think how its original teaching was lost and culturally modified in pursuing what we believe a healthy life is, in this efficiency-driven contemporary society. I think one of important aspects of original idea of “無心” (or no-mind) is to let anything arrive to you yet do not hold anything. To me, it is teaching a fluid nature and essence of human being as much as an invitation to cultivate soft and quiet inner state.
In my dance practice, I condition a body and mind into such soft and quiet state to begin with so that anything from outside can arrive, go through and affect a way of being. I use certain exercises I practice for that purpose. When a way of being transforms, a reality transforms, then consequently, multitude of realities emerge in a body or in a space (=choreography). I also use language and/or drawings in order to map out different layers of reality. It is thrilling and fun to use those tools for letting invisible or unseen parts of the world emerge!
I am not confident if I answered your question…but I was inspired by your question!!!
Thank you, Seta!!
March 11, 2022
I’ve read and re-read your last email a few times now but am only writing you back now…
You definitely answered my question!
And thank you for sharing this history with me! This origin of “mindfulness” as “無心”(no mind) reminds me of the word “intuition.” My understanding of that word is in its contemporary, English, definition—”the ability to understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning” however I’ve read that the etymology of intuition, from the late Latin, “intuitionem,” and it actually implies looking at something with deep consideration. These understandings are also from such a western perspective and I’m sure there are other knowledge systems that hold ideas and histories of “intuition” that I should know about! It’s just so funny how these winding histories of interpretation can lead us to such divergent paths of meaning making. Meanings that then affect entire philosophies and belief systems. These systems then also go through cycles of cultural modification (as you say), appropriation, and commodification —in our product driven, late stage capitalist society—what a spiraling mess!
I really do love thinking about how you describe your practice…like a technique of softening into a deeper sense of porousness. That porousness, creating containers for a multitude of bodies and realities to accumulate…I was recently listening to a podcast with author, professor, and ecologist, Robin Wall Kimmerer talking about moss life. She talked about how mosses create these tiny micro-forests and how porous and sponge-like they are. They soak up and collects rainfall, maintains moisture in the soil and other plants, enabling both plant and other animal life to thrive—moss is brilliant, generous, and generative. Somehow this soft technology, this spongey porous system of gathering and holding, feels very related to how I see your practice. Does that resonate at all?
I wonder if you would send me one of your drawings?
March 27, 2022
I am so sorry for my long absence…but am very happy to be able to write you back finally on this Sunday afternoon while being absorbed into the image of moss forest…!
Very coincidentally, I developed a deep sympathy to mosses and lichens during the pandemic time when I was researching and working with an idea of “ghostly body.” My dance artist friend David Guzman was researching lichens extensively around that time and introduced me those rich species—since I was uncertain how lichens were different from mosses, I researched a bit about mosses on my own too…I am in love with both species now and the new way of experiencing a world through their perspective and sense of time. I was moved by their blurry boarder between a self and other, individual and collective, and their ability of absorbing, and at the same time, nourishing many other lives around them! I feel so honored and almost flattered to hear that you saw connections between mosses and my practice! Because I do think they are so beautiful and amazing.
And I also loved that you used “porousness” to describe my practice. I often introduce a specific default mode to a body when practicing “continuous transformation”—process of becoming without becoming a “thing”— by using 3 simple images: shifting sand under feet; a fly flying around a head; and a thousand of holes on a body through which lights and winds pass through. Those images induce unstable, ever-shifting and porous conditions to a body in order to have it available for any arriving transformation! An image of “porous body” also reminds me of a drawing I made when thinking about energy form—-arrow-like energy versus particle-like energy!! I have attached the drawing for your reference (it looks a bit creepy..).
And lastly, I do think “intuition” is an essential navigating force if we take a journey in a foggy and porous “moss forest.” And maybe “inspiration” can be a wind that clears the foggy air, and can show us a new landscape for a moment before the deep fog comes back!!!
Hahaha..I am now obsessed by the image of a foggy moss forest…I might continue wandering there for a while…!
Thank you so much Seta for initiating this rich and insightful conversation! This was very meaningful to me.
April 6, 2022
This has been such a sweet conversation—I’m so glad to have this excuse to take a deep dive with you. Rich indeed! Thank you so much for spending these little, asynchronous, pockets of time with me and for sharing these fragments of your artistic process with me and our Online Journal readers.