Meiro Koizumi creates videos that investigate difficult emotions in ways that border on both the tragic and the humorous. In the video My Voice Would Reach You (2009), Koizumi asked an actor to write a letter to his recently deceased mother. In the first scene, the actor recites the letter as the camera pans over Tokyo cityscapes. In another scene, he speaks into a cell phone and invites his mother on a long weekend to a hot spring. In the final scene, the viewer hears a series of voices on the other end of the line and realizes that the actor has been speaking to customer service representatives at various Japanese companies. In Japanese culture, it is considered rude to hang up on a customer, even when it’s obviously a prank call or wrong number. Therefore, the representatives patiently remain on the line as they listen to the actor ask them questions as if they are his mother. Some suggest he may have the wrong person or that he must be confused. Some just listen.
My Voice Would Reach You explores the complexity and absurdity of grief. It addresses the feelings of disconnection and disassociation in a few ways. First, the lively city streets of Tokyo flutter and shift in the background: cars whiz past, pedestrians walk by, and the flashing lights of buildings float in and out of the horizon.
The actor seems unaware of the bustling city around him as he stands in the middle of the sidewalk, desperately speaking into his cell phone.
He is also disconnected from the business representatives who talk to him on the phone, asking if he has the wrong number or if he needs to be transferred to someone else. All the while he continues to have a conversation with his mother—someone who is not there.
Koizumi does not prescribe a specific emotional response from viewers. Some laugh, some cry, some cannot watch and walk away. Yet My Voice Would Reach You elicits an extremely personal response, as it deals with the universal feeling of loss.
At the end of the recited letter the actor reads:
“You have gone to a place where this letter can never be delivered. But I am quite positive that my voice would reach you. Yes, I am sure about that.”
My Voice Would Reach You is part of the Rubin Museum’s exhibition Measure Your Existence.