Artist Susie Kozawa. Photo by Alex Macinnis

When prompted to describe Tokio Florist Project, Susie Kozawa described the work as a “convergence of spheres for me; [Tokio Florist Project] is a convergence of the spheres of my past where I came from, and together with what I am now.”  

Entering the Jack Straw Cultural Center, the singular layer of separation between the concrete interior and the outside world are the floor-to-ceiling windows. On one of the interior walls hangs archives from the Sakai-Kozawa family, and the family’s residence and floral shop, Tokio Florist. Paired with these family archival photo prints is a succinct text detailing the significant Sakai-Kozawa’s histories of exclusion and displacement preceding the inception of Tokio Florist.  

In a nearby room, viewers can enter the space housing Tokio Florist Project, and once in the space, Tokio Florist Project immerses viewers in an environment that refashions Susie Kozawa’s former childhood home and family business into an act of reverence to the livelihoods that once inhabited the abode. What lives were nurtured in this structure? What stories can be conveyed in a home’s afterlife?  

Tokio Florist Project is a collaborative audiovisual installation between Brigid Kelly, Susie Kozawa, and Alex MacInnis along with technical direction by Laura Luna Castillo, and this project recontextualizes the former Sakai-Kozawa residence and floral shop, Tokio Florist, in the present day. Both sonically and visually, the work reimagines this domestic space and evinces the spirits and memories that occupy space and how they affect our contemporary reality.  

In this work, Susie Kozawa and Alex MacInnis employ an ambisonic microphone that records Kozawa’s explorations and interactions with the empty dwelling’s sound space. Throughout the experience, some rumblings gesture towards the presence of play, movement, and clamors of life. Many of these sounds remain in the backdrop of the work while other sounds can be understood more explicitly when watching Kozawa’s instrumentation of the house. Kozawa’s site-specific sound interpretations envelop audiences and arouse flashbacks of nostalgic reveries of the past while also maintaining its presence in the now through her use of found objects and ‘play’ with the empty house.  

While in the soundscape, viewers can simultaneously engage with the work visually via the four-wall video projections showcasing the interplay between Kozawa’s performance and the stillness of the bare home. The two constitutive elements of the piece, the four channels of both the soundscape and video projections, work in tandem to engulf viewers in a space urging viewers to sit and contemplate the influences of the home on our present being.  

Rather than fixating on merely the past, Kelly, Kozawa, and MacInnis pay homage to the extant spirits that reside in the confines of our memories, our homes across temporalities, and our imaginings of the future. The Tokio Florist Project celebrates the original Tokio Florist in Silver Lake, Los Angeles, and breathes an exciting new vitality through this reconfiguration and retelling of the inhabitance. It recognizes the Sakai-Kozawa family’s past hardships and investments in labor and time and grants the viewers a special insight into history. Simultaneously, however, the work generously gives audiences a space to contemplate their mediations between the home, time, and consciousnesses.  

While the Tokio Florist Project cannot be extricated from Susie Kozawa and her family’s experiences and histories, the work urges viewers to consider the memories cultivated by space, the meanings we draw from our individual connections and personal understandings of domesticity, and the impact of sound and image in our remembrances of the immemorial.  

The Tokio Florist Project is on view by appointment from March 22 to May 17, 2024 at the Jack Straw Cultural Center, located at 4261 Roosevelt Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105. Call 206-634-0919 or email [email protected] to schedule a visit. The project’s artist talk can be streamed on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, follow Tokio Florist Project on Instagram @tokiofloristproject 

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