Tara Tamaribuchi draws inspiration from her personal experiences, her life as a mother, and her ancestral history in her art practice. Growing up, Tamaribuchi heard stories about her father being born in “camp,” but did not learn about the forced removal and incarceration of Japanese and Japanese-Americans until she was around 10 years old at the height of the movement for redress. She recalls searching for books at the public library and reading all four books on Japanese-American Incarceration available at the University of California, Irvine, and then going to her family to ask about it.
When talking about camp, Tamaribuchi’s obaachan (grandmother), reluctant to speak about her painful experience, would say, “It was a nightmare and I’m glad it’s over, so let’s not talk about it anymore.” Her obaachan had two children while in camp and had many other family members to care for. Tamaribuchi described the sense of shame her obaachan carried from the camp experience and now as a mother herself, she said, “especially after the experience of being pregnant, I just couldn’t believe she had done that twice in camp.”
When Tamaribuchi got the opportunity to be featured in the Seattle Center Sculpture Walk, she was thinking about the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 as well as the election of the current president, and how to make sense of and respond to the many changes and injustices playing out daily. After coming across photos taken by Dorothea Lange of incarcerees weaving camouflage nets in the Manzanar concentration camp, Tamaribuchi was fascinated to see images of people “working with their hands and crafting things” in camps. During the war, camouflage nets were used by the military. For her recent installation, “Camouflage Net Project,” Tamaribuchi recreated a camouflage net, weaving colorful pieces of tanmono kimono fabric instead of the dusty strips of hemp once woven into nets by Japanese-American incarcerees working in camouflage net factories. She said: “I decided to use the kimono fabric because I knew that my obaachan had a sense of shame from having been in the camp. So I felt like using the kimono fabric was kind of sending a message to her to take pride in her heritage.”
In addition to being Japanese-Chinese-American, Tamaribuchi spoke about the centrality of being Buddhist in her work. “I was taking it from a Buddhist perspective of the interconnectedness of the universe and how everyone is all interconnected with each other. I was thinking about a lot of the federal discrimination that’s been going on the past year and reminding us all that we are all interconnected. If there are a lot of different people under the net, there is a sense of oneness and looking from the outside, there is a sense of visual oneness.”
The installation is mounted within a glass walkway and happens to mimic the form of a barrack. Standing within the walkway, surrounded by a net of kimono fabric, I reflect upon my personal family history and my great aunt, Chiyo, who was incarcerated at Santa Anita Assembly Center where she recalls helping to weave camouflage nets and recounts the memory of the dusty, smelly fabric that was used. I am reminded of the experiences of my ancestors which I will never fully know, and I reflect upon the lasting relevance of our history in present day battles for social justice.
In viewing the piece, individuals will engage with their personal histories in different ways. Tamaribuchi emphasized her appreciation of public art: “It engages with everyone. The more traditional part of the art scene is the gallery scene, and a lot of people don’t make it out to that. And also as a parent, I know a lot of families don’t get to engage with art. There are so many artists in Seattle who are making work and people don’t get to see all the culture that’s happening in the city. I like to work on public art as a mom because I would like to engage with a whole cross-section.” While camouflage nets were once used to hide and to be used in times of war and conflict, Tamaribuchi’s “Camouflage Net Project” serves to bring light to injustices of the past and draw connections between us.
Tamaribuchi’s ‘Camouflage Net Project’ will be showing in the Seattle Center Sculpture Walk just northeast of the International Fountain through December 2017.