Hyottoko the God of Fire (2017)

There are two versions of the single-channel work Hyottoko the God of Fire (2017): an installation version and a screening version. The above promo video features an extract of the screening version. Hyottoko the God of Fire is a nod to the cultural history of disability. It is a single screen video and has been created in conjunction with Mikhail Karikis’s larger project entitled The Chalk Factory which investigates the theme of disability and labour. Hyottoko the God of Fire functions as a prologue to this theme by featuring a performance of the ancient Japanese legend of Hyottoko by the bamboo flute player Kiku Day. Recently rediscovered by Dr Nicola Grove and analysed through the emergent field of the cultural history of disability (which explores narrative, visual and other representations of people with disabilities), the Hyottoko legend centers on an ‘odd-looking’ character who fails at every job he tries until he is asked to blow the village fire through a bamboo stick. His community soon discover that despite the fact that Hyottoko performs what they first thought was a simple task of little value, he is in fact the centre of their lives providing light, warmth and heat for cooking. Today, the death-mask of Hyottoko’s deformed face is a popular feature in Japanese culture celebrating the god of fire and luck.

This work is commissioned by Film London for Channel 4 (Random Acts) in association with Arts Council England. The installation version of this video was part-funded by the European Capital of Culture 2017, Aarhus, Denmark.