In early July, we paid a visit to Museum As It Is in Chiba Prefecture. We were completely puzzled by the two mobile phones on display in the tatami room. Why would Kazumi Sakata put these objects that are neither new nor old alongside the antique ceramic vases and faded old maps? The mobile phone models are not particularly iconic, neither were their looks pretty.
“They are the mobile phones that Sakata once used. He likes them a lot,” explained the only staff in the museum when we approached her with our doubts. Although we did not understand, we did not question any further. Secretly in our mind, we were guessing Sakata’s curation as bringing together technology and historical art as they rarely have chances to interact with each other. Our question was left unanswered and kept dwelling in our mind, but there seemed to be a dim light that led us to an unknown world.
Museum as it is是坂田和實的私人美術館，由中村好文設計的土牆建築，在山林之中孤僻地佇立，因為交通不便，即使是在長假期裡，美術館內同一時期裡也只有兩三組遊客。而正因為這裡，我們能夠花上長時間與展品相對。
不少美術館都是以專題展來吸引參觀者，Musuem as it is卻在常設展時最為吸引人。常設展，即是展出坂田和實藏品的展覽，每次都會定設一個主題，或許是因為他近年來健康狀況不佳，這次他只簡單定為「無題」。說是無題，但似乎近貼近美術館的主旨。
as it is這名字，源自柳宗悅於1952年在英國舉行工藝家會議的發言，他談到佛教美術時，以「只」這禪語來說明其基本思想。「只」，有著本相、真實的模樣的意思，坂田和實希望實踐這思想，於是以意思相近的「as it is」，來為美術館命名。無題的展覽，物件不為主題所限，展示出他們最原始的模樣。
Museum As It Is is Kazumi Sakata’s private museum that is situated inside of a clay wall structure designed by Yoshifumi Nakamura. Due to its remote location which is not easily accessible, the museum has very few visitors even during long holidays. Thanks to this, we had more than enough time to view the exhibits thoroughly.
While most of the museums attract visitors by hosting temporary exhibitions with unique themes, the biggest attraction of Museum As It Is is their permanent exhibition. The museum has a constant display of Sakata’s personal collection that is sometimes rotated based on the current theme. In recent years, perhaps because of his poor health, he used “Untitled” as the theme of the current exhibition, which seems to be even better aligned with the concept of the museum.
Museum As It got its name from a speech Yanagi Sōetsu made in a craftsman convention in England back in 1952. When talking about Buddhist arts, he explained its fundamental belief by borrowing the zen saying of “只”, which carries the meaning of “the genuine form and nature”. Kazumi Sakata hopes to convey the same school of ideas and finally adopted “as it is” to name the museum. Unconstrained by any themes in the titleless exhibitions, the exhibits can be freely approached in their most primitive forms.
參觀過不少美術館，有享受展覽的，有享受空間的，卻甚少如Museum as it is般，展品與空間如此難捨難分。記得初次到來時，坐在相同的和室之中，凝視著掛在牆上的幾塊抺布，想著大廳內整齊排列的幾塊生鏽的金屬板，一時間覺得他們彷是被丟棄了的貓，總算覓得最合適的家。因為被重視被肯定了，變得可愛可親。
「比起以既定的美術價值觀選來的高技術性的作品，這裡展出的是為日常生活及信仰而製作的工藝品。它們與我們生活溫柔地共處，它們的美撼動我們的心。物件在不同的空間、光線裡，向我們展覽不同的面相。我想在這小小的空間裡，以自由的眼睛、柔軟的內心，與物件相對、對話。」Musuem as it is的簡介中寫道。
I am usually drawn particularly to either the exhibition or the space design when I visit museums. However, both the exhibits and space are so inseparable here at Museum As It. I still remember when I came here for the first time, I was looking at the pieces of clothes hanging on the walls in the different washitsu (Japanese-style rooms). Together with the rusty metal plates orderly displayed in the lobby, they appear like adopted cats that had been abandoned on the streets before. Being taken care of, they have become so adorable again.
“In comparison to the skillfully crafted works handpicked by standardized artistic values, the exhibits here are handicrafts created for everyday usage and religious purposes. These objects peacefully coexist with us in our daily life, touching our hearts with their intrinsic beauty. The objects also have different faces in different spaces, in a different light. I wish to make use of this tiny space to enable a dialogue between us and these objects, by using our free eyes and gentle hearts.” This is the statement written on the introduction of Museum As It Is.
坂田和實在雜誌《芸術新潮》中的最後一篇專欄文章中說：「開館以後，便一心想著怎樣把原本拙劣的藏品展示得美麗，只是越思考、越想展示得美，便越被美與醜、巧與拙的二分化所惑，變得離『本相』越來越遠，變成了as I like的自我表現。到底要怎樣才能跟『本相』貼近，越策展，我越不懂了。 」
In his last column in the modern art magazine Geijutsu Shincho, Kazumi Sakata wrote, “We have been trying to figure out how to beautifully display clumsy pieces even since we opened the museum. However, the more we are preoccupied with this thought, the more we find ourselves falling into the binary of beauty/ugliness, skillfulness/clumsiness. We are walking away from the ‘genuine nature’, instead, we begin to behaving however we want. How should we do to stay close to the ‘genuine form and nature’? The more we curate, the less we are sure about it.”
Perhaps it is not relevant to know whether that phone is pretty or not, whether it is precious or of any cultural values. When seen between the antique art and ceramic works, the phone truthfully discloses its original form and nature. Its existence among the exhibits is already of great significance.