Below Orpheus, I. The Missing Person
This work is based on an unsolved case of a missing person that occurred in a certain European hotel. The theme of the series is movement through time and pace, but in contrast to “Roma—Roma”, Onodera has created a backstory that interweaves truth and fiction, reality and illusion.
Two and one-half years after the missing persons incident, Onodera stayed in the same room in which it occurred, and she set about imaginatively “investigating” the case herself. Taking a hint from a seventeenth-century legend about a certain island, she arrived at the intentionally preposterous conclusion that the missing person had disappeared by traveling below the room—in other words, to the antipodes, the other side of the Earth. The legend is recorded in the log of an eighteenth-century English sea captain as the story told to him by a Maori chief. According to the chief, two hundred eighty years ago, in 1726, a prophet emerged from a subterranean world and predicted to the Maori peoples the arrival of travelers from the West to their island. Onodera just happened to notice that the North Island of New Zealand is located 12,700 kilometers directly below the hotel in Europe. Onodera, following this line of investigation, photographed the hotel room with her camera at ceiling height pointed down (1. A Missing Person), and then shifted her position from the hotel’s latitude 40º25’51” north, longitude 3º42’28” west to a point on New Zealand’s North Island at latitude 40º25’51” south, longitude 176º17’32”east and photographed it with a Polaroid (2. Strange Distance). She mounted the Polaroid photographs on hand-made paper on which she had the precise latitude and longitude printed in eighteenth-century type, the period of the captain’s log was written, imprinting the latitude and longitude of the hotel room on the large format fiber paper prints through the photogram process.