¬ Tomoko Sauvage
Incantation Bowls is a story of two mothers who coincidentally shared an invented superstition about “bowls”. In collaboration with Alexandre Finkelsztajn, Paris-based sound artist Tomoko Sauvage created a short sound piece consisting of notes around this story, a collage juxtaposing two voices, Alexandre’s and his mother’s.
“I’ve been attached to the French expressions, “avoir du bol [to have bowls]” which means “to be lucky,” and “pas de bol [no bowl]”, meaning “to be unlucky.” When my daughter got severely ill, I became superstitious and was afraid “not to have bowls” – which are my musical instruments. For a few years, playing bowls for me was almost an act of plea for protection. One day, I told this story to a philosophy student who came to interview me, Alexandre, and he remembered that his Moroccan Jewish mother had interpreted the expression in the same way and had offered him a bowl to wish him luck.” ¬ TS
Interestingly, the word “bowl” used in the French expressions “avoir du bol” [to be lucky] or “pas de bol” [to be unlucky] is not actually meant to describe a bowl as we understand the term today. Rather, its origins lie in an old word that signifies “bottom” – either as a sexual term or as an expression for the scatologic system, the place where bowel movements happen, so to speak. In both cases, one is considered to be lucky to “have bottom.” From a physical perspective, the bottom half of the body is also the part where mothers give birth.
By weaving together these accounts and thoughts in the form of recorded conversations Tomoko Sauvage’s Incantation Bowls reflects on how beliefs are born and transmitted from one generation to the next: a mothers’ fear for their children and family, the soul of language as amplification of aspirations and desires, as well as the “déracinement” – the uprootedness – of (im)migrants and loss and re-invention of their customs and rituals.
GOSSIP Sounds feat. Tomoko Sauvage is supported by the Bureau des arts plastiques of the French Institute Germany and the French Cultural Ministry.
Image: Alexandre Finkelsztajn
Sound Piece, 2022
with Alexandre Finkelsztajn
Tomoko Sauvage is a musician and sound artist. Her research is grounded in live-performance practices that embrace the unpredictable dynamics of materials. Incorporating ritualistic gestures, she playfully improvises with environments, using chance as a compositional method. Her performances and installations have been presented at RIBOCA, V&A Museum, Manifesta, Roskilde Festival, Sharjah Art Foundation, Centre Pompidou Metz and Nyege Nyege Festival, among others.
Born and raised in Yokohama, Japan, Sauvage moved to Paris in 2003 after studying jazz piano in New York. Through listening to Alice Coltrane and Terry Riley, she became interested in Indian music and studied improvisation of Hindustani music. In 2006, she attended a concert of Aanayampatti Ganesan, a virtuoso of Jalatharangam – the traditional Carnatic music instrument with water-filled porcelain bowls. Fascinated by the simplicity of its device and sonority, Sauvage immediately started to hit China bowls with chopsticks in her kitchen. Soon her desire of immersing herself in the water engendered the idea of using an underwater microphone and led to the birth of the electro-aquatic instrument.
Alexandre Finkelsztajn (b. 1995, Paris) is an artist based in L’Île-Saint-Denis. His practice involves poetry, experimental music, and performances. Experimenting through fictional and documentary gestures, his work is made of sound and text materials, unsettled by resonances, superimpositions, silence and noise. Interested by intimacy and the survival of ancient beliefs, voices and gestures, he questions the limits of what can be written and read, heard or said.