Miya Hannan

Artist's Statement

Our society values youth more than age and progress more than tradition, resulting in death being treated as taboo. The source of my art practice goes back to my experiences working within the medical field in Japan. Interacting with patients during my seven years as a medical professional, I was left with many unanswered questions about the connections between birth and death. Over time, I came to view the world as layers and linkages. My work, influenced by archaeology and Buddhist philosophy, as well as my scientific knowledge, represents my understanding of the importance of accepting death on a larger level.

I employ repeating anatomical, figurative, and genetic references in my work, and incorporate people’s names taken from phonebooks. This suggests how human lives exist within the cycle of history. I like to use materials, such as bone ash, paper, fabric, branches, and roots, to echo the temporal and fragile nature of physical bodies. Some of these materials and images represent Japanese rituals. Combining processes of repetition, layering, sanding, and assembling, my work reflects the idea of human lives, layered history, decay, weathering, and the constructed world.

The focus of my latest body of work derives from my understanding of the histories that are etched, trapped, and stratified in the soil of the Earth. I developed the prospective that our world is made with the linkages of accumulated histories which is what I mean by layers and linkages. Millions of creatures and human beings have come and gone over time, becoming a part of the layers of the land. Scientists believe that all the stratums are linked telling us the stories of who we are and where we are from. It is this belief that makes the chain of our histories complete. I am interested in this relationship between humanity and how information is trapped in nature.

Japanese people believe that the souls from the dead keep living, the spirits of nature exist, and land retains its destiny. People inherit the histories of the land where they live. In order for their families to have healthy and happy lives, they respect vengeful souls and worship the spirits. Growing up in the Japanese culture, these superstitions flash through my mind whenever I see the earth of my backyard. I wonder what happened, what kinds of people lived here, and what things are buried underneath my feet.

I was a scientist in a country with many superstitions, giving me the ability to perceive the world from two contrasting perspectives. In my artwork, I am interested in creating the unity of opposites that constitutes our world. Scientific and nonscientific, silent and communicative, still and active—these are the dichotomies that inform my work. I present my view of death as another form of being alive.

Miya Hannan