fu-ree-ta series

the japanese economic bubble collapsed in late 1991, and the 90s were known as ‘the lost decade’, which some commentators believe extended even into the 2010s. the bleak, greyness of this era is masterfully reflected in the cinematic works by shunji iwai (all about lily chou chou, 2001) and hirokazu koreeda (nobody knows, 2004). both films offer a view into the grim, and often hard to watch realities for children of this lost decade. 'nobody knows' follows the life of young siblings abandoned by their mother while 'all about lily chou chou' portrays the unfiltered lives of fourteen year olds - both stories are tragic and unforgiving, all the while carrying an undertone of a dim light resembling hope.
this collective desolation manifests in polarizing generational divide, marital issues, devastating cruelty amongst children, and an ever growing population of “freeters” or “fu-ree-ta”, a term used to describe a person who lacks full time employment.
born in 1996 in kitakyushu, japan, i too am acquainted with this greyness: a thin veil of melancholy coats each memory of childhood i access. while many of my american peers remember a bright and aspirational youth, i have spent a significant sum of my life battling a default mode of discouragement.

the glittery, fun western view of japan as an advanced and pure nation serves as an injustice for japanese citizens, left in purgatory to uplift a global image of prosperity that deteriorated before my own life’s conception. i have often been told by family members i am 'lucky' to have been able to move to the US, and by my american peers, 'lucky' that i 'get to' go to japan. i cannot spite my peers for their misunderstandings, and still yet, this exchange often leaves me feeling distant and isolated from others. as grateful as i am now for this colorful, dynamic life, i have equally spited it in the past.

the work i have created from 2020 on is in direct response to the anticipatory grief and eventual death of my maternal grandmother. in the process of her passing, i have witnessed the dark crevices of desperation, and the ways collective and individual trauma is informed by national crises. we often compartmentalize 'historical events' as other, as forces we are not directly moved by, when in reality, we all flow and stumble through this river of time together.

all photos taken by lila lee, 2023