The Heart Rocker



Since 2004 I have been based in Berlin, but I have recently re-located to Belfast, Northern Ireland. Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and has been site of sectarian conflict for many years. Catholic and Protestant communities have fought against each other due to the historic territorial and religious divisions between Ireland and the United Kingdom. My current location is situated close to a political border, or what is known in Belfast as a “Peace Line” which divides the Catholic and Protestant areas.

Recently, I was annoyed and angry to find dog shit in my front garden. This incident re-occurred repeatedly and led me to throw the offending shit into the street. I felt as if the dog was taking advantage of my personal space by entering through the gate without my permission. I felt invaded. After calming down a little, I realized that my actions corresponded to the aggression perpetuated by both sides of the conflicting parties in my city.

The enigma of the eternally present dog shit made me seriously consider whether I could develop a simple action to prevent its re-occurrence while also reflecting on my identity as a Japanese outsider.  There are mural paintings everywhere in Northern Ireland.  They present strong political messages from both Catholic and Protestant points of view. I decided to create a mural banner against the relentless dog shits attacks and I hung it on the wall of my house as my political message to the public of Belfast. I dealt with the dog shits like metaphorical landmines; people step on them unexpectedly and Northern Ireland is a land that is scarred with bombs that sporadically induce fear. This led me to make a video which shows me disposing of the dog shit while wearing a forensic suit.

The film entitled The Hurt Locker, which got the Best Film Award in the 2010 Academy Awards, is about the US military working for bomb disposal in Iraq.  When I googled the film title in Japanese, I found that most Japanese people misunderstand the title as The Heart Rocker as Japanese cannot pronounce or hear the difference between "L" and "R".

My project pays homage to The Hurt Locker, as it reflects not on my identity as Japanese man, whose status and position within an English speaking community is deeply affected by my mispronunciation and by how I look. I feel that these factors have determined me as an ‘outsider’.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

May 2011