2000, 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014 / Japan, Taiwan, Burkina Faso / Performances and video recordings
I have made several versions of this work since 2000, both in and outside Japan.
In the video, I have a meal with a randomly chosen man, promising that we try to be father and daughter while we are having this one meal.
None of the male participants is a professional actor, and neither am I. We do not have a prepared script. The only thing that connects us is a vague image of “father and daughter.”
In one version, we talk about work and marriage, and get into a quarrel. In another, we hardly speak at all and use only gestures to pretend like we’re father and daughter. Each version is completely different, and yet they all represent an attempt between two people to build a father-daughter relationship.
The act of having a meal lies somewhere between private and public. Tasting and enjoying food is very personal; it’s about connecting with one’s own body. But a meal isn’t only about your sense of taste. It’s about interacting with the person you’re sharing the meal with; it’s about connecting with society.
Similarly, the act of producing sounds with our voice lies somewhere between private and public. Our voice is personal; it comes from vibrations within our own body. But this voice reaches other people; it causes vibrations within their body and resonates with meaning. I believe the earliest humans transformed their voice into language, into a means of communication, into a form.
In Have a Meal with FATHER, both the male participants and I chose our words very carefully in order to build a father-daughter relationship. This was even truer in the versions made outside Japan. Since we didn’t share a common language, neither of us could understand the words the other was saying. And yet each of us tried hard to convey our thoughts and appreciate what the other was saying.
Each of us knew that no matter what words we use, the other wouldn’t understand the meaning. In a situation like this—when we nevertheless try to convey our thoughts—language transforms back into its primitive form: voice. Our voice reaches the other person not as meaningful words but as vibrating sounds. It’s the same on the receiving end. We try to appreciate the other person’s thoughts through the tone of voice that reaches us as vibrating sounds. This interaction of voices is another form. It emerges when complete strangers try to take a step toward each other and build a relationship.
The male participants and I were very conscious about the voice we used and every little gesture we made. Throughout the meal, we searched for a common form to help us build a relationship. We took on the challenge of engaging in a truly basic communication.
A love story would depict the personal relationship between a pair of lovers. At the same time, it would also reflect a specific setting: the historical background, the social conditions, and the dreams of the people of that era. Have a Meal with FATHER is similar, I think. The meal between a make-believe father and daughter reflects the culture, the customs, the history, and the dreams of the participants.