⟨ Art ⟩

Curse Mantra

The genuine curse

Words / Vennes Cheng
Translation / Iris Heung

上環這區沉澱着歷史,它們像幽靈纏繞。任由時間流逝,那裏仍隱隱嗅到舊日的氣息。太平山街、荷里活道、海味街⋯⋯

展覽位於上環一座舊式沒電梯的洋樓,細小空間內充滿無聲的詛咒,氣氛侷促似在訴說反思歷史的迫必性。那詛咒針對擁有主宰生死的特權、卻為了私利無視他人的生命的當權者。 展覽「詛咒真言:如何殺死企業主」收集了活躍於七十年代日本的「咒殺祈禱僧團」成員的罕有文獻資料,跟隨團攝影記者羽永光利的作品一併展出。六十年代,日本鄉村社群被「痛痛病」及「四日市哮喘」肆虐,經調查發現是工廠隨意排放污染物,但政客及企業巨頭為了自己的利益而掩蓋真相。一個佛教僧團及它的追隨者成立了名為「咒殺祈禱僧團」的示威隊伍,走遍全國備受爭議企業的工廠及地盤,以遊行、敲鑼打鼓、朗誦箴言等方式,為求將企業主腦詛咒致死。

Sheung Wan is a neighborhood where deep-rooted history lingers in almost every street corner like a ghost. Immersed in the flow of time, this district still quietly exudes a nostalgic charm. One can easily feel it when walking on streets like Tai Ping Shan Street, Hollywood Road, or the Dried Seafood Street (Wing Lok Street).

This exhibition is located in an old, elevator-less tenement building in Sheung Wan. The tiny space is filled with silent curses, creating an unsettling atmosphere that seems to be urging for an immediate reflection of history. The curse was cast upon the authority in power which was ready to sacrifice other people’s lives only for the sake of its very own interests. The exhibition The genuine curse: How to kill an enterprise owner collects rare documentation of members from the legendary protest monks group JKS47, or Jusatsu Kitōkai Sōdan 47, which literally means Curse Death Prayer Meeting Monk Order 47. Accompanied by photo works made by photographer Mitsutoshi Hanaga, one can take a glimpse of the background of this anti-establishment monk group that was most active in Japan in the 70s.

In the 60s, numerous village communities were adversely affected by Itai-itai disease (bones and kidney failure caused by cadmium poisoning) and Yokkaichi asthma. Upon investigation, the widespread diseases were attributed to pollutants arbitrarily discharged by factories. However, politicians and corporate leaders had been covering it up to serve their own interests. That was the background of how the Buddhist monk group and its followers came together and founded JKS47. They gathered at factories and construction sites operated by the controversial corporates all over the country, using of rallies, percussions, reading of Buddhist sutras and prayers to protest to these corporate leaders, like casting a spell.

看來只有三百呎的空間中不停播放著由羽永光利拍攝的照片,他們行遍城市山嶺,在那些如魔抓的工廠煙囪前誦經詛咒。宗教總是導人向善,並教我們在面對魔鬼時不要成為魔鬼,可是當社群太弱勢面對的又是龐然的魔鬼,那道在慈與惡中間原來分明的界線,如何再重定?「僧團」有這樣的記錄:

「從前,農夫能夠擁有武器去保護自己和家人。若他們的生命受到威脅,他們就有權利殺死對方。(⋯⋯)明治政府剝奪了所有人的劍,亦禁止殺害他人。如今,只有國家和大財團有殺人權 —— 事實上,他們是我們的新主人。」

沒有了劍,或許還能相信因果。「咒殺祈禱僧團」的詛咒行動,是藝術、宗及政治的結合。行動的儀式以佛教「密宗」作為行動基楚。而自九世紀以來,佛教密宗一直被日本政府視為護國力量,「僧團」用相同之道來幫助有需要者對抗強權。宇宙本來就是萬物一體,我們釋出甚麼也收回甚麼,一切是善是惡到最終因果總有定斷。

走出上環那幢舊式的洋樓,那股舊日的氣息又撲面而來,混和他人歷史中的無聲詛咒,仿佛聽到因果在說:沒有了劍,還要相信我。

In this exhibition space of roughly 300 square feet, the photos by Mitsutoshi Hanaga are played in a loop. The monks have roamed across cities and mountains and recited sutras in front of the intimidating factory chimneys. If religions guide us in the path of faith and lead us away from evils, while we represent the weak and are caught up in a stand-off with a powerful evil, then how should we redefine a clear boundary between good and evil? The protest monks provide such a record:

“In the past, farmers could own weapons to protect themselves and their families. If their lives were threatened, they had the right to kill the opponent. […] Meiji government deprived everyone of swords and people were forbidden to kill others. Today, only the state and corporations have the right to kill. They are, indeed, our new masters.”

Without a sword in hand, perhaps we can still believe in karma. The “Curse action” by the protest monks group is a combination of art, religion, and politics. The ritual of their actions is centered around the Vajrayana form of Tantric Buddhism. Since the 9th century, Vajrayana Buddhism has been used as the official school of Buddhism to unite the country.  The protest monks used the same school of practice to resist power. The universe is one unity, everything has its own cause and effect, every action has an opposite and equal reaction. Whether something is good or evil, the karma will tell.

Walking out from the old tenement building in Sheung Wan, I found myself in the old nostalgia of the neighborhood again. Amidst all the silent curses of the others in the grand history, I seem to hear karma whispering in my ears, saying, “Trust me, even you are deprived of swords.”