In memory of Norman Yonemoto – by Rosanna Albertini
Human time has the power to run forwards and backwards, it’s erratic like a heart beat. Norman is sentimental. He loved the Christmas tree, maybe for the mingling of memories and illusions that shine among the needles. I hung this post to a branch hoping a bird will bring it to him, over there in the blue.
“I can’t see well” – he tells me from his chair while I cook our lunch. Of course, his glasses looked like an after-war relic, a grasshopper without a leg. Of course, Norman did not complain. I fixed the frame, washed the lenses. We laughed. Words, numbers reappeared. Oh, to persist with art making after a stroke hadn’t been easy. Especially after having been a well known video artist with his brother Bruce. He did it nonetheless, small scale, intimate, turning the lights on in the rooms of his mind, opening his own museum of innocence: tangible relics in a box around time machines (clocks) that we only see reflected in mirrors or captured by a camera. Always indirectly. As we talk about his last box about a murdered uncle of his, Norman’s head slowly reclines, absorbed by the enemy Norman fought for twenty years: Pain. A pill, some rest, and lunch restarts, and the mood is good.
Life after a stroke is like life after a bomb. Half body becomes the offender, the other half the resister. O and R share the same body machine. One leg moves, the other stalls like a pigeon in a cage; same with hands, as the brain continues to drive to the end of the tunnel. The offender must be fed with chemical donuts, sort of contemporary Cerberus, not the anti-theft application to recover stolen Android device, the mythological Cerberus: “multi-headed dog usually three-headed, or hellhound with a serpent’s tail, a mane of snakes, and lion’s claws.” He prevents the dead from escaping from the underworld and the living from entering. In Norman’s body the offender can’t get out, is prisoner as well, and the resister cannot evict him, only feed him. Norman accepted some devices installed in his body to fight this war, interested in such a physical relation to technology.
On and off with a switch, art and life, personal and universal, natural history and family stories, play their boxed in comedy. Christmas Greetings came from the internment camp of Lake Tule, California. Before Norman was born his family had been transplanted there. Each box is a space of wonder, for the sake of art and the courage of loving art. The electrical resistance in the bulb burns like a flame. “There is a time in which progress seems to stop,” Norman told me ten years ago. Humans were on his mind, not machines. He was dreaming the advent of the Goddess, a turn of civilization to reinstate collaboration and friendship with nature.
I don’t know if ever this will happen, something of that kind I saw in Norman’s life with John and all the members of their families. For me, it was a spot of light as mysterious as the Goddess: a family truly happy and generous. It gave me hope, it gives me strength.
Photos: Peter Kirby