11 January 2021

Echoes Through Time

I have long been an advocate of guest taking time to really explore the galleries housed in each of World Showcase’s pavilions in Epcot. Some of them are directly in the face of guests, such as the lobby of the Mexico pavilion that must be pass through to enter the shopping, dining, and attraction portion of the pyramid, while others are a bit more tucked away and take time to find. One such gallery, Bijutsu-kan, can be found tucked away in the back corner of the Japan pavilion near the Kidcot station and one of the exits of Mitsukoshi.
Bijutsu-kan can be literally translated as art gallery or museum, and has hosted a variety of exhibits since the Japan pavilion opened in 1982. In fact, it was built to be the lobby area of the Meet the World show, which was to be the main attraction of the pavilion. Through the years the gallery has been home to showcases of puppetry, netsuke carvings, tin toys, mythological creatures, origami, a collection of photography capturing the beauty and importance of World Heritage Sites, and is currently focused on the Kawaii culture of cuteness. In 1988, one of the more fascinating exhibits would be installed, replacing the Feathers on the Wind kite exhibition, it was called Echoes Through Time: Japanese Women and the Arts.
For Echoes Through Time, the gallery was transformed into a space that house the work of six contemporary female artists. The exhibit utilized Bijutsu-kan to give each artist a space to highlight their work, while also providing context of how these modern works of art related to traditional Japanese art forms. The artforms presented included fashion design, paper sculpting, painting, raku pottery, and Ikebana flower arranging. Coincidentally, some of the aspects inherent in Ikebana I have tried to merge into my photography over the years. The last of the six art forms presented, and perhaps the most intriguing, was sound and music, and featured the artist Mineko Grimmer.
Mineko Grimmer was bard and raised in northern Japan and went on to study at the Otis College of Art and Design, where she received both her Bachelors and Masters of Fine Art. While there in the 1970s she began photographing shadows, waves, and wind effects as a way in which to study the passage of time. This led to her interest in ice photography and art installations that included the use of ice as she was seeking something that would change over a shorter period of time. Her first ice and sound sculpture was displayed at the Japan American Community Culture Center in Los Angeles. Eventually Grimmer’s skills were noticed by Disney and her corner of the Echoes Through Time exhibit came to fruition.

Known as Symposium II, the sculpture of sound was created using bamboo, other wood, stones, and, of course, ice. The bamboo elements created a grid, while the sounds were formed by pebbles of ice that had been frozen in an inverted pyramid that then hung above the rest of the installation, like a pendulum. As the ice pyramid melted, the pebbles would drop onto and bounce through the bamboo segments before falling into the wood-lined pond at the base of the sculpture. It would take approximately 30 minutes for a pyramid of ice to melt, though those times could be short when temperatures were particularly hot and humid, that would in turn change the rate at which the pebbles fell. Just as you would expect, no two performances were ever the same.
While the story of Echoes Through Time and Mineko Grimmer’s Symposium II are unique, there are similarly intriguing stories to be found throughout the history of Bijutsu-kan and the other galleries scattered about World Showcase. These exhibits are a real treasure to me, they hold such captivating moments of art and history, but they are rarely seen by most guests. While I love being able to leisurely enjoy these installations and reflect in quiet moments, I do wish more guests would partake of these galleries. There is always something to learn and each kernel of knowledge gained provides us with a greater understanding of the larger world we are a part of.

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