‘Wood Rots Like We Do’ a film that explores our coexistence with nature, taking inspiration from the ritualistic rebuilding of the Ise Jingu’s wooden shrines every 20 years

UK-based artist Matthew Rosier visited Ise City in Mie Prefecture, Japan, in October 2019 as part of the Ise City Residency 2019 programme. The residency was a collaboration between the British Council and the Department of Industry and Tourism Ise City, inviting six UK-based artists to Ise City, home of Ise Jingu, one of the most important and prestigious Shinto Shrines in Japan.

‘Wood Rots Like We Do’ is a film that was inspired by the artist’s experiences in Ise and interactions with the community.

Introduction to the film by the artist

‘Wood Rots Like We Do’ is inspired by the ritualistic rebuilding of the Ise Jingu’s wooden shrines every 20 years. Divided into 20 chapters, the film explores the origins of this practice and the ancient relationship between Japanese people and forests.

Through the perspectives of foresters, environmental activists, priests, and many others, the film examines how this relationship changed, and the state of forestry in Japan today.

Taking the Ise Jingu’s 1,300-year-old cycle of renewal as model for change today, the film ultimately explores how new generations are looking to regenerate Japan’s forests and reimagine their future role in society.

“This work explores how we can coexist with nature. How do we establish a mutually beneficial relationship between various ecosystems? How can we use culture to help us establish a long-term commitment to protecting and restoring nature? How can we create new ways of coexisting with nature going forward? I hope that this film can trigger such questions.” (Rosier) 

How to enjoy the film

‘Wood Rots Like We Do’ will be presented online in 20 parts, starting with the release of Chapter 01 on Thursday 30 March 2023, at 12:00 BST. Subsequent chapters will be released each week on Thursdays for the next 20 weeks. Audiences will be able to enjoy the films from this webpage (Chapters 1 to 5 are available now), as well as the artist's Vimeo channel. Please watch with English Closed Captions turned on. The release of the next chapter (Chapter 6) is scheduled for 4 May 2023.

Film credits

Film by: Matthew Rosier
Videographer: Will Heynen
Organised and funded by: Ise City
Supported by: British Council
Local coordination support: Living Together Co. (Yoko Negami, Yuko Sato, Mami Katsuya, Akane Kanagawa)
Additional funding: DAIWA Foundation & Arts Council England
Tokyo / Nagano coordination support: Minami Hirayama
Japanese transcription: Minami Hirayama
Graphic design: Minami Hirayama
Sound design & composition: Greg White
Live translation: Keiko Yamaguchi, Kei Nakayama, Jaime Humphreys, Nanami Akimoto

About the artist

Matthew Rosier (1990) is an artist based in London. His work mixes technology with film and sound in the form of immersive installations in the public realm. His practice is collaborative and involves the surrounding community both in the creation process and the finished project. His work often deals with the personal memories and the public histories embedded within specific social, architectural, and ecological contexts. 

Matthew's work has been installed in public spaces in London, Paris, Austin, and Tokyo; commissioned by the councils of Westminster, Southwark, Rotherham, Doncaster, Wakefield, Cheshire East and the City of London; shown at the Design Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London; nominated as one of the Design Museum’s Designs of the Year; and awarded the Active Public Space Award, the London Contemporary Art Prize Public Vote Award, and the Museum + Heritage Innovation Award.

About the Ise City Residency programme

In October 2019, Ise City in Mie Prefecture and the British Council invited six UK-based artists to Ise City for an artistic research residency. During their two-week stay, the artists visited Ise Jingu and other areas of Ise to deepen their understanding of history, connect with nature and interact with local people and artists. 

More than three years later, in January 2023, artists Matthew Rosier, Nicole Vivien Watson, and Jane and Louise Wilson revisited Ise to create new work deeply inspired by their experiences in Ise. During this second visit, they interviewed people from the local community, filmed at various locations in and around Ise, and held workshops engaging the local community, to each create unique new works.

See also

External links