Categories
front page Newsletter

Ambiguous Zones, 8

Dear Friends,

Ambiguous Zones 8 takes a close look at Non-gravitational Being, 1983-84, a large-scale painting by Arakawa. This artwork offers a short text on Arakawa and Gins’s concept of “Blank” and stands as a good introduction to the work being done by Arakawa in the early 1980s. A short formal analysis of the painting will leave you primed to meditate on the artist’s ideas about spacetime, energy-matter, and how gravity might work in different dimensions. Hopefully you will enjoy this brief contemplation on physics all the more knowing that scientists were wrong, luckily, in their prediction that asteroid 2009 JF1 would hit the Earth on May 6th, 2022!

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

Arakawa, Non-Gravitational Being, 1983-1984, acrylic, graphite, art marker and PVA on canvas (in two parts), 100 x 136 in. Photo: Rob McKeever
Non-gravitational Being, 1983-84: A Meditation
by Amara Magloughlin
 
 

Arakawa’s painting, Non-gravitational Being, 1983-84, sets up the viewer to encounter a large-scale map covered with arrows pointing in different directions in a pattern reminiscent of air currents. The far-left side of the map appears to be incomplete, but is it unfinished? Has it been erased in some way? Perhaps the mapmaker was not able to fill the rest of the canvas out of ignorance of what should be there, or perhaps the area has yet to be charted. There are endless possibilities including the fact that they may have interrupted an event in mid-flow or that the painting is waiting to be activated by the viewer to finish its development, just as the viewer will in turn develop alongside or with the painting. At 100 x 136 inches, the size of the canvas overwhelms the viewer, perhaps making them feel dislocated rather than better able to find their way as a map ought to do. This immersive inarticulation serves to prolong the moment of proto-perception that interested Arakawa so much. In his own words, he wanted to paint “the condition that precedes the moment in which the imagination goes to work and produces mental representations.”¹ It is possible that this is represented on the canvas, but in this instance, Arakawa has worked to lengthen this effect in the viewer—both artwork and viewer need the other for activation.

The various elements in the painting appear to occupy parallel planes, of which I count at least five. The map is the furthest back on the fifth plane, which includes the yellowed varnished area. The fourth plane has text stenciled across it in a seemingly sporadic manner with equally sporadic splotches and drips of paint. This plane also contains a white circle faintly visible beneath the black line of the three-pronged symbol (which will be mentioned below) on the left panel, as well as text stenciled upside-down at the top of the canvas. The third plane is occupied by arrows circulating over these phrases. The second plane holds the black, yellow, and red lines that form a sort of axis and the dark grey sphere. To my eye, the curved line circumscribing the bottom of the canvas, the two bolder directional arrows that perhaps indicate movement in opposite directions along this line, and the rectilinear shapes that move off the top of the canvas seem to exist on the first plane closest to the viewer.

Arakawa, A Diagram of Imagination, 1965, acrylic, graphite, colored pencil, pastel, art markeron canvas, 61 x 91 in. Photo: Rob McKeever

It would be difficult to develop an interpretation for this painting without examining other works by Arakawa with similar motifs and more snippets of text, both of which serve to elucidate Arakawa’s philosophical thought. Arakawa’s earlier diagram paintings include examples of maps with labels indicating certain elements, like STREET or OCEAN, as seen in A Diagram of Imagination, 1965. In the early 1980s, instead of these labels we find maps with elevations of tourist attractions locating objects in space. This is simply a different kind of sign, and one that is instantly recognizable as belonging to a tourist map. The iconic shapes of these buildings are as recognizable as their written names to the local population. For an international audience, such elevations might be more useful in deciding whether they have reached the right spot. In any event, this two-dimensional representation of space includes a nod to the three-dimensional world with the spare elevations of monuments that speak to the national identity of the inhabitants of this city. Indeed, they are so recognizable that with close inspection the viewer may begin to be able to identify what they are looking at. The Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris is particularly iconic in shape and given its position near the dark grey sphere, it might be one of the first buildings that the viewer notices. Moving along the Seine to the left, the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries become apparent. Below this, the Palais du Luxembourg and the Panthéon among others are also identifiable. Even though we now feel we are in Paris, the city itself is interchangeable for the meaning of the painting. Since we have not yet found the map that Arakawa used to make this painting, it is not clear if he changed the streets in any way. Tourist maps are notorious for simplifying the street map, narrowing their usefulness to locating highlighted landmarks and sometimes not even those.

The sentences stenciled across the top of the two panels read as follows: “ALONG THE WAY, WITHIN ENERGY-MATTER, SOME INDIVIDUALS / FORM BLANKS. AS BLANKS FORM, SPACETIME WILL APPEAR. BLANK / IS THE MEDIUM OUT OF WHICH SPACETIME COMES”. While this text appears upside-down at the top of the canvas, some of the same words float randomly across its surface. Are we meant to see these as “non-gravitational beings”? They do not appear to correspond to anything on the map, but they do seem to align themselves around the contours of the varnished, yellowed section of the right panel. Is this indicating a different texture or density within spacetime that the words are reacting to or affected by even while they are not affected by gravity? They float outside of the structure of the sentence, which is nonetheless provided to the viewer, though in a way that may cause some disorientation. Which way is up becomes hard to say categorically, especially when dealing in beings not governed by gravity. Sentences like these that expound upon “Forming Blank” are found in many other paintings from around this time. Taken together, they lend extra insight into the ways in which this work may be read. The same can be said for the next plane, with arrows being one of the most commonly recurring motifs in Arakawa’s work. The arrows also have to do with Blank and its forming. This will be explored more deeply in a forthcoming article. For now, one interpretation might be that energy-matter, perhaps starting from the dense sphere, generates the forming of blanks out of which unfolds spacetime, as indicated by the arrows.

Arakawa, Proper Noun, 1983-1984, acrylic, graphite, art marker and varnish on canvas (in two parts), 100 x 136 in.

This dense, dark grey sphere on the right panel is worth looking at more closely. It is similar to the imperfect flat black circle on the left-hand panel in Arakawa’s painting, Proper Noun, 1983-84. In that instance, if we are to accept Gins’s interpretation of this painting in Helen Keller or Arakawa, 1994, that the map, representing spacetime, unfolded from this circle, Arakawa has presented a sequence for the event represented: on the left-hand side of the panel the unfolding has not yet taken place, so the dot holds every potential happening. By the time of the right-hand panel, the dense energy-matter has unfolded and has been cleaved, resulting in openings and variation in tissues of density, which can perhaps be seen in the hazy white patches on the right panel. It is a flat, two-dimensional circle, but if the energy-matter inside is condensed, then perhaps its dimensional existence can be condensed as well, as in the case, potentially, of a black hole. If we understand the same unfolding of energy-matter to be taking place in Non-gravitational Being, then we must also forgo any sense of a sequence of events, since both the sphere and the unfolded spacetime are represented, though possibly on different dimensions. If the unfolding only truly begins to take place with the viewer present to activate it, then in some senses this sphere does act as a “YOU ARE HERE” dot—though it is not necessarily locating the viewer literally on the Île de la Cité. This does not negate the possibility that the viewer IS there, especially given that Arakawa appears to be dealing in different dimensions.

Arakawa, That In Which No.2, 1974-1975, acrylic, graphite, art marker and collageon canvas, 65 x 102 in. Photo: Rob McKeever

Moving to the left panel, it is harder to find a precedent for the three intersecting lines in other paintings showing maps. Perhaps this black, yellow, and red symbol is meant to indicate the Cartesian coordinate system, with three axes meeting at the point of origin, here representing three-dimensional space (width, length, and height). This is not to limit the dimensions in Arakawa’s painting to three. It seems likely that Arakawa is including density and texture as other calculable dimensions, an idea borne out by other paintings, and, if so, the three intersecting lines may represent something slightly different. Nevertheless, let’s accept for a moment that in Non-gravitational Being the Cartesian axes denote three-dimensional space. If this is the case, then the arrows could be read as time, representing the fourth dimension. In this scenario, time is not behaving in the way we are used to perceiving it, since it is moving in many directions. We are in a world created by the canvas and the rules are Arakawa’s, so while time can behave in anyway the artist sees fit, it seems more plausible that in Arakawa’s configuration of elements the arrows indicate the unfolding of spacetime, as previously theorized. Moving to the sphere, it can be seen as being comprehensive of more than three dimensions whether condensed or not. Regardless, the first and closest plane in relation to the viewer, with its curve at the bottom of the canvas may represent four dimensions as curved space.

When all elements are taken in together, the viewer most likely does not feel like they have been transported to Paris, so this is not an effective stand-in for a landscape painting. Instead, the viewer might begin to understand how spacetime and Blank relate during this unique act of perception. The viewer might not yet be at the stage in which they perceive themselves as Blank, but there are many other paintings and encounters staged by Arakawa that will get them there. For now, it is enough to understand that energy-matter can have different densities and textures and that this will affect the ways in which perceiving beings experience spacetime as it unfolds. These ideas will be explored further in a forthcoming article.

¹Charles Haxthausen, “Diagrams for the Imagination,” in Arakawa: Diagrams for the Imagination, ed. Ealan Wingate (New York: Gagosian, 2019), 13. In the corresponding endnote, Haxthausen states that this is his own “translation from the Dutch of what was clearly a Dutch translation from the Japanese” found in: Yoshiaki Tono, “Het schilderen van Shusaku Arakawa: een voorstadium van de verbeelding,” Arakawa, exh. cat. (Eindhoven: Stedelijk van Abbemuseum, 1966), n.p.

Categories
AG conferences Events front page News

“AGxKANSAI 2022” Arakawa and Gins International Conference

We are happy to announce the international conference AGxKANSAI 2022: Art and Philosophy in the 22nd Century After ARAKAWA+GINS, organized jointly by the Studies of the Architectural Body Research Group at Kansai University and Kyoto University of the Arts. The event will take place on March 11–15, 2022 at Kyoto University of the Arts with a combination of in-person and virtual presentations and a live broadcast of all sessions available online. Registration is now open through the conference website!

AGxKANSAI 2022: Art and Philosophy in the 22nd Century After ARAKAWA+GINS
Date: March 11–15, 2022
Venue: Kyoto University of the Arts, Kyoto, Japan (on-site and online)
Website: http://www2.kansai-u.ac.jp/agx2022/

Building on the issues and themes explored at previous Arakawa and Gins conferences (AG1: University of Paris X, 2005; AG2: University of Pennsylvania/Slought Foundation, 2008: and AG3 Online/Columbia University/Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 2010), AGxKANSAI 2022 will explore the shape of art and philosophy toward/in the 22nd century through lectures, dialogues, presentations, exhibitions, and performances. “After ARAKAWA+GINS” signifies our desire to follow after their future-forward vision even after their untimely demise.

The conference opens on March 11th with a conversation between Takashi Ikegami and Yasuo Kobayashi, followed in the afternoon by a virtual tour of the exhibition, the first on-site paper session, a conversation between Hideo Kawamoto and Naohiko Mimura, and an online lecture by Adrienne Hart. From March 12th, various programs will take place including round-tables, research presentations, and workshops by Arakawa and Gins researchers from Japan and abroad. A reproduced version of Arakawa’s early installation work Bottomless I (SOCIOUS),1963, will be on view in conjunction with the event.

Please do not forget to register in advance

Bottom image: Arakawa, Bottomless I (SOCIOUS), 1963,
acrylic panel, cloth, mirror, steel, steel mesh, steel wire, string, and thread, 41 x 100 x 100 in.

Categories
Newsletter

Ambiguous Zones, 7

Dear Friends,
 
Ambiguous Zones 7 features a video recording of our January 12th, 2022, webinar with guest speaker Tiffany Lambert, curator of the Gallery at Japan Society in New York.  Tiffany’s lecture focused on the connection between Arakawa’s art and Arakawa+Gins’s architecture. We hope you find it as illuminating as we did!
 
Moving forward, Ambiguous Zones will arrive at your inbox every two months, which will give us time to explore certain topics in greater depth. In the meantime, please join us for the international conference AGxKANSAI 2022: Art and Philosophy in the 22nd Century After ARAKAWA+GINS, organized jointly by the Studies of the Architectural Body Research Group at Kansai University and Kyoto University of the Arts. The event will take place from March 11–15, 2022 at Kyoto University of the Arts with a combination of in-person and virtual presentations and a live broadcast of all sessions available online. We look forward to seeing you there, whether virtually or in person!

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

Lecture by Tiffany Lambert on the art and architecture of Arakawa+Gins, January 12, 2022

Top image: Installation view of ARAKAWA: Waiting Voices at Gagosian Gallery, Basel, November 25th, 2021–January 22nd, 2022. Photo: Annik Wetter
(Left) Hard or Soft No. 3, 1969, acrylic, graphite, and marker on canvas, 95 ½ x 65 in.
(Right) A Couple, 1966–1967, oil, acrylic, marker, graphite, and crayon on canvas (in two parts), 95 x 124 in.

Categories
Events News Recent Exhibitions

ARAKAWA: Waiting Voices at Gagosian Gallery in Basel

The exhibition ARAKAWA: Waiting Voices at Gagosian Gallery in Basel will be opening on November 25th, 2021. It will be on view through January 22, 2022.

The exhibition features Arakawa’s paintings and drawings produced between 1964 and 1984, the twenty-year span that saw him experimenting with diagrammatic motifs, language, texture, and space that ultimately led the artist, together with Madeline Gins, to the field of architecture. For further information, please visit the Gagosian website.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Reversible Destiny Foundation will host a virtual lecture by Dr. Ignacio Adriasola, live from Basel on December 9th, 11 AM EST. Focusing on works featured in the exhibition, his talk will address major developments in Arakawa’s practice through the mid-1980s. This program is approximately 1 hour in length, including Q&A at the end. Click here to register in advance! 

Lecture Précis:

The white on off-white ground of an immense canvas stretches before us, like sand on a beach. Overlapping layers of acrylic varnish divide its surface creating a subtly dark imprint. Thin graphite lines stretch and direct our gaze across the canvas, indicating the shortest distance possible between enigmatic figures and words. Objects leave their mark, like shadows. As we step away from the canvas, we begin to discern a secret geometry: waiting voices, captured right at the moment before thought finds form.

Arakawa’s canvases speak a language that is at once simple, yet hard to understand. It is impossible to access them without poetry: one finds drawn images and words that never meet; instructions that can’t be fulfilled; invitations that remain unopened. Someone’s voice emerges within, everywhere and nowhere at once. The voice traps us in descriptions pointing to non-existing things: “This rectangle is a photograph of this entire painting,” one work claims, but, of course, there is no photograph in the canvas. Another entices us to imagine implausible qualities and actions, such as “sizeless,” “hypostatize,” “to cleave.” The works describe, direct, admonish, and tease the viewer. And like all good teases they are at once sensual and metaphysical, comical and dead-serious.

If painting is traditionally imagined to belong and reflect the constituted world, Arakawa inverts that relationship. This is because, as Duchamp once noted of Arakawa’s diagrams—and Madeline Gins constantly reminded us since—these are not paintings. Where did these post-paintings come from? How do they operate? Focusing on works featured in this exhibition, my talk will address major developments in Arakawa’s practice through the mid-1980s. I will situate Arakawa in relation to the reception and theorization of surrealist practices in Japan, and I will trace the shift his work took since his emigration to New York, and the beginning of his life-long collaboration with his partner, the critic and poet Madeline Gins.

In brief: the post-paintings emerge as a means first of examining the world of objects in their state as a yet-unformed possibility. Madeline Gins noted that the diagrams model, but are not just models. Arakawa found in them a method for examining potentiality, by indexing with a secret geometry a place somewhere beyond existence. Arakawa’s work sparked important critical debates on the nature of the image (Nakahara Yūsuke and Nicolas Calas), of absence and presence (Miyakawa Atsushi and Jean-François Lyotard), and on art’s capability as a “thinking field” (Gins), opening up a line of investigation that eventually led him to the body as the place where possibility resides.

Lecturer:

Dr. Ignacio Adriasola teaches in the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory at the University of British Columbia. His research focuses on experimental art and culture in postwar Japan. His book Fragment, Image, and Absence in 1960s Japan is forthcoming from PSU Press (Fall 2022).

Top Image: Arakawa, Waiting Voices, 1976–77,
acrylic, graphite, marker, and varnish on canvas and linen (in 2 parts), 70 x 96 in. Photo by Robert McKeever

Bottom Image: Dr. Ignacio Adriasola at the Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka (In Memory of Helen Keller), Tokyo, 2017.
Photo by Takeyoshi Matsuda

Categories
Newsletter

Ambiguous Zones, 6

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year of the Tiger!

We hope you had a restorative holiday break. At the dawn of 2022, all of us here at the Reversible Destiny Foundation and the ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office are looking resolutely toward the new horizon, fresh with limitless possibilities, following Arakawa and Madeline Gins’s commitment to a positive mindset coupled with (serious) playfulness.

We begin the year with the sixth issue of Ambiguous Zones, which features a video recording of a lecture by Dr. Ignacio Adriasola that took place on December 9th of last year, live from the exhibition ARAKAWA: Waiting Voices at Gagosian Gallery in Basel (on view until January 22nd). In his lecture, Dr. Adriasola illuminates some of the recurring themes and motifs present in the works of Arakawa on display at the gallery, which range in date from 1964 to 1984, and brings to the fore the sensuality of texture and materiality in the artist’s paintings.

Our next webinar will be on January 12th at 12pm EST with guest speaker Tiffany Lambert, Curator of the Gallery at Japan Society in New York. Her lecture will focus on the connection between Arakawa’s art and Arakawa+Gins’s architecture. We hope you will join us to continue learning more about their work! (click here to register in advance).

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

Lecture and virtual tour by Dr. Ignacio Adriasola of the exhibition ARAKAWA: Waiting Voices at Gagosian Gallery in Basel, December 9th, 2021

Top Image: Arakawa and Madeline Gins, Study for Sites of Reversible Destiny, digital rendering, ca. 1994

Categories
Newsletter

Ambiguous Zones, 5

Dear Friends,

This fifth issue of Ambiguous Zones arrives partway into the holiday season. Like last year, the final few weeks of 2021 may not feel quite the same as previous years, but that is all the more reason to focus on spending time with loved ones, whether in person or online. The RDF archive has no shortage of photographic evidence that Madeline and Arakawa did just that year round. Regardless of how your celebrations shape up this year, we hope these photographs of Madeline and Arakawa dining with friends and family get you into the festive spirit!

We also hope you will join us virtually for Dr. Ignacio Adriasola’s lecture and tour of the exhibition ARAKAWA: Waiting Voices, live from Gagosian Gallery in Basel on December 9th at 11am EST (click here to register in advance). 

In the meantime, we are sending warm wishes for a lovely December!

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

Arakawa and Madeline drink coffee and eat pie inside after their meal outside, ca. 1977.
Madeline calls across the table to a guest at a dinner party at 124 W Houston St.
Arakawa laughs at a dinner with friends at 124 W Houston St.
Arakawa and Madeline eat with a friend at a reception.
Hotpot dinner with friends. Madeline with James Rossant (1928–2009; architect, artist) and another friend, ca. 1978.
Arakawa and Madeline gathered around the table with friends, 1977.
Arakawa and Madeline, post-dinner chat, with fruit and vegetables in a bowl, at 124 W Houston St.
Arakawa, mid-bite
Arakawa, Madeline, friends, and a delicious meal
Madeline and Arakawa relax over what appears to be breakfast.
Arakawa and Madeline at the cabin in Croton-on-Hudson, Westchester County, NY, enjoying what looks like an enticing Autumnal drink
Arakawa or Madeline enjoying a meal at a counter seat of a Japanese restaurant
Arakawa and Madeline with a group of friends, including Yoshiaki Tōno (1930–2005; art critic; on the right at the back), at a restaurant in New York, August 1978
Arakawa celebrates with friends and champagne.
Madeline and Arakawa share dinner at 124 W Houston St. with Colette Rossant (b. 1932; food critic; on the left, foreground), her husband James Rossant (on the left at the back), and their children (on the right).

Top image: Thanksgiving in July, or a heatwave or somewhere warm in November? Madeline Gins, Arakawa, and Madeline’s parents, Evelyn Gins, and Milton Gins enjoy turkey (or duck?)
in the great outdoors, ca. 1977.

Categories
Newsletter

Ambiguous Zones, 4

Dear Friends,

In honor of Madeline Gins’s birthday on November 7th, the fourth edition of Ambiguous Zones focuses on one of her unpublished books. Madeline considered two possible titles that sum up the content quite well: “Conversations for our time: poet and physician” or “Medically in Our Time.” This book is based on a series of interviews that Madeline carried out with doctors with a variety of specialties, including neurology and psychiatry, an acupuncturist, and patients. Her overarching goal was to provide a course of action for the patient/reader that would help them navigate different approaches to their healthcare, including standard medical care, alternative therapies, vitamin regimens, and care related to their mental health, whether through psychiatry or other mind-body modalities like meditation and hypnosis.

Help us celebrate Madeline’s 80th birthday by doing whatever mind-body exercise speaks to you the most.

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Madeline Gins conducted multiple interviews with a variety of doctors and patients over the course of five years for a book that she would never publish. Her goal was to approach the evidence surrounding various treatments for disease from a poet’s perspective. To Madeline, this meant “keeping intuition in play” while sorting through all of the information. In her proposal, Madeline also makes clear that her approach was not simply “a ‘holistic’ patchwork, but a unified way of knowing.” What she seems to be suggesting is that, as a patient, you would not just go separately to your endocrinologist, acupuncturist, psychiatrist, and another doctor or physical therapist for biofeedback. The poet would make sure all of these approaches were working together in harmony – something you yourself might be able to do after reading Madeline’s book.

In the 2020s, we have even more access to information than Madeline would have been able to dream of in the 1970s/1980s. At the touch of our fingertips, we can find an unending stream of articles and websites that may offer insight into what ails us, otherwise known as “Dr. Google.” We come away with way too much, often contradictory, information, and this was precisely the instance in which Madeline thought a poet could help. In our current time, the wellness industry is in full-swing, which means there is yet more advice available now that may have been considered more esoteric , though available if you sought it out and paid for it, in the last quarter of the twentieth century. A doctor will have their advice, using a scientific approach geared toward physical symptoms, an acupuncturist will look at the problem from a different perspective, and so on. Regardless of the source, a poet can synthesize all the evidence to come up with the best course of treatment, using every avenue available. In Madeline’s words,

When poetry succeeds, through the medium of intuition (a set of suspicions in the process of being confirmed) what is known comes to be easily apparent. In the kind light of poetry, whatever is picked up and brought forward may come to be so bathed in enthusiasm, that it will virtually glow with what it knows, so that what was once difficult to resolve takes place almost effortlessly.

One of her proposed titles for the book, “Medically in Our Time”, was inspired by the eleventh century poet and physician Ibn Sina, or Avicenna as he was known in Latin, who wrote The Poem of Medicine. Ibn Sina also wrote the Canon of Medicine, but he felt that his poem was more easily transmissible—easier to understand and memorize. Ibn Sina reviewed previous scholars on the subject of medicine and well-being, including Hippocrates and Galen. Madeline set out a similar task for herself in writing her own book. On the wellness side of things, Ibn Sina stressed the importance of taking care of the soul, which would include good company and music if someone was sick, and for general preventative care, moderate exercise.

Madeline conducted an extensive search for doctors who would be willing to sit down for an interview. Aside from reading articles and books written by doctors whom she then would track down, Madeline also asked friends and acquaintances for suggestions and collected names and numbers. One of her parents’ friends gave her a number of names of “vitamin” doctors. Another friend gave a list of Japanese doctors with a short description of each. She also received a number of doctor business cards from obliging friends. By including specialists, general practitioners, doctors focused on research, and patients, Madeline’s own research covered as many view points as possible.

While a poet’s response to or opinion about medical treatments is not something people tended to search out at the time, or now for that matter, Madeline invoked Avicenna to remind everyone that there were indeed other periods in time when the ideas of a poet and a physician were intermingled, and she started by asking the same questions, in essence, that he did. For example: “what do you think of the state of medical research today?” “What about diet?”

 

Madeline’s approach to the interviews sought to engage her conversant on a poetic level and this seems to have allowed some of the doctors the space to speak about certain not obviously medical motivations they may have had that would not have come up in a typical interview session. One neurologist in particular opened up about his interest in Buddhist philosophy as a source of inspiration for one thread of his research. This created a rather productive discussion about some of Madeline’s more philosophical ideas, including topology.

In a conversation with a psychiatrist and Jungian analyst, Madeline is offered another way to address her anger over death: is she able to build a building with the idea and the concept of the building in her mind, but build it just for a short while? Dr. Engel says that “independent of how long [the building] will stay,” you build. A child building a sandcastle understands this clearly.

 

When in conversation with a patient, Madeline channels her poetic-alchemical voice to offer a way of navigating through difficulties. Through a series of interesting questions, she is able to help a patient visualize her well-being as a space both in and around her, while becoming more aware of what happens to her experience of time during episodes of illness.

In this way we see the poetic voice as one that is highly adaptable. Madeline, as the author, moves from medical researcher, to questioner, to philosopher, to psychologist, to the analyzed patient. It feels quite seamless when reading through her conversations, edited for flow, and even in its incomplete, unpublished form, this book provides not only an interesting look at what was happening “Medically in [Madeline’s] Time”, but also at the human condition and how it responds to and copes with the struggle, in its various manifestations, for wellness. Throughout the interviews, Madeline seems to be circling the idea that the body inherently knows what to do to get better, the struggle becomes access to this knowledge. How do you break past conditioned thought patterns and the mind, which seem designed to keep us from what our body knows? We can look for Madeline and Arakawa’s attempts to answer this question in the vast majority of their projects, both realized and unrealized.

Top image: Madeline Gins on the telephone, ca. late 1980s

Lower images: Correspondence between Madeline Gins and various health professionals and patients

Categories
Newsletter

Ambiguous Zones, 3

The Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka (In Memory of Helen Keller) in its near-completion phase, 2005, Tokyo. Photo by Masataka Nakano

Dear Friends,

Did you know that today, October 15th, is the official “birthday” of the Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka (In Memory of Helen Keller) in Tokyo? Designed by Arakawa+Gins and completed on this day in 2005, it is one of the most unique apartment buildings in Japan. There are a total of nine units in the building: five of them are currently occupied by tenants, two are offered for short-term stays and remote work space programs as well as group tours, events, and workshops, and the last two units house the ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office, which manages all aspects of the operations there. The Mitaka Lofts has attracted thousands of people from around the world, many of whom have made a special pilgrimage to experience the space in person. At the time of its opening 16 years ago, people were beguiled by it and they hotly debated whether this was architecture or art. Arakawa+Gins’s vision, however, was clear that this was to be a residential building, inhabited and used by people. Through this creation, they aspired to change Japan and even the whole world.

In this third edition of Ambiguous Zones, we share with you the “making of” the Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka accompanied by a selection of architectural renderings and photographs that attests to its distinctive and complex construction.

Because the building has received many thousands of visitors every year for the past 16 years, there is great need for repair and conservation. The Tokyo Office is gearing up for a global crowdfunding initiative, launching early next year* for this ongoing project of preservation, so please stay tuned for more information in the coming months. In the meantime, we hope that AZ3 will convey the significance of this actively lived and highly engaging work of Arakawa+Gins.

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

 

Arakawa in front of the Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka (In Memory of Helen Keller) on October 15, 2005, Tokyo. Photo by Momoyo Homma

The main inspiration for the design of the lofts was Helen Keller. In what kind of space would she have wanted to live? Her life’s story taught us that each of our bodies is unique and we are all born with an individual ability to form and use its surrounding space and environment. The Mitaka Lofts, as an experiential laboratory, functions as a space that instructs us and our body toward boundless freedom. There are many architectural elements that are unusual, to say the least. One of the most distinct is the floor with a series of small bumps that constantly make you conscious of the sole of your feet and at the same time stimulate blood circulation. For the visually impaired, like Helen Keller, this feature helps them navigate the room.  

Madeline Gins, Helen Keller or Arakawa, Japanese edition, Tokyo: Shinshokan, 2010.
Making the floor of the lofts with bumps

Other interesting components are floor-to-ceiling vertical poles that can have a variety of functions if you tap into your imagination. They can be exercise poles, ladders, shelves, and for people with walking difficulties, bars to grab onto that offer support as they move about in the space.

Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka, Five-Part Loft, 2001, digital rendering
Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka, Wall-Configurations + Volumes, Complete Set of Shape-Defining Elements, 2005, blueprint

 

Because of the role that Helen Keller played in the ideation of the design, the Mitaka Lofts has been a focus of interest among scholars not only of art and architecture but also from the areas of welfare, medicine, and physical therapy. In addition, the creatives who are involved in product or environmental design for people with disabilities also pay attention to this building in order to activate the power of alternative thinking. In this way, A+G’s unconventional philosophy contributes to a building of an inclusive and cooperative society that the world needs today.

In their 2002 publication Architectural Body, Arakawa and Gins wrote that “although our species, like every other species, has a characteristic architecture that serves its members well by increasing their chances of survival, it is far from having an architecture that could redefine life. The architecture we speak of in this book is within our species’ reach. It will be a way to undo, loosening to widen and re-cast, the concept of person.”** Realizing such an architecture was an enormously complicated challenge. Knowing there was no precedent of this kind and driven by a singular passion, Arakawa visited a number of top executives of major construction companies in Japan. Ultimately, a dream team consisting of veterans of the field was formed in Tokyo to take on the task: Yasui Architects & Engineers, Inc. finalized the detailed design and Takenaka Corporation worked on the construction.

Construction in progress
Construction in progress, February 10, 2005
(top) Construction in progress, (bottom) Reversible Destiny Lofts—Mitaka, digital rendering

At its birth, the Mitaka Lofts was received as an eccentric artwork and a curious erection in the middle of a residential neighborhood in Tokyo. While it still stands out when viewed from the street with its vibrant colors and whimsical shapes, it has gained the respect and affection of those who have resided/reside there and have participated in various events and programs. It is a building that continues to live and grow with every person’s unique experience and is a place where anyone who enters becomes the main character in the story of the “making of”.   

Arakawa and Momoyo Homma (Director, ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office) inside one of the loft units, 2005. On the kitchen counter, by Arakawa’s right hand is a Japanese edition of the book Architectural Body published in 2004.
Arakawa at the construction site, 2005. Photo by Masataka Nakano
Aerial view showing the rooftop garden
Night view, 2006

**The ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office already launched a crowdfunding campaign last month to raise funds for the first phase of this long-term project through the platform Motion Gallery based in Japan. Since the system doesn’t readily support donations coming from countries other than Japan, we are preparing a separate platform for English-speaking people to participate in the project.
**Madeline Gins and Arakawa, Architectural Body (Tuscaloosa and London: University of Alabama Press, 2002), xi–xii.

Categories
Newsletter

Ambiguous Zones, 2

Madeline and Arakawa posing with a shrub in front of Châteaux D'Amboise, France, 1980

Dear Friends,

The end of summer brings another round of travel photos for the second edition of Ambiguous Zones! Hopefully some of you were able to travel yourselves this summer and extra bonus points if you got to see some art, like the Alexander Calder sculpture Arakawa and Madeline saw in France in 1980, or become the art, like Madeline did in Venice in the summer of 1969. We hope you enjoy this selection of photographs that bring Arakawa and Madeline from Japan to France and Italy, back to the U.S., and finally to Tula, Mexico.

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and the ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

Categories
Newsletter

Ambiguous Zones, 1

Dear Friends,

At the Reversible Destiny Foundation, the start of summer brings with it an air of celebration for Arakawa’s birthday on July 6th, when he would have turned 85. This year, it also heralds a change in our monthly newsletter. We started the Distraction Series at the beginning of the pandemic when many of us were adjusting to being at home full time. As things begin to open up at various rates, we think it is time to move onto a new monthly newsletter, Ambiguous Zones, that will continue to explore various themes related to Arakawa and Madeline Gins.

For the inaugural AZ newsletter, we took summer and Arakawa as inspiration for a brief look at the ambiguous zone of the beach, as seen in Arakawa’s 1967 painting A Self-Portrait Near the Ocean. We hope this leaves you with something to think about as you take your own selfies on the beach this summer!

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

Arakawa, A Self-Portrait Near the Ocean, 1967, oil, acrylic, graphite, art marker and collage on canvas, 90 x 63 in. Photo by Rob McKeever. Courtesy of Gagosian.

As summer officially begins, Arakawa’s A Self-Portrait Near the Ocean, 1967, becomes a title that could be applied to many a photograph we will see this season. This painting also seemed like a perfect choice for AZ1, since we can consider as ambiguous zones both the snapshot quality of the moment depicted and the setting – a beach.

An ambiguous zone lends itself to an infinite number of interpretations when considered from the perspective of Arakawa and Madeline. For example, in the late 1960s, Arakawa wrote: “What I want to paint is the condition that precedes the moment in which the imagination goes to work and produces mental representations.” This in and of itself describes a type of ambiguous zone – somewhere right between an initial sensation and the coding of this into perception. It takes on an additional layer of ambiguity in another sense. By recording this extremely short duration between sensation and perception on canvas, Arakawa has allowed it to coexist with an eternity (or however long the painting lasts)—it is therefore both a moment and an eternity at once. For further reading, Deleuze and Guattari’s discussion of the percept, affect, and concept is highly relevant here.[1]

Turning back to the painting in question, we see both things at play. By providing merely a trace of an outline of a person, in this case supposedly of the artist himself, Arakawa provides the viewer with some open-ended information that allows them to fill in the rest of the details using their imagination. The label, “sands” allows us to infer that Arakawa is on a beach, although one might picture a sand dune instead. Sand itself is not earth and no longer rocks, so exists in a kind of in-between, albeit very long, stage. If these sands make up a beach, its size will change as the tide goes in and out. The beach is a location of leisure but also of labor depending on how it is deployed.

The painting itself has a typical tripartite structure, with the background made up of the sky delineated by a silvery-grey band with the word AIRPLANE and an arrow pointing to a rounded shape going off the canvas, and the foreground marked off by a white band with another rounded shape labelled as BICYCLE. Without the labels of AIRPLANE and BICYCLE we wouldn’t have any real indication that these bands are a part of the space of the painting. Does the bike belong to Arakawa? Is the plane heading to or from JFK airport?

The figure of Arakawa, anchored by labels for HEAD and FOOT, exists in the midground. Between these labels, along where we might imagine the body to be, we find a number of rather unexpected words: SHIP, AIR, TINFOIL, and HAIR. Do we understand the ship to be somewhere behind the figure? Is the air around him? In front of him? Being breathed in or out by him? It doesn’t seem to be ruffling his hair, but maybe he is wearing a hat? Is the tinfoil covering a sandwich? Is the hair on someone else’s head?  To the right of the figure, SANDS is stenciled toward the bottom and OCEAN toward the top. Arakawa’s feet are clearly in the sand and if he is standing then the ocean and presumably the ship would be behind him, but these are really up to the imagination, since even if Arakawa is standing in the water, he would still technically have his feet in the sand. Could it also be possible that he is reclining? Also to the right, a round object labelled BALL is moving through the air, over ocean or sand.

The colored lines that divide the midground may offer additional clues as to the delineation of space. The ship is in the same band as the ocean, beneath this, the ball is on the same band as the air, followed by the tinfoil (in Arakawa’s hands?), and finally the hair, feet, and sands are all within the lowest band before the foreground. Perhaps the fact that the head and feet are outlined in the same color suggests that they are in the same plane at the front with everything else understood to be receding back into space the higher up it is marked on the canvas. Does this work for the tinfoil? If the tinfoil is behind Arakawa, it would be blocked from view. Just when the viewer thinks they have understood the rules of perspective within Arakawa’s composition, the tinfoil begins to re-write them. The lines dividing the midground into sections, or zones, appear to be doing so with regard to both height and depth. As in many works by Cézanne and Picasso, we might understand that we are getting two views—looking down (especially if the figure is reclining) and looking out (especially if the ship is in the ocean). The ambiguity abounds.

Photographs: Arakawa at the beach, Japan, ca. mid 1950s

[1] Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, “Percept, Affect, and Concept,” in What is Philosophy?, translated by Hugh Tomlinson and Graham Burchell, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 163-199.

Categories
Newsletter

Distraction Series, 20

Dear Friends,

For Distraction Series 20, we would like to invite you to a virtual experience of Arakawa+Gins’ first built work: Ubiquitous Site, Nagi’s Ryoanji, Architectural Body, one of the three permanent works at the Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art (NagiMOCA) in Okayama Prefecture, Japan.

This museum is the extraordinary outcome of a collaboration between Arata Isozaki, the architect, and the artists, Aiko Miyawaki, Kazuo Okazaki, and Arakawa+Gins, who were commissioned by Isozaki at the very beginning of this endeavor.

It is of course important to experience the space and its effect on the body in person, so please try to think of this virtual tour as preparatory research for your next trip to Japan, or as an introduction to learning more about A+G’s architectural works.

Leading this tour, you will find Momoyo Homma (Director of the Reversible Destiny Foundation and the Arakawa+Gins Tokyo office), along with Arakawa and Madeline.

We leave you with an excerpt from A+G’s statement upon the museum’s opening, as it appears in the museum’s catalogue:

To be prepared for events of one billion years from now, enter here.
“Beginning”, “past”, “future”, “I”, and “you” are all words that have no place in this. They are Superfluous to the process.
Eternity is an ancient and foolish dream or construction. Learning how not to die is, of course, an entirely different matter. Step into Ubiquitous Site, Nagi’s Ryoanji, Heart* to learn how not to die.

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,

Reversible Destiny Foundation and ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo office

*”Heart” was part of the original title when the museum first opened. A+G asked to change it to “Architectural Body”, which the museum did officially in 1997.

Special thanks to NagiMOCA

 

In the Arakawa+Gins Tokyo office’s archive, there are some photos of Madeline and Arakawa at NagiMOCA taken during their trip to Japan to attend the opening ceremony. The museum opened on April 25, 1994.

For media inquiries, the main official image of the “SUN” room (Ubiquitous Site, Nagi’s Ryoanji, Architectural Body) is an interior shot without people. Viewing this image with Arakawa and Madeline sitting on the curved bench, it is easier to understand the scale.

Categories
Newsletter

Distraction Series, 19

For Distraction Series 19, we were inspired to re-examine the friendship between Arakawa, Madeline Gins, and Ray Johnson after seeing Ray Johnson: WHAT A DUMP at David Zwirner’s West 19th Street gallery in New York. Curated by Jarrett Earnest, this thoughtful exhibition brings together a variety of works and materials from the Ray Johnson Estate. If you are in New York and have not yet seen it, you have until May 22nd! In the meantime, we hope you enjoy this selection of items from our archive alongside pieces from the exhibition and the Ray Johnson Estate.

Aside from some personal notes, we find evidence of the trio’s friendship exactly where we would expect to – within Ray Johnson’s mail art, collages, and other ephemera. From bunnies, to comic strips and coloring book pages, to stamps with quotes about mail art, to a page of repeated hand-stamped descriptions of his collage process, both Madeline and Arakawa received a number of very interesting mailings from Johnson’s New York Correspondence School (sometimes with different spellings of correspondence). Madeline was also mailed a photocopy of an article published in a Finnish magazine that featured a letter from Johnson printed in mirrored typed text, making it almost as hard to read as the Finnish surrounding it would have been for Johnson.

Letter from Ray Johnson to Madeline and Arakawa, 1971
Ray Johnson with Arakawa and Madeline Gins at 124 W Houston St., New York. Courtesy of the Ray Johnson Estate
Ray Johnson mailing describing his collages. Sent to Arakawa and Madeline Gins, c.1981
Comic strip from Ray Johnson, 1976
Mailing from Ray Johnson, 1971

As part of his 1976 silhouette project, Ray Johnson traced profiles of both Madeline and Arakawa. Arakawa’s silhouette was one of the first Johnson made and it was included in many collages. Other collages are labelled “For Arakawa” or have “Arakawa” in the title. In some collages, we find visual elements of Arakawa’s paintings. In Untitled (For Arakawa), 1980, Johnson includes the direction, “Please send to…”, in part referring to the instructional aspect of Arakawa’s work. This instruction activates the viewer, making them an integral part of the piece. This activation of the viewer pairs perfectly with Duchamp and his suggestion in The Creative Act, 1957, that the viewer and the artist were equal. “Please send to…” is placed beneath a cutout of Duchamp’s profile from a map, another visual element often employed by Arakawa. Instructions connect Arakawa to Johnson himself as well, when, for example, he teaches us how to draw a bunny. It is fitting then that these collage pieces are pasted on top of an image of Johnson’s own face, mostly covered, and hand, which sports a number of snake rings, allowing for his easy identification. We see this recurring visual element pop up verbally as well, for example, in a postcard from Johnson to Arakawa reading, “one hundred / snakes thanks / again”.

Ray Johnson, Untitled (Madeline Gins), 1976. Pencil on paper, 17 x 14 inches. © The Ray Johnson Estate
Ray Johnson, Untitled (Arakawa), 1976. Pencil on paper, 18 x 12 inches. © The Ray Johnson Estate

While many people associated with the art world were featured in the collages, Arakawa is second only to Warhol in his appearances in Johnson’s work and ephemera. In Untitled (Warhol with Arakawa and Brillo Box), n.d., Warhol and Arakawa’s silhouettes appear together, with Arakawa’s layered overtop of Warhol’s. Other elements expand upon what brings the two artists together. Warhol’s Brillo Box highlights the importance of the everyday object or ready-made for both these artists. On the other hand, the significance of some rather phallic shapes that in one case has been made into a fish or eel through the addition of a cartoonish eye is anyone’s guess. Another collage bears the title “Lake Arakawa,” which could be a play on the Arakawa River, so perhaps this fish-like creature refers back to what would have been a very creative lake.  Loose associations and word play can be found as well in Untitled (BRUNCH), 1979, 1981-1986, 1992. This collage features an image of Shelley Duval drinking a Coca Cola and has a drawing of a seashell (Shell-ey). It also includes Arakawa’s silhouette and a few beginnings of letters, reading in one case, “Dear 8 1/2 inches …”, perhaps referring to Arakawa’s use of measurements within his works. “Dear Albert M. Fine” is written on the vertical axis, bringing another artist into the collage from whom Arakawa also received mail art. Why pair Shelley Duvall and Arakawa? We may never know, but their birthdays happen to be one day apart in July. Or perhaps Arakawa was a member of the Shelley Duval Fan Club, of which Ray Johnson was the creator and president.

Untitled (Warhol with Arakawa and Brillo Box), n.d. Collage on board, 12 x 7 5/8 inches. © The Ray Johnson Estate
Untitled (BRUNCH), 1979, 1981-1986, 1992. Collage on cardboard panel, 7 1/2 x 12 1/2 inches. © The Ray Johnson Estate

Ray Johnson mentions both Arakawa and Madeline in interviews, linking himself to Arakawa in terms of their exclusion from the literature on artist groups with which they were associated if not affiliated. He speaks of Madeline’s book, Word Rain, and says he is still waiting for her translation of Mallarmé’s swan poem, which she was supposed to mail to him. Hopefully she did at some point. Her translations are lovely.

Untitled (For Arakawa), 1980. © The Ray Johnson Estate

Arakawa’s signature can be found on Ray Johnson’s petition to have Geoff Hendricks shave his beard. We have a letter from Hendricks to Arakawa going over the details of a talk Arakawa was to give at Rutgers, so they certainly knew each other. Through Johnson’s correspondence art and his collages, a world of friendship and connections emerges in which Arakawa and Madeline were clearly enmeshed.

Beard Petitions: Geoff Hendricks, n.d. Ink on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 inches. © The Ray Johnson Estate

Another interesting item in our archive that allows us to see the interconnectivity of the New York art world is John Held’s Diary of Correspondence for 1979. In it, he lists letters to and from Ray Johnson, among a vast array of others, and also includes the date he saw Arakawa’s show at Feldman and had tea with Madeline.  

John Held Jr., Diary of Correspondence: 1979. Page six (verso).
Letter from Albert M. Fine to Madeline Gins, 1981
Letter from Albert M. Fine to Madeline Gins, 1981
Letter from Albert M. Fine to Madeline Gins, 1981

We hope you found this look into a long-ago friendship as fascinating as we did.

 

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,

Reversible Destiny Foundation and ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

Mailings from Ray Johnson to Madeline Gins Arakawa, 1969
Mailings from Ray Johnson to Madeline Gins Arakawa, 1969
Stamps from Ray Johnson to Arakawa
Postcard from Ray Johnson to Arakawa, 1975

Special thanks to the Ray Johnson Estate

Categories
Newsletter

Distraction Series, 18

Dear Friends,

For Distraction Series 18, we celebrate the arrival of spring with an invitation to virtually visit the Site of Reversible Destiny—Yoro, located within Yoro Park in the town of Yoro in Gifu Prefecture, Japan. The Site is a monumental landscape designed by Arakawa and Madeline Gins in 1995, with an additional vibrantly colored building, Reversible Destiny Office, completed within it in 1997. It consists of an expansive undulating terrain with a series of pavilions scattered amid various greeneries. This creates a gravity defying illusion and disorients the visitor’s perception of space, leading to a heightened sensitivity that helps them to see the world anew.

Created especially with future visitors in mind, the presenter, Momoyo Homma (Director of Reversible Destiny Foundation and the ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office, who worked closely with Arakawa and Madeline Gins for many years) leads this illuminating tour of the Site’s highlights. The video was directed by Nobu Yamaoka, who has previously brought us an exploration of the artists’ philosophy in his documentary films about them.

This virtual tour is perfect for those who wish to learn more about Yoro Park as well as Arakawa+Gins’s architecture and we hope that it tempts you to plan a visit to the Site of Reversible Destiny in person when the world opens up again in the very near future!



Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and the ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo office

Reversible Destiny Office, Site of Reversible Destiny – Yoro, Gifu Prefecture, Japan

Virtual tour of The Site of Reversible Destiny–Yoro
Presenter: Momoyo Homma
Directed by Nobu Yamaoka (Rtapikcar, Inc.)
Director of photography: Nobu Yamaoka
Drone Shooting: Masayuki Akamatsu, Nobu Yamaoka

Produced by Arakawa+Gins Tokyo Office
Supported by Yoro Park
Special Thanks to Ran Takeuchi, Eriko Sato, Junko Katayama

© 2021 Arakawa+Gins Tokyo Office. All rights reserved.

Categories
Events News

RIBA London: Inclusive Design

ST Luk from the Reversible Destiny Foundation will be presenting on the works of ARAKAWA+GINS at the RIBA London “Inclusive Design” event on March 30th, 2021, as part of the Social Value and Architecture Series.

The free virtual event will be at 5pm to 7pm (London time).

Register at Eventbrite RIBA London: http://bit.ly/ELAG-SocialValue-InclusiveDesign

Categories
Recent Exhibitions

[Move Semantics]: Rules of Unfolding

We are happy to announce the participation of Arakawa + Gins / Reversible Destiny Foundation in the exhibition [Move Semantics]: Rules of Unfolding at the EFA Project Space, a program of the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts. This project is facilitated by Elæ Moss and Jeff Kasper and will be on view from March 27 – May 1, 2021 by appointment. The virtual opening and walkthrough of the exhibition is on Wednesday, March 31 @ 7:30 PM EST. Please register from the link below (yellow highlighted) and also see further information about this show and about many related virtual programs.
 

March 27-May 1, 2021

Wednesday – Saturday 12 pm – 6:00 pm by appointment.

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION


[MS]:RU asks: “what are the BRIGHT FUTURES for the intersectional body?” Furthermore, how must our practices, our institutions, our networks, our spaces, and our infrastructures radically change in order to survive, live together, communicate, and plant (or provide) the seeds to ensure a future beyond the Capitalocene?


On Wednesday, April 21 @ 7:30 PM EST, RDF’s Projects Manager ST Luk will participate in conversation with architect Martin Byrne – “Re/orientation Roundtables Week 4: Sites Chat: Working in and through the built environment, in and beyond the Capitalocene.” ST Luk has worked closely with Madeline Gins during her last project Biotopological Scale-Juggling Escalator (2013) at the Dover Street Market in NYC. Please join and learn about Arakawa + Gins’s philosophy of architectural body and reversible destiny and how it continues to influence and inspire today’s artists, architects, designers, and many creators from across the fields.

Categories
Newsletter

Distraction Series, 17

Dear Friends,

A few months ago, Reversible Destiny Foundation’s project archivist Kathryn Dennett came across a folder labeled, “Man Repellent Archive.” Kathryn was “instantly intrigued. Inside there were sticker labels and invoice forms from perfume bottle companies. What was this mysterious perfume? Why would Madeline be developing a ‘man repellent’ that ‘works paradoxically?’ And what does ‘working paradoxically’ even mean?”

For Distraction Series 17, we present to you snapshots of the Man Repellent, a perfume project developed by Madeline Gins around 2011, as well as excerpts from a recorded conversation with Aviva Silverman, Madeline’s former assistant and main collaborator on the project.

The Man Repellent was a perfume, originally meant to be part of a line of “repellents” including “woman” and “baby” versions, that would “paradoxically” attract the supposedly repelled category to the wearer.  The “man” version was the only one ever designed. The process unfolded over the course of 4 or 5 months, the logo design developing from an antique cameo to the final collage of various athletic balls.

Conceived of originally as a product to be sold in museum stores, it was never put into production, but the project illustrates the collaborative and iterative nature of Madeline’s creative process, particularly in the years after Arakawa’s death. The project was one of many ideas that arose from group conversations, often prompted by a problem Madeline was trying to solve. For instance, how to fix the lack of sunlight in Finland.

We hope you enjoy the images of this project and are attracted to it as much as we are.
 

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and the ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo office

Sketch rendering of sticker for Man Repellent, 2011
Sketch rendering of sticker for Man Repellent, 2011
Early sketch renderings for Man Repellent, 2011
Early sketch rendering for Man Repellent, 2011
Sketch rendering and notes for Man Repellent, 2011
Sketch rendering for Man Repellent, 2011
Poster for Man Repellent, 2011
Categories
Newsletter

Distraction Series, 16

Dear Friends,

As a part of a series in which we focus on archival materials revealing “friends of Arakawa and Gins” (tentative title), we are happy to share with you, in Distraction Series 16, a glimpse into the friendship between Arakawa and the animation film director Hayao Miyazaki.

Miyazaki perhaps needs no introduction even to those who are not so keen on animated movies. Just think of the global hits like My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and Spirited Away (2001). However, his friendship with Arakawa is not widely known. They developed kinship after Miyazaki visited the Site of Reversible Destiny—Yoro around late 1997 or early 1998. Thanks to this encounter, they began to appear together in public talk programs and they also frequently visited each other’s office to have private discussions. On many occasions, they became so engaged in their conversation that they both had to cancel their other appointments to continue talking. Seeing them converse with such enthusiasm was like watching two imaginative kids planning their ideal secret fort in their own world.

Hayao Miyazaki at Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka

There is an article from 1998 in a Japanese monthly magazine Gekkan Adovataizingu [Monthly advertising] that captures their passionate dialogue, particularly about architecture:

Miyazaki: Your concept of a city is fascinating. It turns everything about modern architecture on its head. …The moment I saw this plan of yours [Sensorium City, Tokyo Bay], I thought that, if this plan is realized, it will prove that Japan is thinking seriously about the future, towards the 21st century. So, I really want to make it happen.

Arakawa: You are the architect. (laugh) …Creating a landscape and buildings, which people can inhabit. But that in itself is still far away from architecture. “Architecture” is to create new life. You see, in your films, so many things happen. Those happenings create life. In truth, you are already creating life.*

Arakawa + Gins, Sensorium City, Tokyo Bay, city plan proposal, digital rendering, 1998

Ultimately, in 2001, Studio Ghibli, Inc. realized Miyazaki’s vision as the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo—a place where every visitor can enjoy and experience at their own pace using their whole body and spectrum of senses; in order to be true to this motto, since the museum first opened its doors, admission has been by reservation only.
 
And four years later, Arakawa, together with Madeline Gins, realized their Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka—In Memory of Helen Keller, a visionary architectural work that was a long time in the making. Its core concept is “architecture that prioritizes the body” and is a proposal for “architecture against death.” It is an actual residential building currently being inhabited but is also accessible to visitors through guided tours. 
 
Mitaka, a small corner in the megacity Tokyo, connects Arakawa and Miyazaki through these two buildings that embody their philosophies. It is a curious destiny. Because of their proximity to each other, there is a constant flow of visitors—the general public, scholars, and educators—from all around the world to these two buildings. And the visions and hopes of Arakawa and Miyazaki for the future generations are being transmitted at a ground level.

Ghibli Museum, photograph of exterior, © Museo d'Arte Ghibli
Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka—In Memory of Helen Keller, exterior walkway, photograph by Ken Kato, 2016

These two buildings share some unique qualities: a mere look at their exteriors will excite you; then, as soon as you step inside, they will fill you with joy and cause you to smile; and they will energize you. Such seemingly simple changes in our state of being are truly difficult to achieve. What is revived by these changes are the sense of awe toward nature, the childlike sense of wonder, and the awareness that we owe our life to the Earth. The friendship between Arakawa and Miyazaki was formed because they both believed that these are important qualities and changes in our state of being. Today, these changes are most crucial to pursue and to pass on to the future generations.

Mr. Miyazaki continues to create his animations.
We wonder what Arakawa is creating today.

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
The ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office and Reversible Destiny Foundation

[Text by Momoyo Homma]

Special thanks to Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli, Inc.

Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka—In Memory of Helen Keller, entrance, photograph by Ken Kato, 2016
Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka—In Memory of Helen Keller, exterior walkway, photograph by Ken Kato, 2016
Ghibli Museum, photograph of exterior, © Museo d'Arte Ghibli
Hayao Miyazaki and Arakawa at the Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka—In Memory of Helen Keller, rooftop, photograph by Momoyo Homma, 2005

Top image: Hayao Miyazaki and Arakawa at the Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka—In Memory of Helen Keller, photograph by Momoyo Homma, 2005

Follow us on instagram for more content: @reversibledestinyfoundation

Categories
News Recent Exhibitions

Multiples, Inc.: 1965–1992

Arakawa, Landscape (mistake), 1970

Arakawa’s prints from the late 1960s to the 1970s and published by Multiples, Inc. are now on view at this historical exhibition Multiples, Inc.: 1965–1992 curated by Dieter Schwarz at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York. Founded in 1965 in New York by Marian Goodman, Multiples, Inc. published seminal editions with some of the most important artists of the 20th century over a period of almost three decades between 1966 and 1992. The exhibition gathers for the first time a selection of over 150 editions published by Multiples, Inc. in collaboration with over 70 artists.

 

Multiples, Inc.: 1965–1992

Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

Jan 12 – Feb 27, 2021

 

For more information, visit https://www.mariangoodman.com/exhibitions/multiples-new-york/ for the press release, the list of works, and to explore their online viewing room.

Categories
Newsletter

Distraction Series, 15

Dear Friends,

For Distraction Series 15 we share with you words from a close friend of Madeline and Arakawa, poet – Don Byrd:

Madeline and Arakawa were the most generous of artists, forever looking for co-conspirators.

I would get phone calls from Madeline. “Hi, are you well enough to talk? How are we not going to not to die?”  To Not To Die, as in the title of one of their most important books.

Sometimes I got packages of texts from them. They were signals to expect a call. Sometimes she would put me on hold to talk to Arakawa about what I was saying.

They were in touch with many others. When they wanted to follow an idea, Madeline would call people out of the blue, promise to send their books, and hit them with questions.

We can now see that their collaborative work from the Mechanism of Meaning to the last architectural work is of a piece. It is not an aesthetic or theoretical whole; it is an incomplete and incompletable project, not a work of art but a work of life, inevitably cut short.

Madeline and Arakawa were masters. They filled their vision not with concepts or images but with viable procedures. Their paintings, writings, and buildings require our moving attentions and moving bodies. What the works make possible, not the works themselves, is what is important. The work deals with our tentative and untenable condition. We might fall over.

It is about what is to be done now.  “Are you well enough to talk?”

I liked getting the phone calls. They were the real thing. But it was hard to enter the collaboration. They had been together forty years. It required you to think about the hardest things, whilst on your tippy-toes, and the whole Earth trying to knock you over.

After an hour I would be exhausted.

On January 8, 2015, some friends of Madeline’s met at Pascalou restaurant on Madison Avenue in New York to remember the immense energy that she had often loaned us. It was a warm meeting on a cold night, and we decided to meet annually. This year, the year when almost everything is called off, the call to the dinner did not come.

I found myself wondering what Madeline and Arakawa would have said about COVID-19. They would have worn their masks and rigorously observed the distances, probably almost to the point of disappearance. Madeline would have been outraged, Arakawa would have been stoic. Madeline would have been on the phone, as she always was. It would have been consistent for them to say, “Human history is an endless pandemic. Everyone has died.”

How do we pick up from where they left off? There is much to be done. We should remember in the midst of everything, they were playful.

Play Ball!

– Don Byrd

We look forward to the year ahead!

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and the ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

Categories
Newsletter

Distraction Series, 14

Dear Friends,
 
For Distraction Series 14 we share with you a handful of mail from Arakawa and Madeline Gins’s archives to remind us of the significant role our postal service has in our larger architectural body. Arakawa and Madeline were embedded in a vibrant community of friends from all over the world and their correspondence reveals what a unique and playful relationship they had with many of those around them.

In their book Making Dying Illegal (2006) and Arakawa’s painting Who Is It? No.2 (1970) we see examples of how this intimate letter format is used in their work. As Madeline would say, “Reversible Destiny will be achieved communally or it will not be achieved at all.”

We have selected a small number of letters and cards primarily from the 1960’s and 1970’s to share with you today, including ones from A+G’s friends such as Kate Millett, Ray Johnson, their physical therapist, and a 12-year-old named Martine Rubin. As many of us prepare for the holiday season ahead and begin writing cards to family, friends and loved ones, hopefully something here might inspire you.

Love,
RRRRReversible Destiny Foundation and the ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

P.S. If you have received any mail from Arakawa and/or Madeline Gins in the past, please do share them with us. We would love to hear from you!