Tim Shill
7 min readMar 15, 2024


“Eki Blues” was documented and condensed into a retrospective video — available at the end of the article

Receiving a research grant, Creative Arts, Research, And Scholarship (CARAS) from my university — Temple University Japan, started my whole journey with exhibiting my art. This research started with my wanting to connect design concepts with mental health awareness and ended with me learning how to communicate better with my work. As well as the power of reacting to, and engaging with, my art in an exhibit space.

“Eki Blues”, my first exhibition and research project, became a “thing” that I tried to use to express concepts of solitary living in a new place and connection through nostalgia. I challenge those reading this to ponder what “thing” means in the context of this reflection. “Eki” means train station, a transitional space, and “Blues” is meant to invoke raw emotion. Eki Blues has become a memory, something nostalgic, and I guess I’m learning that past experiences and memories don’t sit still and are a catalyst for connecting with my audience. I’m learning that past experiences and memories don’t just stay in the past but they shape how you learn or progress. When you think inwardly about your life — “What am I doing?”, “What can I say?”, “Who am I?”, and “What am I bringing to this new place?” I’m discovering that the answer to those questions is often “memories” — past things that you reflect on to help shape your future ambitions, dreams, or even just what you will choose to eat that day.

In that first exhibit, Eki Blues, I really wanted to touch on many things in my personal life and bring those experiences to my new community in Japan. It was probably a bit much, a bit of a reach, but I had some artistic drive behind wanting to bring those past experiences here to Japan and put them clearly on display. However, in researching the work and how I want to express it in a non-white-walled exhibit, I was able to refine how I say what I want to express. It felt like a kind of an out-of-body look at myself. I’m like, what can I say with authority? I probably should not speak as if I authority on the topic of mental health. So, with this questioning, I refined what I could and should say. and then over time and after maturation, it all kind of just… the whole process becomes the thing I was looking to exhibit. Right? The topics of nostalgia and loneliness in a new place, as well as the process of refining how I can express the topics, both became the exhibit. It was not just a topic made better over research and improvement, not the sum of the parts, but a new thing that includes it all. This was a great new feeling I had when thinking about what an exhibit is. I learned to love showing the process and not just the “art”. In doing this I felt the exhibit became a “thing” all of its own existence.

Since this first exhibition, I’ve kind of chasing these themes of memory, nostalgia, and existential kind of questioning. Asking myself what I can gain from my past daily life even if it was just yesterday’s memories that I peer at. What do I gain from doing this? Like kind of what are we? The sum of things we have done? Or something more like Aristotle’ may pontificate. I am not sure I found the answer year so I plan to keep researching and expressing the topics that were in “Eki Blues”.

During the initial research of “Eki Blues,” I learned that some of my topics, especially those that involve mental health, are not discussed often in daily life. They felt more discussed behind closed doors or that they’re stigmatized still. Even though I have learned throughout my lived experience that a lot of people face these issues and probably are either undiagnosed or have never felt comfortable telling another person that they face such a metaphysical ailment. So, of course, I wanted to keep the topics in my work and hopefully even subtly convey them to the viewers of my work. Conveyed via a shared nostalgia of the time spent in a train — a shared emotional or existential liminal space.

As for the work specifically. You know, I wanted to combine concepts in a way that worked for me. It sounds kind of selfish, but photography came naturally to me. However, I wanted to take an extra step to add an extra layer of complexity to it. So maybe I could take a picture of something that contained a liminal space motif. That was one of the biggest motifs in the works, but I didn’t want it to be the only motif. So, I asked myself, what can I do extra? What can I add to the complexity of it?

I decided to follow the thread of making the exhibit as much of a “thing” on its own and not just a place where things were. So, I kept adding parts to the exhibit space that became like organs to an entire system or entity. It became a “thing” that was more than its parts.

One thing I added was Zines that I gave out for free. This may seem a bit typical of an exhibit that has some design tempering, but the story in the zine was its own piece of work. It was very limited because of just time and printing costs, but I also wanted it to be a temporal thing, something was limited in its time inside of the exhibit as well. Inside the zine, I wrote a very personal story, one that connects with the train station and all the broader feelings there but is told through a very personal first-person narrative. This narrative was actually not from just my point of view too, but that a beer can in my hand. As you can picture, this can traverse the train station with me from one place to the next. The conversation between me and that can become my internal thoughts in that liminal space of one station to the next. One drunk hour to the next. One day felt lonely to the next.

In the physical space of the exhibit, room 101 at Design Festa East in Harajuku, I also included 4 CRT TVs that displayed another layer of exhibit existence. On the screens was a virtual exhibit that I made, that felt like outside the physical world of existence. Outside my physical life in Japan, those I know around the world were able to log into that virtual exhibit and see my physical exhibit “Eki Blues” in Tokyo. It became a two-way mirror. A space between two. Continuing my theme/motif of liminality.

Parallel Virtual Exhibit Link https://newart.city/show/eki-blues

All these additional things that I brought to the exhibit that were not hung or displayed art works, became new pieces of art to me. I felt they came together as pieces of a work of art which is the “Eki Blues” exhibit space. While I was at the exhibit, I got to know it really became a thing in and of itself based on people’s reactions and resonating feelings to it. I think it came across in varying degrees of efficacy to people. It was commented on, it was acknowledged, and I think once it became acknowledged by viewers it was given its breath of life. Making it the thing I hoped it would become.

It was a learning experience to approach my first exhibit as if I was well-researched and tenured in exhibiting thoughtful works. I believe I did my best, as professional as I can, and as elevated as I can. I aimed to put my work out there and to consider the space differently to bring life to the space making it a piece of art as well. The whole exhibit, funded by the CARAS research grant, truly left an impact on me. Elevating how I see art, how I approach art, and my understanding of how art can be approached.

This has been a one-year reflection on my first exhibit, and I am not done. Not finished with the themes of nostalgia, seclusion, or the motifs of horror and train stations… I plan to learn, express, and become my focused theme. I believe I will be in a constant state of physical, emotional, and existential travel… stuck willingly in a liminal space. This is my journey as an artist.

“Eki Blues” — A Look Back

PS. A loving thanks to the professors and peers at my university, TUJ, who kept me moving forward. As well as those I had not previously known but still came to experience my exhibit. Seeing my art seen by others that I don’t know yet, is truly a heartwarming experience for me.



Tim Shill

Timothy Shill, a Tokyo-based contemporary artist, photographer, and videographer. His work explores existential and liminal space themes in the Japan context.