Why should we search 17 reasons to put a stone in the bread? And above all, what might these 17 reasons be? What need is there to find reasons for such a rambling action? The Japanese artist Ookubo Ari, taking up an “ancient story of a peasant family reports”, creates an art installation in which this curious and bizarre practice founds a new dimension. Using an object-sculpture and a layered narration of its origin, the artist reconstructs the process that led to the formulation of the 17 reasons ranging from the perception of taste, to chemistry to philosophical thoughts.

The small or large loaves of bread are decorated with stones inserted inside the dough before baking: these stones of different shapes are nestled in the bread in a natural way to look edible too.  A text accompanies the installation of these sculpture-objects of Ookubo Ari, in which the artist reports, almost as if it were a reliable historical documentation, the events that have generated this strange creation that seem to almost touch the myth. Ichirozaemon Sugiyama, Japanese farmer of the early twentieth century, would have been the initiator of this absurd practice for fun, just to make people laugh and to prank his friends and family, hiding the stone in the bread and making it erroneously be chewed. From here, however, arise other motivations of the most diverse natures, such as the increase in the salinity of the dough thanks to the minerals contained in the stone, or the balance between transience and eternity that the set of the two elements can create: reason number 10 states Increase awareness of eating, reason number 16 Punishment. Between irony and depth unfolds the historiography of a centuries-old invented practice.

The 17 reasons for putting stones in the bread is an example of how the Japanese artist manages to create a new memory of her culture: to the evocation of the past and the memories of different characters and traditions, Ookubo adds a surreal dimension in which the limits between documentation and fiction are never defined but precisely for this reason it is possible to perceive the fantastic and the magic that is enclosed in her works in balance between different languages. The hard stones wrapped in soft bread are then a metaphor of ambiguity and multiplicity with which stories can be told.

No reason in particular is the thirteenth reason for putting a stone in the bread, a reason that could also be adapted to the artwork of Ookubo in particular and to the making of art in general, but at the same time it is just one of the many reasons of a list that could potentially continue indefinitely. This seems to be the artist’s invitation: the continuous generation of thought in any direction it can develop.

The project of OOKUBO Ari is visible until the 16th of October inside the collective exhibition MOT Annual 2022 – My justice might be someone else’s pain, currently held inside the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo.

The 17 reasons for putting stones in the bread, 2013
© Photo: Azegami Sakiko
Part of No Title Yet, inside the collective exhibition MOT Annual 2022  – My Justice might be
someone else’s pain, at Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, 2022, © Photo by Kenji Morita