About this project
Adventure and art put together: Help us launch a truly inter-medial project and get some great original artwork in return! Check out our facebook page for updates.
En Español (Spanish translation in our website)
In May 1689 the great Haiku poet Matsuo Basho sold his house and began travelling north through Japan. His written impressions of the journey, over 1200 miles later, became The Narrow Road to the Deep North, a compilation of travel sketches in prose and verse which is a famous reminder of Basho’s ongoing legacy. In June 2014, 325 years later, Pablo Fernandez and Anya Gleizer, two artists currently living and working in Edinburgh, Scotland, will retrace Basho’s footsteps. Together they will create a collaborative piece, possibly in the form of an Artists Book, compiling poetry, art, photography and prose to make a beautiful and accurate impression of their journey, but also to underscore the changes that have taken place in Japan in the last three centuries.
Basho, renowned by many as the founder of the contemporary haiku poetic style, believed deeply in the power and relevance of nature to all art. We share this view. The constant changes we experience on the road bring us closer to the essence of the landscape we travel through. One cannot take in a country or a culture from behind a car window, and it is important to us not only to follow the path Basho wove through Japan, but also to echo his unhurried method of travel by repeating the trek under only human power. All over the north of Honshu (Japan’s main island) Basho captured the essence of his experiences, from his descriptions of the Toso-gu shrine in Nikko, to Shirakawa castle, to the pine-clad islands of Matsushima. Myazawa (the 20th century poet) once said, “It was as if the very soul of Japan had itself written it”.
We are both artists and travellers, and for us, Basho’s narrow road represents the ideal of art and the spirit of adventure. We will fly to Tokyo the 5th of June, (Edo in Basho’s time, and the starting point of his journey). For three months we will walk through all the places Basho walked, camping on the open, and the most important of all, producing art.
If we succeed to make this project happen, we will put all this art together in a comprehensive artist’s book. This project will reflect on two aspects. The first one is Basho’s way of art and travelling, his wandering spirit, and his simple and natural style, way with which we hope to come in touch by retracing his trail. The second aspect is to acknowledge the distance between Basho and ourselves. Japan itself has changed a lot since the 17th century and our western mentality is far from Basho’s Zen awareness. Our travel journal will represent not only Basho’s way, but also the change that Japan has undergone, and it will be a study of the contrast between West and East.
This journey will result in an artistic project, a dialogue between cultures. The trip involves demanding hiking and a certain degree of isolation. This, together with the appreciation of nature we aim for, will result in a big shift in the way we perceive the world. we have always been interested in how travel, solitude, nature and cultural exchange defy our preconceptions, and sometimes open windows into the comprehension of something otherwise hidden to our everyday conscience. It is a trip with a deep philosophical background (related to our approach to art and also to Zen), but the benefits will come from experience rather than from abstract speculation. In a dialogue with his disciple, Basho explained that one must “learn about a pine tree from a pine tree, and about a bamboo-stalk from a bamboo-stalk.” To learn about the changing landscape of Japan we must let ourselves become one with this landscape: “the poet must detach his mind from self… and enter into the object, sharing its delicate life and its feelings.”
Who we are
Adventure travel and Art have always gone hand and hand for me. It began as a yearning to explore the world when I was still in high school. I channeled this desire into working for the New York Museum of Natural History where art and nature met in splendid displays of dinosaur bones, animals from all over the globe, and panoramic displays that breathed of the yet-unexplored places. Starting with small expeditions in my teens, in 2012 I became the youngest person on record to circumnavigate Lake Baikal (Siberia), the biggest lake in the world by volume, by kayak. During the course of this trip painting and writing became integral to internalizing and understanding the experience, and I found that exposure to nature, remoteness, and risk, work as incomparable artistic stimuli. In 2012-2013, after finishing my time in my first university, (I majored in conservation biology in Dartmouth College in the United States), I lived in the woods of Alaska, just outside of Fairbanks. Life in rustic conditions, with nothing but a woodstove for heat and no running water, brought me face to face with the northern woods. In the following summer I travelled to the far Northeast of Russia (Chukotka) to help out in an ornithology field camp with the Wildlife Conservation Society, always pursuing this unity with nature that remote wildernesses offered, and the art it inspired.
In this pursuit, I discovered a kindred spirit – the poet Matsuo Basho, a 17th century Japanese Zen master and writer.
Right now I am working as an artist and studying painting in University of Edinburgh. Among other projects I am using art to teach children the importance of Shakespeare, through the program Adopt and Artist (come to the National Gallery of Scotland to see the result of all the children’s work and the piece it inspired!!!!) I also work for a children´s theatre called Jabuti, building sets and puppets on an internship through Imaginate, funded by Creative Scotland. To get back in touch with nature while living in the city I have created an internship program with the University of Edinburgh natural history collection where I will get to work in the familiar company of feathers, vials, bones, and various interesting tidbits brought back by biologists from the fantastic places I´ll have to wait a few years more to visit. I will also be starting a project with the Edinburgh zoo, for which I will design and create three panels to post over their gateway and use on their brochures.
All in all, if this puzzle pieces be fitted together, I look at the world with the eyes of a child – all awe, wonder, and silly curiosity. Retracing Basho´s footsteps will be a bold new step on the road to adventure, broadening my horizons artistically and culturally and giving me the opportunity to submerge myself completely in a new landscape for a much longer period than I have ever done before.
Adventure, and travel in general, has always been very important for my writing. I have always travelled extensively, but specially so this last year. In 2013 I left Madrid and hitchhiked to Norkapp (at 70.2 º N) through Finland. From there I went to the mountains of Abisko in the arctic, where I began hiking alone. This experience provided me with inspiration both for philosophy and for literature, but more importantly, it gave me the distance and quietness to reflect and gain a deeper understanding of myself and my relation to the world around me, which I believe to be essential to creative thought. From the arctic I took on hitchhiking again, all the way to North Africa, to finally end up in Edinburgh, where next year I will study a MSc in Philosophy. I am about to finish a PG certificate in writing with UC Berkeley, in which I obtained excellent grades and reviews. Since I stopped in Edinburgh I have written poetry extensively and I have been preparing a novel. I have also been collaborating with other artists in theatre projects, and with Anya Gleizer in a collaborative artist book (which is due to be published in October but which you can get sooner as a reward by backing the project!)
Now you can also find us in http://kickingitforward.org
Risks and challenges
As with any back-country travel the risks are predictable in that they are unpredictable. A twisted ankle means two different things in town and in the mountains. The best way to avoid facing these risks is to prevent them, and both Pablo and I will be practicing good back-country etiquette and safety to avoid tricky situations. In the event that something should occur, I am Wilderness First Aid, CPR and SRT I certified, and always carry a full first aid kit in my travels.
From the standpoint of fore-sight we predict two major challenges in this project: the first, the sheer physical challenge of walking 1200 miles, the second (and ironically this one is much more challenging) getting a book of poetry or art into publishing.
The first we are facing by keeping up our active daily lives and preparing ourselves and our gear thoroughly for the stresses of adventure.
The second challenge is the reason we have turned to Kickstarter!
The world of publishing is rarely the pool to dive into when trying to produce a full-color book of art and poetry. Publishers are reluctant to print up-and-coming poets and artists, and printing artist´s books is an expensive endeavor. To add to this, the vast majority of mass-produced full color books are printed in factories with poor labor conditions, and low wages. To be true to ourselves we would like to print the book locally and avoid outsourcing, and for this, Kickstarter, we need your help!
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