Responding to Aki Sasamoto’s Phase Transition

A manipulator (not Aki) seems to know where everything goes. She takes things apart, piece by piece, drawing our attention to the little parts that make up what feels like an eccentric aunt’s attic lab. Glass casks, canisters, bespoke carts, shiny worm-like air vents. It all fits together perfectly, despite looking DIY. The manipulator shuffles with precision taking tiny methodical steps as she pushes away a cart–the kooky aunt exits.

This world of at-home experiments is amplified by Aki’s bold curiosity. She investigates without hesitation. She plays with plastic bags–catching air with them, sticking them between her legs, enveloping her body in them. She draws with neon markers on the inside of a glass tank–haphazard diagrams that translate wind into feelings. A loner niece, exploring the aunt’s collection of objects in private, without fear. Despite her willingness to play, there’s something ominous about her actions. A face pressed up against plastic reminds of warning labels that depict children suffocating inside shopping bags. A body inside a bag reminds of, well, a body bag. She seems remarkably alone.

But the play never gets out of hand, control is never lost. In fact, control and manipulation are the name of the game. A weather forecaster (the aunt at her day job, in my mind) foretells horrors with tight-lipped jolliness. Spinning glasses and tornadoes of fire shown on projected screens never escape their confines. A cloud is created inside glass by changing the pressure, it is curated, contained weather. 

We never leave the attic, or trash it, as I was craving. Things get moved around but never devolve. The tornado stays tight, squished, squeezed in–just as Aki tells us she feels in a TED-talk-like lecture she gives with matter-of-factness. Feelings and aging and motherhood can be charted, she tries to convince us, and herself.

As fog enters a glass tank that Aki diligently marks with color diagrams of pressure, temperature, desire, and death, I feel danger returning. Body in a chamber with gas reminds of, well… The only relief is fog seeping out the edges, escaping, resisting control. 

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