‘Seasonal Abandonment of Imaginary Worlds’ is a photographic collection of aging Japanese playgrounds, captured by photographer Carine Thévenau, in rural Japan. The playscapes are either abandoned or empty due to seasonal snowfall, but the absence of life creates a space, ripe for the imagination. Although the playgrounds may arouse a nostalgic sensation, a more critical analysis reveals a portrait of place and offers us a glimpse of spacetime paused, yet actively in motion.
The series explores urban spatial narratives and “Ma”, the Japanese word (and concept) for absence through space and time. There is no translation in English for the word “Ma”, however it refers to the space between or negative space between physical matter, where life and emotion can exist. Thévenau interprets the emptiness or “ma”, within the playgrounds, as a silence or tension, akin to the pause in a music score or the interval of a theatrical play; what came before, what is there now and what comes afterwards? The abandoned playgrounds, as they appear here, are the residue of an aging Japanese population, yet hint towards the rising Satori (Enlightened) Generation, who value vintage over shiny new designer goods and a slower pace of life.
The playgrounds reveal economic shifts and Japanese cultural philosophies towards nature, respect, waste and sustainability, as the playgrounds pictured here, are objects of a longer life cycle than the playgrounds of the West. Each jungle gym or slide set appears to be gracefully decaying. There is no graffiti or damage to the playgrounds, allowing the possibility of further interaction, whether for child’s play or otherwise. Thévenau describes the neglected play spaces as a crease in an origami-like structure of spacetime, actively folding into new time frames and thus new landscapes.
All images ©Carine Thévenau