Photo by Greg Piper
For Japanese sculptor and performance artist Hiromi Tango, memory is about more than an individual or a disease like dementia, memory is about community. Working predominantly in textiles, she gathers clothes, fabrics and mementos from friends and family. Objects that have been held, worn, used and perhaps even loved. She categorizes the materials by color, then wraps and weaves thread, string, wool and cloth in tremendously colorful, vibrant ways.
‘Everyday material can be transformed’ she says, and by using materials with memories ‘the work is co-created,’ by her and her community.
Tango’s artistic intention is to be responsive, caring and unpresuming, which is perhaps why she relates so well to older adults, those with dementia and their caregivers. Her father has been bed bound for nearly 15 years and has significant memory loss, so caregiving has been a constant in Tango’s life.
Her piece “Fluorescence” examines her changing relationship dynamic with her father, and uses bright colors for sensory stimulation as is sometimes used with Alzheimer’s. Through this piece she has an outlet for her own grief, as well as an opportunity to connect with her father in a positive way.
“I don’t know how much my father knows what I am saying, sometimes I’m his mother, his grandmother, but he remembers me sometimes, sometimes dreaming/confused, but I respect that when he doesn’t speak, that’s ok. It’s a journey to respond to his life and his reality, including his dreams, [I’m] very inspired by my father.”
Tango’s work sparks joy, inspires reflection and challenges us to connect with our world and each other in novel ways. She reminds us that people with dementia need a caring, warm touch and stimulation to feel a positive sense of connection.