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Ambiguous Zones, 9

Dear Friends,

For Ambiguous Zones 9, we travel to the Japan Pavilion at the 35th Venice Biennale that took place in 1970. Marking the first time the inner gallery was reserved for a single artist, art critic Yoshiaki Tono, the commissioner of the Japan Pavilion, chose Arakawa for that year.  Several canvases were exhibited from Arakawa’s large-scale project, The Mechanism of Meaning, which began in 1963 and was still in progress at the time.  Developed alongside Madeline Gins, this series of panels rigorously interrogated perception, the process of receiving, organizing, and interpreting information using our senses, in this case mainly sight. These works were accompanied by related drawings and diagrammatic paintings from the 1960s that turned the show into a retrospective of Arakawa’s work over the previous decade.

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,

Reversible Destiny Foundation and the ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

Floor plan sketch of the Japan Pavilion at the 35th Venice Biennale by Yoshiaki Tono, included in a letter from Tono to Arakawa delivered to New York on January 21st, 1970. From the archive of ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office. This sketch was recently published in Benechia biennare to nihon (Japan at the Venice Biennale: 1952–2022), (Tokyo: Japan Foundation; Heinonsha, 2022), p. 222.

The 35th Venice Biennale took place in 1970 in the shadow of the student protests of 1968. To address what Yoshiaki Tono, the commissioner for the Japan Pavilion in 1970, saw as problematic with the exhibition’s national framework, he decided to choose an artist, Arakawa, who reflected what he felt could be a common theme for the Biennale as a whole—the practice of conceptual art.[1] This was the first time that the inner gallery of the Japan Pavilion had been dedicated to a singular artist, though a sculpture by Mono-ha artist Nobuo Sekine was included outside.

The focus of the show was several large panels from The Mechanism of Meaning, a project that was still in progress, began in 1963 with Arakawa’s partner, Madeline Gins. This was the first time that The Mechanism of Meaning was shown, with Arakawa and Gins completing the project for its first publication in 1971.

Installation view of the Japan Pavilion at the 35th Venice Biennale, 1970. Photo: Yoshiaki Tono

Drawings and canvases from the 1960s rounded out the gallery, creating a retrospective of Arakawa’s work from that decade. Like The Mechanism of Meaning, these works explored the process of meaning-making through language, and the different stages of (mainly visual) perception—stimulation, observation, interpretation—occurring at both the preconscious and conscious levels.

The Biennale catalogue entry was written by Greek-American poet and art critic Nicolas Calas, who used the allotted space to explore in brief Arakawa’s use of signs in a strange context to make the viewer question what their next “visual move” should be.[2] Calas suggested that offering simple instructions when the “visual structure of the reference is unexpected” served to widen the rift “between what you see and what you know.”[3]

In an article for the New York Times, Frederic Tuten discussed the boycott of the American Pavilion by “more than half of the 47 American artists”, who withdrew their works “in protest against the war in Vietnam and Cambodia.”[4] Naming Richard Smith and Arakawa as the only two artists pursuing more traditional art “worth discussing,” he goes on to offer these considerations of Arakawa’s work:

Arakawa’s series of 13 paintings bear images and text—words and sentences posed as instructions to the viewer—which if taken literally would blur or modify the viewer’s reading of the images and which also serve as visual structures in the painting. The work seems superficially formal and frigid but it decidedly carries great reserves of intelligence and personality.[5]

As at the 34th Biennale in 1968, where artists protested war, unfair working conditions, and uneven power structures in part by removing their works from display by turning them to face the wall or covering them up, American artists also made a political statement at the 35th Biennale by pulling their work altogether. The power of the artist is distilled into this simple act of withholding work so that it cannot be seen, making both its display and lack of display a political act as well as a social one. Arakawa’s work may not seem overly political at first glance, but in the context of the 35th Venice Biennale, following the upheaval of the 34th, it becomes evident that Arakawa and Gins’s exploration of visual perception, as well as the very act itself, straddles both the political and social realms. 

We hope you enjoy these photographs of Arakawa’s work at the Japan Pavilion at the 35th Venice Biennale!

[1] Ignacio Adriasola, “Japan’s Venice: The Japanese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale and the ‘Pseudo-Objectivity’ of the International,” Archives of Asian Art 67, no. 2 (2017): 223.

[2] Nicolas Calas, “Shusaku Arakawa,” in 35. Biennale internazionale d’arte: 24 giugno-25 ottobre 1970 (Venezia: La Biennale di Venezia, 1970), 46.

[3] Ibid., 47.

[4] Frederic Tuten, “Soggy Day in Venice Town,” New York Times, July 12, 1970, sec. Archives.

[5] Ibid.

Top image: Arakawa at a café in Piazza San Marco, Venice, most likely 1970, on Polaroid paper stock dated to 1969. The café in question is most likely Caffè Lavena.

Newsletter Programs

Ambiguous Zones, 8

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

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


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.


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.


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


Early Models and Installations

In The Mechanism of Meaning, Arakawa and Madeline Gins employed the philosophy of language to investigate the relationship between words and signs and identify paradoxes of meaning. Drawing on these findings, they engaged all the senses as part of their research project that lead to their inquiry into three dimensional spaces and eventually permanent structures. Arakawa and Gins explored these ideas through drawings, models, and installations to develop their theory and then application of ‘procedural architecture.’ 

In the exhibition Building Sensoriums 1973-1990 at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, New York, Arakawa and Gins showed for the first time their ideas for learning through the experience of architecture. As part of the exhibition, the installation Stuttering God 1988-90 required the viewer to move through a labyrinth in total darkness encountering different textures and forms and the occasional sliver of light to suggest the existence of alternate spaces. They described the work as a ‘landing site,’ “a kind of destination where the self is constantly reborn.” Also included in the exhibition was the 42 foot long model The Process in Question/Bridge of Reversible Destiny 1973-1989. Developed in 1987 as a 140-meter bridge over the Moselle in Epinal, France, the proposed structure consisted of 21 sections that each offered different spatial experiences. Realized in the form of a number of different models and drawings, Arakawa and Gins explored the possibility of the bridge as the site for a number of transformative rites of passage.

These experimental works provided the basis of what became known as ‘procedural architecture’ as detailed in Architectural Body (University of Alabama Press, 2002). In this book, Arakawa and Gins questioned “the attitude of pursuing comfort blindly,” and suggested that the built environment should constantly challenge and surprise our senses. Through the adoption and application of ‘procedural architecture,’ we are invited to question everything around us, even mortality itself.

AG conferences Research

AG3 Online: The Third International Arakawa and Gins: Philosophy and Architecture Conference

** AG3 Online was hosted by Griffith University’s Centre for Public Culture and Ideas. This site is an archival reconstruction using the original data provided by and with the permission of the then-Centre Director, Professor Andy Bennett. [The Centre for Public Culture and Ideas (CPCI) was renamed the Centre for Cultural Research (CCR) in 2008 and is now the Griffith Centre for Social and Cultural Reseasrch (GCSCR 2016-)]. The web design has been lost along with the texts from the live-chat sessions and the asynchronous forums. However, in future, the papers originally posted on AG3 Online will become available and a selection of papers from the conference has been published in Inflexions journal #6 (2012).

AG3: Conference Objectives

An architectural surround that is procedural, a tactically posed surround, fills an organism that persons with questions by enabling it to move within and between its own modes of sensing. (Gins and Arakawa, 2002: 58)

AG3, the first on-line Arakawa and Gins conference, will continue to explore the practical approaches and research perspectives presented by Arakawa and Gins’ writing and procedural architecture. The First International Arakawa and Gins: Architecture and Philosophy conference was hosted by University of Paris X, Nanterre and (organized by Jean–Jacques Lecercle and Francois Kral in 2005) and the second, hosted by the University of Pennsylvania and the Slought Foundation in Philadelphia (organized by Aaron Levy and Jean-Michel Rabaté 2008) brought together scholars and practitioners excited by the embodied solutions Arakawa and Gins bring to the issues facing the 21st century: health, ageing, sustainability and the relationship between the organism and the environment. This conference will foreground research that enacts the connections between Arakawa and Gins’ project and disciplinary research in addition to articulating the relation between interdisciplinary collaborations and actual or envisioned projects in community housing, age care, health and daily research. This approach to collective productivity is what Arakawa and Gins call ‘daily research’.

Not a series of actions taken on this scale of action or that but the coordinating of several scales of action makes a person able to construct a world. (Gins and Arakawa, 2002: 63)

AG3 conference aims to develop the multi-disciplinary engagements that begin to implement new connections across the organism-person-surround necessary for life on new terms. The conference committee encourages scholars, researchers, creative practitioners and industry professionals to discuss their current Arakawa and Gins inspired projects in relation to larger issues of community, creativity, environment, sustainability and leadership. The decision to hold the conference events online speaks to the ecological impact of travel and consumption that international conferences require. While interaction online is not the same as face-to-face dialogue, it does permit a greater access to the proceedings and a greater choice when participating in the conference events and forums. Perhaps the next conference will travel to the built-environments devised by Arakawa and Gins to highlight more the need to balance the potential opened by AG project with first-person experience and perceptual learning.

Co-Organizers: Jondi Keane and Martin E. Rosenberg.
Conference Committee: Trish Glazebrook, Russell Hughes and Bobby George.

Inflexions journal #6 : Arakawa + Gins (2012)

The papers originally posted on AG3 Online will become available and a selection of papers from the conference has been published in Inflexions journal #6 (2012).


AG3 Online: Conference Events: March 12 to March 26, 2010.

>> AG3 Online conference program structure

AG3 Conference: Closing Celebrations: April 29, May 1st and May 2nd, 2010.

  • “A Celebration of Arakawa and Gins”– Barnard College (April 29)
    Concluding celebration of the two-week digital academic conference AG3-Online: The Third International Arakawa and Gins: Architecture and Philosophy Conference, held at Barnard College on April 29, 2010.
    On the first day, a group of scholars and practitioners convened at Barnard College Madeline Gins’ alma mater []. The occasion was presided over by Serge Gavronsky, with Martin Rosenberg and Jondi Keane as masters of ceremonies introducing the scholarly papers by Trish Glazebrook, Reuben and Joan Baron and Gordon Bearn followed by numerous performative pieces by George Quasha, Charles Bernstein, Ilse Pfiefer, Daria Fain and Melissa Smedley.
  • Symposium at the Solomon Guggenheim Museum multimedia theater, NY (May 1, 2010, 1-5pm.)
    a distinguished dais that included Alexandra Munroe and featured scholar and artists: Mary Ann Caws (CUNY), Don Ihde (SUNY Stonybrook), Gregory Lambert (Director, Syracuse Humanities Center), David Kolb (Bates C.), Stanley Shostak (U. Pittsburgh), Erin Manning (Concordia U.), Brian Massumi (U. Montreal), Mackenzie Wark (The New School), Don Byrd (SUNY Albany), artist/theorist Jondi Keane (Griffith U.), and science studies scholar Martin E. Rosenberg (Independent) and , of course, Madeline Gins.
  • A bus trip of 40 AG3 delegates to the Bioscleave House in East Hampton Long Island, NY (May 2, 2010)
    These NY events coincided with two major exhibitions in Japan.
    The National Museum of Art in Osaka, exhibited Arakawa’s early “coffin” works from April to June 2010. The Kyoto Institute of Technology held an Arakawa and Gins exhibition was held from May until June 2010.

Archive Materials of AG3 Online

The structure of the online conference consisted of recorded introductions, keynotes video, a welcome by Madeline and extra videos by RMIT architecture students and Momoyo Homma. There were 5 conference keynotes that addressed a range of ideas, practices and issues raised by AG. There were also 7 conference streams with an invited presenter for each Stream.

All the video presenters were introduced by members of the conference team. After each keynote video there was alive chat (2 hours) followed by an asynchronous forum, which continued throughout the duration of the conference.

An online creative exhibition was curated by Alan Prohn, Bill Lavender and Jason Nelson and face-to-face closing events were held at Barnard and the Guggenheim.

Jondi Keane : AG3 Introduction and overview of Arakawa and Gins

Madeline Gins : Welcome

Architectural Fly through- RMIT students
Site of Reversible Destiny, Yoro-Park

Bioscleave House

Trailer “Children who won’t die – Arakawa”


Erin Manning : The Dance of Attention 


 In a recent paper entitled Choreography as Mobile Architecture, I explore the vibratory field of cues and alignments as they create spacetimes for movement in William Forsythe’s choreography One Flat Thing, Reproduced (as documented on the synchronous objects website, What fascinates me about the idea of cues and alignments is how they activate a field of relation rather than starting or stopping at one particular human body. Often the idea of cue is used to denote a starting point for a movement, and the notion of alignment an effect of the cue-as-cause. What I attempt to demonstrate in Choreography as Mobile Architecture is that in fact the cue-alignment assemblage is an enabling constraint for the movement of the interval of dance itself. A body’s cue never lands strictly on a body’s alignment. What is danced is the in-between of the cueing itself as it aligns on the dance as a whole. What emerges is an intensive diagram – a mobile architecture – that in turn dances the bodies of the dancers. Not body initiating, but body relating. This is what I call a dance of attention: not the attentiveness of a particular body to the cue/alignment, but the attentiveness of the mobile architecture as it constructs a performance in the making. A more-than-human intervention into the spacetime of human bodies. For the Making of a Theory conference, I would like to delve deeper into the idea of the dance of attention, exploring the constraints that allow for the emergence of such mobile architectures. In the second part of the Choreography as Mobile Architecture paper, I explore how relational environments for participatory interaction open the dance of attention to different kind of dynamics (as opposed to the more stable dynamics of a rehearsed choreography). In this paper, I will explore how the architecture of Arakawa and Gins itself proposes dances of attention, and delve into the idea that these dances of attention in turn propose articulations for a politics of performance.

Erin Manning holds a University Research Chair in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Concordia University (Montreal, Canada). She is also the director of the Sense Lab (, a laboratory that explores the intersections between art practice and philosophy through the matrix of the sensing body in movement. In her art practice she works between painting, fabric and sculpture ( Her current project entitled Folds to Infinity is an experimental fabric collection composed of cuts that connect in an infinity of ways, folding in to create clothing and out to create environmental architectures. The next phase of this project will explore the resonance between electromagnetic fields and movement through the activation of the existent magnets in Folds to Infinity. Her writing addresses the senses, philosophy and politics, articulating the relation between experience, thought and politics in a transdisciplinary framework moving between dance and new technology, the political and micropolitics of sensation, performance art, and the current convergence of cinema, animation and new media. Publications include Relationscapes: Movement, Art, Philosophy (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2009), Politics of Touch: Sense, Movement, Sovereignty (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2007) and Ephemeral Territories:  Representing Nation, Home and Identity in Canada (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2003).

Related Article: Dance of Attention by Erin Manning, Concordia University

Fumi Tsukahara : Trajectory of Arakawa and Possibility of the avant-garde in the early 21st century


Arakawa’s trajectory from the “Coffin” series and the “Diagram” paintings (1960s) to the recent architectural works, “Reversible Destiny Lofts” (Japan, 2005) and “Biosleave House” (USA, 2008) suggests a certain possibility of the Avant-garde in this early 21st century art scene. Almost a century ago in Zurich during the Great War, Tristan Tzara created Dada movement with these declarations: “Dada est notre intensite”(1916), “Dada ne signifie rien”(1918). The “intensity” and the “meaninglessness” of Tzara was simultaneously accepted by Marcel Duchamp whose “Ready-made” was nothing but the expression of these notions. After several decades, Arakawa reconfirmed this attitude of “intensity” and “meaninglessness” by presenting to the public of the consumer society his “Coffins” and “Diagrams”, and publishing his monumental book with Madeline Gins, “The Mechanism of Meaning” (1971). Now, at the dawn of the new century, we are going to verify the true meaning of “intensity” and “meaninglessness” that Arakawa has inherited from Dada and has developed beyond Dada.

Fumi Tsukahara is a Professor of Cultural Studies and Contemporary social thought at Waseda University, Tokyo. He was born in Tokyo, Japan and studied Dada and Surrealism (Tzara, Breton, Arakawa, etc.) in Europe and Japan at the University of Kyoto where he completed his MA degree and completed his PhD at the University of Paris 3. His numerous publications include: “La tragectoire merveilleuse de Shusaku Arakawa” (2009), “AEsthetics of Revolt”(2008), “Age of Dada and Surrealism” (2003). He has co-authored “Dada circuit total” and “L’Age d’Homme” (2005) and translated Jean Baudrillard’s works “The Consumer Society” and “The Symbolic Exchange and the Death”.

Related Article: Trajectory of ARAKAWA Shusaku: From Kan-Oké (Coffin) to the Reversible Destiny Lofts by Fumi Tsukahara, Waseda University, Tokyo

Tom Conley : A Peace of Space Gins/Arakawa


Inaugurating Ecrire l’espace (2002), the late and regretted Marie-Claire Ropars-Wuilleumier reads the title of Benjamin Perec’s Espèces d’espace with uncommon grace and tact: the poet’s inflexion of espace, following its qualifier espèces, with patience and with a keen eye and ear, can be read and heard as a site of tentative repose. Es, or “in” is cued from the first instance of the title, that is also an expression of doubt or wonder—est-ce—at the same time it is what we hear when we read the letter S. S is what caps the title, in espa –ce. Is this not what it is, “[n’] est-ce pas ce?” or S—pe—S d’ S—pa—S? The gloss shows that in the passage from espèce to espace in each of the middle syllables of the substantives two inner spaces are opened. Each recalls a kind of peace, a paix (in French in espèces) and a pa(x) (in Latin, where in elision a half-voiced x marks the spot) where we imagine a tomb of calm over which might be figured requiem in pace. Through Perec Ropars finds a peace of space.

The title and its tourniquet can serve as an epigraph to this study of Madeleine Gins and Arakawa’s work on what it is to invent space. An Architectural Body and other works take what geographers and urbanists have called “the spatial turn” in unforeseen directions. First (1), for sake of explication, how, why, and along what vectors: what have “landing sites,” the “bioscleave,” the “tentative” and “pliable” modes of architecture, the “coordinating skill of walking or strolling,” or the “newborn organism-person-environment an Atlas shouldering the world in its entirety,” or their emblem of the snail (drawn from Francis Ponge) have to do with the spatial twists and turns we follow in the prodigious domain (perhaps now in crepuscule) of theory that for two or three decades has run alongside and in synchrony with experiments made with the raw materials of objects and language?

For this reader and spectator, four areas mark where Gins and Arakawa move with and about theory. First (1), they enact, perform and materialize what (for want of a more specific term) Christian Jacob and others have called mental mapping, an invention of space made through an ever-ongoing psychogenesis. He or she who “persons” (the neologism is theirs) an environment goes forward and retreats, and forward again, always tentatively, in such a way to discern distinctions of here from and there. Arakawa and Gins perform the very process of “here-ing” and “there-ing”, that linguists often describe as the taking of “subject-positions” and acts deploying “deictic” agents. The mental mapping that the reader finds in their work on landing sites develops, second (2) into what historians of religion, in their work on the art of everyday life, call récits d’espace. They are modes of living and vectoring to which anyone and everyone is availed, and they bear (3) on the construction of events, that which seems vital to Arakawa and Gins’ work. In the strong philosophical and aesthetic sense events are “nexuses of prehension,” processes by which an organism that is “personing” becomes aware of the simultaneous subjectivation and objectivation of sensorial matter. The event is at the very basis of their creations, and it is exactly, by way of Leibniz and Whitehead, what Gilles Deleuze discerns in the inner pages of Le Pli [The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque], a work on aesthetics and sensation in the modern age. It appears (4) that from this point of view the heritage of Gins and Arakawa’s inventions of events is deep and long. It is concealed in their axial figure of the escargot, the snail that has long been known to be a tactile eye, indeed the totem of the experience of an event. Reflecting on the snail in its shape and form in early modern writing on the mapping of things here and things there—on the distinction of topography and geography—we can, always tentatively to be sure, find where Gins and Arakawa establish a piece of space, along a line of divide between of what is here and what is there, that reaches back to the age of discovery, the threshold of our own moment.

Tom Conley is the Abbot Lawrence Lowell Professor of Romance Languages and Literature and Chair of Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard University. He is the author of An Errant Eye (forthcoming), a sequel to The Self-Made Map: Cartographic Writing in Early Modern France in which Prof Conley studies the relation of images to writing in literature, theory and cinema. He is also the translator of works by Marc Augé, Michel de Certeau, Gilles Deleuze, Jean Louis Schefer and others and is currently a member of the Departments of Romance Languages and Visual & Environmental Studies at Harvard University. 

Related Article: A Snailspace by Tom Conley, Harvard University, USA

McKenzie Wark & Don ByrdThe Bioscleave Tapes


This videotaped pas de deux will touch upon a series on themes such as: not dying as a test of seriousness; that not dying is the theme, not the practice, of most art; walking on the knobby floor of Bioscleave is practicing for the walk of agedness; and talking obsessively about everything as an art of not dying.

Don Byrd— Professor of English at the State University of New York at Albany— is a poet, sound artist, and Professor of English at the State University of New York at Albany. His theoretical work deals with philosophy, literary analysis and information theory in the books Charles Olson’s Maximus (1980), The Poetics of the Common Knowledge (1994) and the forthcoming Abstraction (n.d.). His books of poetry include Aesop’s Garden (1976) and The Great Dimestore Centennial (1987). He was the founder of The Little Magazine.

Related Article: What Arakawa Did by Don Byrd, State University of New York at Albany, USA

McKenzie Wark—  Associate Professor of Cultural and Media Studies at Eugene Lang College and The New School for Social Research— is Associate Professor of Cultural and Media Studies at Eugene Lang College and The New School for Social Research. He is the author of several books including: Dispositions (2002), A Hacker Manifesto (2004, 2006), Gamer Theory (2007), 50 Years of Recuperation of the Situationist international (2008). He was a co-editor of the Nettime anthology Readme and, with Brad Miller, co-produced the multimedia work Planet of Noise. He lives and works in New York.

Related Article: Approximately Arawakawa and Gins by McKenzie Wark

Shaun Gallagher :  The body’s architecture


This presentation begins with a critical examination of David Freedberg and Vittorio Gallese’s (2007) theory that the experience of art involves a form of simulation involving the activation of canonical or mirror neurons. I suggest that there are three problems with this view and I propose an alternative view based on the enactive theory of perception and social perception. I offer some evidence from eye tracking studies and suggest a further experiment. Finally, I apply this enactive view to architecture with reference to the work of Arakawa and Gins. I conclude: (1) In contrast to Freedberg and Gallese, our reactions to images and artistic representations of actions and objects are not of the same order as our reactions to real actions and objects; (2) Artistic/aesthetic experiences offer affordances that short circuit our ordinary engagements, and make us aware of possibilities not realizable in current or established frameworks; and (3) Architecture (ala Arakawa and Gins) short circuits the distinction between the realizable and the unrealizable – it transitions between the ready-to-hand (the experiential) and the present-at-hand (the conceptual), and in doing so is revelatory of our possibilities.

Shaun Gallagher is Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Sciences and Senior Researcher at the Institute of Simulation and Training, at the University of Central Florida (USA). He also holds a position as Research Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science at the University of Hertfordshire (UK). He is currently a visiting researcher at the Centre de Recherche en Epistémelogie Appliquée (CREA), Paris, and has been Visiting Professor at the Ecole Normale Supériure, Lyon, the University of Copenhagen and Visiting Scientist at the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge. His research is focused on embodied cognition and intersubjectivity. His recent books include How the Body Shapes the Mind (OUP 2005), Brainstorming (Imprint Academic 2008), and with Dan Zahavi, The Phenomenological Mind (Routledge 2008). He is also the author of The Inordinance of Time (Northwestern 1998) and Hermeneutics and Education (SUNY 1992). He is co-editor of the journal Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, and is currently editing the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of the Self.


Art and Architecture – History, Theory and Practice


Since Arakawa and Gins may be considered first major visionary architects since Buckminster Fuller, much work needs to be done to understand the relationship between their notion of architecture as hypothesis, and the array of “architectural procedures” that have been elucidated in their writings.  To what extent has Western architecture been grounded by a philosophy of comfort, and to what extent does the work of Arakawa and Gins not only deconstruct the assumptions of that philosophy, but delineate a new philosophy?  Now there have been interesting critiques of their work from within the architectural community as early as the 1997 Guggenheim Retrospective and subsequent volume We Have Decided Not To Die,  as represented by Ed Keller, Johannes Knesl, Greg Lynn and Jesse Reiser.  But researchers need to situate with rigor the theories and actualized designs of Arakawa and Gins in terms of past and future architectural practices.  What are the heuristic goals of their architectural procedures such as the “bioscleave fructifying procedure,” the “biotopological open code procedure,” or the “borrowed proprioception procedure.”  What might these procedures have to do with the role of architecture in motivating evolutionary processes within the users of that architecture?  What function do “biotopological reports” serve for those users reflecting on their embodied cognition in the worlds created by Arakawa and Gins?

Pia Ednie-Brown : Open Wide, Come Inside: laughter, composure and architectural play.

My video presentation, which I am aiming to land somewhere between a lecture, an intimate confessional, and the pre-school TV show, Play School, is concerned with the way in which Arakawa and Gins have generated an evolving open system, and the mechanisms through which that system elusively hold together despite radical internal disparity. I suggest that this openness is sustained through simultaneously resisting coming to rest or finding explanatory closure, while maintaining a firm grasp on an elusive quality of connection. Turbulence, vitality and incongruity enter co-created loopiness, openly snowballing into a perpetual motion machine. Their buildings are an integral part of this machine, but their architecture is that machine.

But its not really a machine, it’s an organism-person-environment dynamic – a three part cleavage that plaits infinite strands of hairy connection into an open loop. What most arouses my interest, is the performative, transversal nature of their compositional glue – or in other words, what holds this dynamic together, and keeps it rolling. This I try to personify in terms of the architecture of shared laughter. The act of laughing together becomes an affective diagram and embodiment of their notion of bioscleave.

These characteristics of Arakawa and Gins make them exemplary cases of what I describe as ‘ethico-aesthetic know-how’ – or the art of emergence, which at best is a capacity to resonate in a heightened awareness of affectivity amidst all our organism-person-environment engagements. Here, we find a compositional coherence that is dynamically behavioural, something that might be found, say, in the complex of feelings that animate a face into a smile, rather than in the formal arrangement of a smiling face.  And from there the question becomes, what can this teach about composing buildings that can laugh along with us?

Life Sciences and Medicine

INTRODUCTION: Trish Glazebrook

The commitment that Arakawa and Gins show by articulating both philosophy of architecture and actual architectural practices with respect to “reversing destiny,” reveals a growing and sophisticated understanding of larger social and ecological concerns over human habitation and quality of life for all living entities on the planet. Questions of health and longevity raised by saying “we have decided not to die,” and “making dying illegal,” really address not only the ways in which their architecture forces embodied cognitive processes to navigate their purposefully difficult terrains, but also the fate of human life on a planet undergoing enormous human-originating stresses, and the prayer for a reversal of destiny. For example, the questions of toxins and the purification of the environment become raised by insisting on the interdependence of humans and their habitat through posing the hybridization of humans and their “surrounds” as “architectural bodies.” Questions addressing sustainability, their commitment to life-affirming urban design through numerous “architectural procedures,” the role that these “procedures” may have in “accelerating evolution,” as well as the role of these architectural procedures in enabling optimum neuro-biologial functioning, posing a deep relationship between the rigors of constantly recalibrating balance and the aging process, have all been raised by recent scholars addressing the work of Arakawa and Gins.

Reuben Baron :  Wayfinding through Landing Sites and Architectural Bodies

Reuben M. Baron is a Senior Research Scientist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Connecticut.  He is the founder of the field of ecological social psychology, a domain which involves applying the theory and research of the perceptual-experimental psychologist, J. J. Gibson to problems in social knowing including the differentiation of the role of perceptual and conceptual processes.  He also pioneered the application of complex, dynamical systems to group and intergroup problems such as trust, cooperation, and reconciliation.  The Baron & Kenny (1986) article ,“The Moderator-Mediator Distinction in Social Psychological Research”, recently (2008) received an award from the Society of Experimental Social Psychology as the publication having the greatest scientific impact in the last 25 years.  He also organized a special issue of the Journal of Ecological Psychology around the theme “Perceiving Architecture and Art: An Ecological Comparative Perspective” in which two of the papers dealt with Arakawa and Gins’ work.  He is also an art curator and art critic, serving as a contributing editor to the online journal,  He continues to work in social psychology, ecological psychology and art criticism.  He has published more than 80 articles and book chapters and coedited a social psychology textbook.  He earned his B.A. in Psychology at Brooklyn College and his Ph.D. in Social Psychology at New York University.

Related Article: Wayfinding through Landing Sites and Architectural Bodies: Exploring the Roles of Trajectoriness, Affectivatoriness, and Imaging Along by Reuben Baron, University of Connecticut

Philosophy of Science


Arakawa and Gins confront fundamental assumptions about human consciousness and embodiment, not only with reference to the philosophy of mind and more recent work in “consciousness studies.” They seem to engage deliberately with the fields of cognitive science, neurobiology, artificial intelligence, theories of self-organization and autopoiesis from cybernetics, biology, chemistry and physics, not to mention the scientific phenomena of individuation and aggregation at the heart of much research on “emergence” in both philosophy and science, as with their term “cleaving.” Many recent scholars of Arakawa and Gins’ work and writings delve deeply into the sciences in order to elucidate the sometimes obscurely hermetic vocabulary in Arakawa and Gins’ writings. They have found powerful resonances between the articulated issues in their writings, and those issues addressed by philosophers of science and scientists who seek to rethink the relationship of the human body and its cognitive processes with the world within which it finds itself embedded. The perhaps false distinction between embodied and distributed cognition when dealing with an “organism that persons” that negotiates the “architectural surround” through the construction of tentative “perceptual, imaging and dimensionalizing landing sites”; the relationships among sensory, proprioceptive, memory and conceptual cognitive processes with respect to questions of situated awareness associated with their terms “biotopology,” the relationship between their concept of biotopology and the N-dimensional geometries deployed recently by scientists to model cognitive processes–all come under their purview.

Takashi Ikegami

Takashi Ikegami received his doctorate in physics from the University of Tokyo in 1989. After being granted his doctorate, he began intensive study of self-reproduction, evolutionary theory and game theory. Some of these results were published in “The Evolutionary Scenario of Complex Systems,” from Asakura Publishing. Currently, he is a professor at the Department of General System Studies, also at the University of Tokyo. His research is centered on complex systems and artificial life, a field which aims to build a theory of life using dynamical systems perspectives.
In 1998 his research interests shifted to embodied cognition and evolutionary robotics. Recently he has been working in a collaboration focused on chemical experiments involving self-moving oil droplets, and also on using autonomous robots to understand new concepts of biological robustness. Some of these results have been published in “Life Emerges in Motion” from Seido Book Publishers in 2007.
Takashi Ikegami frequently attends the International Conference on Artificial Life, and gave the keynote address at the 20th Anniversary of Artificial Life conference in Winchester, UK. He is a member of the editorial boards of Artificial Life and BioSystems.


INTRODUCTION: Martin E. Rosenberg

As in many of the above topic streams, the question of translation confronts how Arakawa and Gins’ language blurs the distinction between possible and impossible semantic structures. So not only do we hope to encounter scholars grappling with the problem of translating the writings of Arakawa and Gins (as well as Madeline Gins’ poetry), but to also ask fundamental questions about their semantic tactics of cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural conceptual daring associated with their notion of “terminological junctions.” How might one translate into other languages, and other cultural contexts, conceptual clusters that themselves bridge many worlds simultaneously?

Marie-Dominique Garnier :  Made/line or Arakawa in Trans-e-lation

Marie D. Garnier, is Professor of Anglophone Literature and Gender Studies at the University of Paris 8-Vincennes, France. Her recent publications include a co-edited volume, Cixous sous X: d’un coup le nom (Paris, Presses de Vincennes, 2010), and several articles on literature and the philosophies of difference from Derrida and Deleuze to Lyotard. Her main field of research is at the intersection of philosophy, literature and gender studies. Recent publications include articles on Derrida and the animal, on Cixous and haecceities, on the poetry of James Joyce (forthcoming) and on Gins and Arakawa. She teaches courses and seminars in Gender Studies, in queer writing and translation. She is currently working on the translation of Madeline Gins’s Helen Keller or Arakawa (Burning Books, 1994).

Related Article: Made/line Gins or Arakawa in Trans-e-lation by Marie Dominique Garnier, University of Paris 8-Vincennes, France

Philosophy and Linguistics

INTRODUCTION: Martin E. Rosenberg

The work and writings of Arakawa and Gins have engaged with major issues in philosophy and linguistics: from Japanese Zen Buddhism through writings of Dada and Surrealists, to Wittgenstein; from mid-century existentialism, contemporary social philosophy associated Derrida and Foucault, and the postmodern turn of Jean Francois Lyotard, back to the genealogical threads originating from the work of Freud and Nietzsche; from the notebooks of of Marcel Duchamp to the work of Marshall McLuhan and that by Mark C. Taylor on religion and media philosophy, and the tradition of “becoming” associated with Henri Bergson, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Yet, one can say that many of these figures have, in turn, been influenced by Arakawa and Gins’ work and writings: Lyotard, Taylor, and at least the followers of Deleuze and Guattari, such as Brian Massumi and Erin Manning—all have referred to Arakawa and Gins’s work in their ground-breaking writings. Furthermore, their writings often tackle through language games the grounds for any linguistic practice by making visible “the mechanism of meaning,” and the linguistic, philosophical and legal problems posed by impossible verbal constructs, such as “Making Dying Illegal.” We welcome any explorations of the many intersections between these artists and the fields of philosophy and linguistics, and especially ask for new and unsuspected alliances.

Gregg Lambrert : What Counts as a Closely Argued Built-Discourse?

Gregg Lambert is Dean’s Professor of Humanities, and Founding Director of the Humanities Center, at Syracuse University.  He received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Critical Theory from University of California at Irvine.  His current works-in-progress is entitled Globalatinization: Of Christianism, Essentialism, and Euro-centricism in Our Philosophy; and, The Other Person and the Possible World.  He is the author of numerous monographs and edited collections.  His 2008 On the (New) Baroque  is an expanded paperback edition of his highly acclaimed Return of the Baroque in Modern Culture (Continuum 2005). His other volumes include: Who’s Afraid of Deleuze and Guattari? (New York and London: Continuum Books, January 2007). The Non-Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze (New York and London, Continuum Books, November 2002). Report to the Academy: re the (new) Conflict of the Faculties , in “The Critical Studies in the Humanities Series,” ed. Victor E. Taylor (Davies Group Publishers, August 2001); available in paperback from .  Co-editor with Eugene B. Young of the forthcoming, The Deleuze and Guattari Dictionary (London: Continuum Books). In Preparation.  Co-editor with Aaron Levy, “Rrrevolutionnaire!”: Conversations in Theory vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Slought Foundation, 2006). Co-editor with Ian Buchanan, Deleuze and Space (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, July 2005). Co-editor with Victor E. Taylor, Jean-François Lyotard: Critical Evaluations in Cultural Theory, 3 Vols. (London: Routledge, January 2006).

Related Article: What Counts as Language in a Closely Argued Built-Discourse? by Gregg Lambert, Syracuse University Humanities Center, New York

Poetry and Poetics

INTRODUCTION: Russell Hughes

The volume Architectural Body appeared in the University of Alabama Press series on Poetics, and speaks to the range of talents that Arakawa and Gins bring to their theoretical writings. It speaks as well to how influential this work has become for poets and for the cluster of theoretical humanistic writings that come under the rubric of “poetics.” Madeline Gins’ reputation as one of the leading lights of what some call “language poetry” reveals one possible source for the constant word play, for example, the semantically impossible constructs such as the title of their second manifesto Making Dying Illegal, which seems to give license to concepts that seem simultaneously forbidden and mandatory at the same time. We should encourage further research on the tactical as well as conceptual sources of some of their tactics in Madeline Gins’ books of poetry, as well as in the visual and verbal play of earlier Mechanism of Meaning, not to mention the interstices of the verbal, visual and conceptual in Arakawa’s earlier visual art.  Scholars have addressed the role of the impossible verbal construct, the poetics of movement in skewed space, the relationship between contingency and constraint, “the approximative-rigorous abstraction” and embodied experience, in phrases like “A Tentative Constructing towards a Holding in Place,” Furthermore, the role of the manifesto itself comes under scrutiny, by bringing to the foreground the relationship between theory and practice as a prescriptive or descriptive process; certainly, neither Architectural Body and Making Dying Illegal draw a line in the sand between the two.

Alan Prohm : Constructing Poiesis

Alan Prohm, PhD is a poetics research artist based in Helsinki and Berlin. His work focuses on the spatial, embodied nature of meaning and understanding, and on the push-points flanging aesthetics and radical efficacy. He teaches on topics of experimental, visual and architectural poetics at the University of Helsinki and at Helsinki’s University of Art and Design, now Aalto University. He is currently pursuing independent projects to evolve and graphicalize a phenomenological/biotopological poetics of visual/spatial experience. Some of his research is available at:

Related Article: Constructing Poiesis: Storyboards for an immersive diagramming by Alan Prohm

Education and Leadership


If we can understand how Arakawa and Gins progressed from their initial roles as masters of conceptual art to become serious contributors to the debates about ecology and sustainable living, then we may come to terms with the educational role of the avant-garde as a “tactically-posed” conceptual domain. But Arakawa and Gins mean to enact embodied cognitive experiences that short circuit the distinction between conceptual and experiential learning. To what extent do the terms “hypothesis” and “procedure” require separate treatment as pedagogical tactics, or as goals in and of themselves? How might the work of Arakawa and Gins open up new domains of research in the education of children? This question has been raised by Bobby George, who as a co-director of a Montessori school in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is seeking to deploy their architecture for what Arakawa and Gins call “accelerating evolution,” mutually transforming both Montessori philosophy, and Arakawa and Gins’ architecture. To what extent might Arakawa and Gins’ term “Directions for Use” involve tackling problems of ageing, or has the term more global implications for adult education and adult development?

Gordon Bearn : The Mechanism of Meaning: A Pedagogical Sketchbook

Gordon C.F. Bearn is a Professor of Philosophy at Lehigh University in Bethlehem Pennsylvania. He has published a Nietzschean reading of Wittgenstein called *Waking to Wonder – Wittgensteins Existential Investigations* (SUNY 1997). He has published articles on Cavell, Wittgenstein, Derrida, Deleuze, Le Corbusier, and Arakawa/Gins. He is completing a Deleuze-inspired book on making your life beautiful called *Life Drawing – An Aesthetics of Existence*. He is also starting a new project on sensual experience, both linguistic and nonlinguistic experience, and he finds *The Mechanism of Meaning* to have been almost everywhere first.

Related Article: The Mechanism of Meaning: A Pedagogical Skecthbook by Gordon Bearn, Lehigh University, USA

AG3 ONLINE – Impact.

The scope and impact of AG3 can be indicated, in a blunt way, by a few statistics. There were 4000 users (separate IP address) logged into the website over the 14 days of the online conference equating to 2000 and 3000 people if some logged in from home and work. The number of hits (accessing pages and movement from page to page was in the millions), but more interestingly the number of sessions for the conference, defined as a user logged in for at least an hour, was almost 500 per day and on the first weekend of the conference when between 800 – 1000 sessions were logged.


Bios: Conference Committee

Jondi Keane, co-organiser of AG3-Online, is an arts practitioner, critical thinker and senior lecturer at Griffith University. Over the last 25 years he has exhibited and performed in the USA, UK, Europe and Aus. His doctoral dissertation, Arakawa and Gins: The Practice of Embodied Cognition was the first PhD devoted entirely to Arakawa and Gins work. His recent creative projects include collaborative performance Separating Shadows for the 2006 Brisbane Festival, a residency with Arakawa and Gins to work on their Bioscleave House sound procedures and The Encyclopaedia of Mistakes, organiser of and exhibitor in the READING ROOM: Experiments in posture, movement and comprehension exhibition at the Slought Foundation, Philadelphia (2008) and collaborator on three site specific installation-performances with James Cunningham, Tuning Fork (at Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Art in Brisbane, 2008; and Critical Path in Sydney, 2009). His scholarly work on embodiment, experimental architecture and practice-led research has been published in range of journals including Interfaces (2004) Janus Head, Ecological Psychology, Text and book chapters in the Gilles Deleuze: Image and Text (Holland Smith and Stivale Eds., 2009, Continuum) and in forthcoming volumes: on Arakawa and Gins (Lecercle, J-J., and Kral, F., Eds., Rodopi Press) and Carnal Knowledge: New Materialism through the Arts (Bolt, B. and Barret E. Eds., I B Tauris).


Martin E. Rosenberg, co-organiser of AG3-Online, is an independent scholar, specializing in the cultural implications of science and technology. He has focused mainly on the history of “emergence” in science, philosophy and the arts: Poincare, Bergson and Duchamp; Pound, and the epistemological foundations of fascism in reversible models of time; the novels of Thomas Pynchon, the Nobel work of Ilya Prigogine in chemistry and physics, as well as the cognitive science of Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela and Edwin Hutchins, and the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze. He has authored numerous articles on Deleuze. His current research involves the relationship between theories of emergence in cognitive science, and the possible link between embodied and distributed cognition, through research on parallel processing with computers, jazz improvisation, cinema and the architecture of Arakawa and Gins. As a theorist, he has written on the relationship of metaphors (tropes generally) and epistemology, and the cultural work or agency of metaphors in trans-disciplinary inquiry. He has had a sideline in theories of hypermedia design, especially the role of metaphors in the design and implementation of information systems. He has written on physics and hypertext, on the role of complexity theory in the design of icon-driven interfaces, and on the modelling of the problematics of transdisciplinary inquiry in hypermedia. He is the co-creator of The RHIZOME Project_1989-92 (with Thomas I. Ellis); _Chess RHIZOME_1998-9; and the Multi-object Oriented, Multi-User Domain classroom space MER’s Fungal Palace at the Media Lab at MIT (1996-8). He was originally trained in classical composition and jazz arranging and performance, has authored over thirty jazz compositions, and has recently committed to practicing until he’s able to play and record again!


Trish Glazebrook, Professor of Philosophy at Dalhouse University in Halifax, Canada, and is cross-appointed to the School of Resource and Environmental Studies, International Development Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and the College of Sustainability. She received her PhD at the University of Toronto and publishes in Heidegger studies, ecofeminism, ecophenomenology, development studies, ancient philosophy, and philosophy of science and technology. With a monograph on Heidegger’s philosophy of science and editor of several collections, Patricia has established herself as one of the premier eco-feminist philosophers of science. Her current research focuses on women subsistence farmers in developing nations, with particular attention to climate change vulnerabilities and impacts, resilience and coping strategies, and gender mainstreaming in climate policy.


Russell Hughes, PhD Candidate/Sessional Lecturer, RMIT University. Russell Hughes’ research on Arakawa and Gins began in 2005 when he presented at the 1st International Arakawa and Gins conference at The University of Paris X Nanterre. Building on the themes of this conference Russell’s PhD thesis titled Ageing Biology, Immortalist Biopolicy, Promethean Biotechnology and a Diminishing Biosphere: The Ageing of Aquarius, Armageddon and Arakawa and Gins, is due for submission early 2010. Teaching at RMIT University in the School of Architecture and Design, Russell is a Centre for Sustainability Leadership 2009 Fellow whose work seeks to understand how Arakawa and Gins can be applied to the contemporary biopolitical context, both as an architecture to sustain human beings and as a heuristic device through which we might come to practice sustainability with the critical ecology of the earth.


Bobby George is currently a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at Goldsmiths College. He is completing a primary dissertation entitled ‘Orson Welles: An Aesthetics of the Earth’ and a secondary dissertation entitled ‘I Love Arakawa and Gins: Forever, Always, Now; Or, Arakawa and Gins: Philosophers of Life.’ Most recently, he has been on leave in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where, with his wife June, he has established The Baan Dek Montessori.



The AG3 Online conference committee would like to give special thanks to: 

  • Arakawa and Madeline Gins
  • Inflexions journal: Special thanks to Erin Manning and Brian Massumi the founders of Inflexions journal, Inflexions staff especially Leslie Plumb the interface and issue designer, Toni Pape and the rest of the editorial committee.
  • Curators of the Creative Responses for AG3 Online: Bill Lavendar, Alan Prohm and Jason Nelson.
  • The Architectural Body Research Foundation: Special thanks to Joke Post and staff, NY, NY and to the staff of Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka, Tokyo with special thanks to Momoyo Homma.
  • Matt Story for his editorial assistance.
  • Griffith University: Prof. Andy Bennett, director of the CCR at Griffith University and the Centre Manager, Sarah Gornall as well as the Information Services Technical team of Sarah Vardy, Heidi Perrett and Jeroen van den Muyzenberg.
  • At the Barnard event: The organization and teamwork of Martin E. Rosenberg, Joke Post, Serge Gavronsky
  • At the Guggenheim event: Martin E Rosenberg, Alexandra Monroe and the Guggenheim staff.
  • Philanthropists: Virginia Dwan, Francis Naumann, Amailia Dayan
AG conferences Research

Reversible Destiny Declaration of the Right Not to Die: Second International Arakawa +Gins Architecture + Philosophy Conference/Congress

The second International Arakawa and Gins Conference organized by University of Pennsylvania and Slought Foundation

April 4 – 6, 2008
University of Pennsylvania and Slought Foundation

Key organisers: Aaron Levy, Jean-Michel Rabate

Through this conference, thinkers from a variety of disciplines will come together to figure out how our species can achieve a reversible destiny, working in the following areas:

— Landing Site/Directed Vagueness/Non-Conceptual Content
— Landing Site/Holding Site/Reaching-For Site/Social Landing Site
— Anti-Aging Architectural Procedures
— Architectural Procedures for Organisms that Person – Children in Particular

For more information on the conference including papers, please visit the website of Slought Foundation:

AG conferences Research

Arakawa and Gins: Architecture and Philosophy

The first International Arakawa and Gins Conference organized by the Théorie de la lecture / Lecture de la théorie seminar, as part of the CREA research group, devoted to Architectural Body.

September 30th – October 1st, 2005
University of Paris X-Nanterre

Key organisers: Françoise Kral, Jean Jacques Lecercle

“It is increasingly clear that the work of Madeline Gins and Arakawa, both as architectural theorists and as philosophers of the body in its architectural surrounds is of considerable importance. The journal Interfaces has devoted a double issue to their work. Their latest book, Architectural Body, has been translated into several languages, including French.”

The Théorie de la lecture/ Lecture de la théorie seminar organized an international meeting devoted to Architectural Body where the philosophical, architectural and poetic aspects of the book are envisaged. The importance of the philosophical project that underlies it are celebrated, with the aim to enable all scholars interested in the work of Gins and Arakawa to gather and exchange views.

More information on the conference and the journal publication Interfaces coming soon…

Related films

Children who won’t die, ARAKAWA / We, Madeline Gins

The two documentary films explore in depth the life and works of Arakawa and Madeline Gins, including interviews with the artists, their friends, professionals from various disciplines as well as the residents of Arakawa+Gins’s architectural works.

For purchase information:



Film 1: Children Who Won’t Die, ARAKAWA
Language: Japanese / Subtitle: English, Japanese
Running Time: 80mins

Can a house help us not to die? Artists/scientists/revolutionaries Madeline Gins and Shusaku Arakawa declared that our lives need not end, and created dwellings whose purpose is to reverse our destiny and defy death itself.
The Reversible Destiny Lofts in Tokyo, with their vivid colors, undulating floors, irregular lines, and spherical rooms were the culmination of their research and speculation. Arakawa said, “Living here, human beings will never die, as the potential ability of their bodies can be maximally developed.” This film includes interviews with residents of the Reversible Destiny Lofts and an astrophysicist, as well as growth records of children who were raised in these remarkable buildings. Children Who Won’t Die proudly sings a celebration of life, highlighting the possibilities of a world no one could ever have imagined before.

Shusaku Arakawa
Haruo Saji
Yuma Yamaoka
Sono Yamaoka
Residents of Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka

Director: Nobu Yamaoka
Music: Keiichiro Shibuya
Narrator: Tadanobu Asano



Film 2: WE, Madeline Gins
Language: English / Subtitle: Japanese
Running time: 60 mins

How does the body meet the future? Madeline Gins – poet, architect, visionary – talks about the origin of creation, its secrets, and the future of humanity. This film documents a visit with her to her studio and to the Bioscleave House in East Hampton, NY  – the only example in the USA of the revolutionary, death-defying architecture she developed with Shusaku Arakawa. Gins describes her first encounter with Arakawa, and sheds light on his representative works, including his classic series of artworks, Mechanism of Meaning, which served as the foundation for the procedural architecture projects they later created together. The film also shows visitors navigating in, reacting to, and being transformed by the peculiarities and wonders of the space of Bioscleave House.

Madeline Gins
Shusaku Arakawa
Lucas Poole
Sofiane Poole
Gillian Poole
Hubert Poole

Director: Nobu Yamaoka


For more information please visit:

Newsletter Research

Distraction Series, 6: documenta 4

Dear friends,

The subject of Distraction Series 6 is documenta 4, which took place in Kassel, Germany, from June 27th to October 6th, 1968.. Arakawa was invited to participate in this recurring international art exhibition in that year as well as in 1977.

documenta began in 1955 as a way to bring West Germany back into the international art scene and modernist art, which had been labeled ‘degenerate art’ under the Nazi regime, back into Kassel’s local purview. 1968, a pivotal year that saw protests across the globe, marked a serious shift in content for documenta, moving from essentially retrospectives of modernist art to an exhibition of more current artwork, signaled by the slogan, “The Youngest documenta Ever”, although the official title was, “Art is what artists make”. Artistic Director, Arnold Bode, though still largely responsible for the exhibition, stepped down, opting for a more democratic process with many of the final decisions left to a particularly youthful advisory board who selected very recent works. Indeed, much of the art by the 149 featured artists was made that year and at times even specifically for the exhibition. While this was seen as a positive move as it presented a broader concept of art to the audience, criticism was levied at the board for a heavily American roster of supposedly international artists. 51 of the 149 artists were from the United States, earning documenta 4 the nickname “Americana.” From a historical perspective, it is interesting to note that these works did not overtly reflect the political situation unfolding in the United States at the time. These American artists represented pop art, minimal art, color field art, op art, post-painterly abstraction, and, to some degree, conceptual art. Artists from Germany and elsewhere with conceptual and performance-based practices (for example Fluxus and Happenings) were not included, leading to protests at the opening ceremonies. Four German artists led a disturbance action called the “Honey Blind”, in which they poured honey on microphones and furniture and went around hugging and kissing those who were meant to give speeches. Students waving red flags joined in the protest.

While we have not yet found any materials in the RDF archive about what Arakawa and Madeline’s thoughts were on documenta 4 and the civil rights protests in the U.S., we do know that throughout their lives, from Arakawa’s early involvement in the anti-establishment Neo-Dadaism Organizers’ group in Tokyo, to their joint interest in Code Pink, to Madeline’s support of the Occupy Wall Street movement, their work was about the breaking of fixed boundaries, whether mental, physical, or institutional. The six works by Arakawa included in documenta 4 all explore these ideas. See below for more in-depth information about some of these works.

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

Arakawa, Name's Birthday (a couple), 1967, oil on canvas

In Name’s Birthday (a couple), 1967, Arakawa offers a bird’s eye view into the plan of a room with a window on one of the walls. This room is represented in slightly different ways on two canvasses. On the left panel, lines and brackets denote the boundaries of objects that are represented by words and placed within the room. Reminiscent of a blueprint, the objects exist as surfaces rather than volumes. An arrow leads to each word/object from the shadow of a loose knot of string, perhaps a physical demonstration of the interaction between objects as they move through and exist within space. The rope shadow, achieved by spray-painting over an actual rope held against the canvas, is a clear indication of a poly-dimensional space. On the right panel, numbers have replaced the words, as if to stress the language of a blueprint to a greater extent than on the left panel. We also find that the window is open, and light, represented by a dense yellow color-field, fills the cracks and we might imagine it pouring into the room, and down to the bottom space of both canvasses, where it is extracted into its spectral form in a zone separated from the main body of the canvas. The fact that the two panels do not perfectly line up also shows a slight shift in perspective and highlights movement in general, reinforced by the circle at the top of the painting with an arrow indicating motion from right to left, with the object’s path traced in a series of after-images. The label of ‘mistake’ on the right panel brings us back into the canvas’s lived dimension.

Arakawa, Separated Continuums, 1966

In Separated Continuums, 1966, we find words standing in again for the everyday objects they name, this time within a grid and along a line presumably representing a time-space continuum. Rather than any kind of perspective, Arakawa has used the temporal dimension to order our understanding of space. In this case, the numbers along a separate continuum might indicate the difference between our lived and perceived experience, or alternatively the space between the concept or existence of an object and our perception of it.

Arakawa, Unknown Blood, 1965, graphite, ink, and spray paint on paper

Unknown Blood, 1965, is the only drawing by Arakawa included in documenta 4. Here, a picture field has been drawn in over a diagram of an apartment or house. This picture field has been stabbed in the top right corner by a flat painted knife that has two shadows indicating at least two sources of light. The first shadow maintains the shape of object, while the second shadow transforms the knife into the shape of a screw driver. The other three corners of what we might imagine is a canvas or piece of paper have been folded back, revealing space behind the image. The bottom right fold includes a splash of paint that is most likely the unknown blood referred to by the title. The knife has stabbed through the picture and this yellow blood, that looks like a splash of ectoplasm, has dripped down seemingly from another, unknown, dimension located behind the picture plane.

documenta 4, catalog, pp.20-21, Druck + Verlag, GmbH, Kassel, 1968. At right: Arakawa, Untitled, 1964-65, ink, tempera, pencil, marker on canvas

In Untitled, 1964-65, a series of models lead one from another. If we take what we have learned about Arakawa’s language of signs, symbols, and ways of representing space, then we might interpret this work in the following way. The rope or string motif is again present. Perhaps we start there, understanding the strings as objects that are interrelated and moving through time into a specific fold of gridded dimensional space as we saw in Separated Continuums, 1966. What we might call a prism at the left, give off light of different colors that also move into the fold, as indicated by an arrow. This canvas does not offer up a clear point of reference through which the viewer might be able to enter or engage with a created space or reality, but it does stimulate the intellect, ensuring that the viewer is reading and thinking and not just looking. 

documenta 4, catalog, pp.20-21, Druck + Verlag, GmbH, Kassel, 1968. At left: Arakawa, Alphabet Skin No.3, 1966-67, oil on canvas. At right: Arakawa, Fifty two, 1966, oil on canvas

Alphabet Skin No.3, 1966-67, and Fifty two, 1966, function in similar ways to Name’s Birthday (a couple), 1967, and Separated Continuums, 1966, but the worlds of numbers and words, while both semiotic, do not collide within these paintings.

Arakawa, Fifty two, 1966, oil on canvas
Newsletter Research

Distraction Series, 5: a tour of the Reversible Destiny Lofts – MITAKA (In Memory of Helen Keller)

Dear friends,

For Distraction Series 5, our Director, Momoyo Homma, leads us on a tour of the Reversible Destiny Lofts MITAKA – In Memory of Helen Keller, in Tokyo, Japan. We are very grateful to Nobu Yamaoka, the director of the two documentary films presented in Distraction Series 1 and 2, “Children Who Won’t Die” (2010) and “We” (2011), for filming this experience. Follow along as Momoyo guides us from the building entrance up to one of the lofts, where she walks us through how this unique living environment affords ample opportunity to stretch and move the body in new ways. Special guests Yuma and Sono, two of the children who appeared in “Children Who Won’t Die”, speak about their experiences from their time living in one of the lofts. Speculating about what it would be like to live in a Reversible Destiny City, Yuma imagines that there would be no war in the future, an observation that Arakawa himself frequently made. Rokka, a two-year-old who currently lives in one of the lofts, also demonstrates fun ways to use the space.

In addition to this private tour, we want to bring to your attention a 15-minute episode of the NHK World program “Close to ART”, which features the Reversible Destiny Lofts MITAKA. With some background on the history and philosophy of the lofts, including footage of Madeline and Arakawa, this episode provides a great complement to Momoyo’s tour and we highly recommend it: (available through April 15th, 2021)

We hope to one day welcome you all to the lofts in person! Until then, we remain:

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

Newsletter Research

Distraction Series, 4: Segue Series Reading at Double Happiness

Dear friends,

With the launch of The Saddest Thing Is That I Have Had to Use Words: A Madeline Gins Reader, edited by Lucy Ives, we wanted to take the opportunity to share with everyone more of Madeline’s poetry and other writings. Some of you may already be aware that a number of audio recordings of Madeline’s public readings and lectures are available on PennSound, a wonderful UPenn project that produces new audio recordings and preserves existing audio archives related to poetry. Thanks to this incredible resource, we can all listen to Madeline read some of her writing aloud, which adds considerably to the experience of engaging with her poetry in particular. 

For Distraction Series 4, we are highlighting Madeline Gins’s Segue Series reading at Double Happiness, NYC, that took place roughly 19 years ago on May 19, 2001. We especially loved this set of readings that beautifully shows Madeline’s profound ability to be serious while maintaining a sense of play. In this selection, she begins with a series of poems on the Krebs Cycle, which she states she “does not want any biochemist to declare as cute,” and intersperses them with poems about eating Spaghetti, seemingly lighthearted but deeply related, and rich with a touch of melancholy and a soupçon of joy. Please immerse yourself and move on to other readings!

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


Top image: Madeline Gins, 2009, photographed by Maurice Mikkers
Bottom image: Storefront display of What the President will Say and Do!! by Madeline GIns, 1984

Newsletter Research

Distraction Series, 3: the world premiere performance of Neon Dance’s Puzzle Creature,

Dear friends,

For the third iteration of our Distraction Series, we are pleased to share a full-length recording of the world premiere performance of Neon Dance’s Puzzle Creature, which took place at Kamigo Clove Theatre during the Echigo-Tsumari Triennale, Niigata Prefecture, Japan, on September 15th, 2018. This immersive, multi-disciplinary dance work was inspired by the architecture and philosophy of Arakawa and Madeline Gins. 

Since 2017, London-based group Neon Dance has been studying and exploring the “architectural body”, a concept elaborated by Arakawa and Madeline Gins in their 2002 book of the same name. Research assistance was provided by the ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo office, Japan, and the Reversible Destiny Foundation, New York. Neon Dance Artistic Director and Choreographer Adrienne Hart’s archival research and site visits to the build works of Arakawa+Gins in both New York and Japan came together in the creation of Puzzle Creature

Three exquisite dance artists drive this 60-minute performance with wearable artefacts created by the award-winning artist Ana Rajcevic forming curious imprints of choreographed action. Puzzle Creature is accompanied by a newly commissioned score for 8 speakers by Oxford based composer Sebastian Reynolds, the work features integrated British and Japanese Sign Language and audio description from Louise Fryer. Organisms that person (you and I) are invited to step inside an inflatable set design by Numen / For Use as the black box theatre is transformed into a unique immersive space shared by both audience and performer. – Neon Dance

Thanks to the generosity of Neon Dance, Puzzle Creature will be available to stream through the end of June, 2020. We hope this enriches your experience of your own “architectural body”!

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

(image: Neon Dance live at Colston Hall, photographed by Miles Hart)

Newsletter Research

Distraction Series, 2: We

Dear friends,

In this second installment of our Distraction Series, we are sharing Nobu Yamaoka’s documentary film, WE (2011), featuring Madeline Gins. This film follows Madeline from her studio at 124 West Houston Street to the Bioscleave House in East Hampton, NY, offering another opportunity to spend time with Arakawa+Gins’s reversible destiny architecture. Throughout the film, Madeline provides an intimate look into her extensive, decades-long study of the body, undertaken with Arakawa, as we watch a family explore, navigate, and react to the challenging terrain of Bioscleave House. Thanks to the director’s generosity, this 60 minute film will be available through the end of June, 2020. In case you haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, Children Who Won’t Die (2010) is also available through June via our website.

We hope you enjoy WE (2011) and will be in touch again with another distraction in two weeks’ time! 

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and Arakawa+Gins Tokyo office

(Image: Madeline Gins at 124 W Houston Street, New York, 2002)

Newsletter Research

Distraction Series, 1: Children Who Won’t Die

Dear Friends,

In these uncertain times, strength and solace can be found in belonging to a community and we wanted to take the opportunity to thank you for being a part of ours. At this time, we are all discovering new ways to access and explore art and its potential. As our contribution, the Reversible Destiny Foundation along with ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo office is pleased to introduce our Distraction Series, a biweekly newsletter with links to a variety of A+G projects.

Today, we are sharing Nobu Yamaoka’s 2010 documentary film, Children Who Won’t Die, which introduces the utopian vision of Arakawa and Gins with a focus on the Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka in Tokyo, a culmination of their research into the way the body interacts with the architectural space that surrounds it. With extensive footage of Arakawa speaking about the project, along with first-hand accounts from residents of the Lofts, Children Who Won’t Die offers a look into how the challenging environment of the lofts shifted each person’s experience of daily life, opening up into a more general meditation on life and death. We hope you enjoy it!

Wishing you all the best in the (remote) reversible destiny mode,
Reversible Destiny Foundation and ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo office

Related Publications

Arakawa and Madeline Gins in the 22nd Century: The Body and the Experience in the Reversible Destiny Mode

Reversible Destiny Foundation is pleased to announce the new publication Arakawa and Madeline Gins in the 22nd Century: The Body and the Experience in the Reversible Destiny Mode

This book explores the philosophy of Arakawa and Madeline Gins who set out to fight the human destiny of mortality. Ten years after the death of Arakawa (1936–2010) and six years after the death of Madeline Gins (1941–2014), this significant collection of texts rediscovers Arakawa and Gins’s thought, which still continues to inspire and thereby remains in progress.

“Humans don’t die”

Arakawa and Madeline Gins made many unforgettable statements on life and death, and created spaces such as the “Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka—In Memory of Helen Keller” and the “Site of Reversible Destiny—Yoro Park”, which rattle our senses and perceptions. In our time of uncertainty, their philosophy paves the way for many discoveries, inspirations, and a heightened awareness and concern for the body. 

How did Arakawa and Gins try to overcome the contradiction between not dying and human mortality? This publication provides opportunities to rethink, from multiple perspectives including body theory, philosophy, architecture, art, psychology, education, etc., the philosophical and architectural practices of Arakawa and Gins, not only in retrospect but also as being still in progress. In addition, it introduces recent Arakawa and Gins-related exhibitions, performances, and other projects. 


Editors: Mimura, Naohiko and Kadobayashi, Takeshi.

Paperback: 315 pages

Publisher: Film Art, Tokyo, 2019

Language: Japanese

ISBN-10: 4845919176

ISBN-13: 978-4845919178


The book is available for purchase on

Related Publications


Author:Shunkichi Baba

Related Publications

The Funambulist Pamphlets, Vol. 8_Arakawa + Madeline Gins

Author:Léopold Lambert

Size:e-book, soft cover

Published:Brooklyn, NY: punctum books, 2014. 106 pages, color illus. ISBN-13: 978-0615987835.





The Funambulist Pamphlets is a series of small books archiving articles published on The Funambulist, collected according to specific themes. These volumes propose a different articulation of texts than the usual chronological one. The first twelve volumes are respectively dedicated to Spinoza, Foucault, Deleuze, Legal Theory, Occupy Wall Street, Palestine, Cruel Designs, Arakawa + Madeline Gins, Science Fiction, Literature, Cinema, and Weaponized Architecture. As new articles are published on The Funambulist, more volumes will be published to continue the series. See all published pamphlets HERE.

The Funambulist Pamphlets is published as part of the Documents Initiative imprint of the Center for Transformative Media, Parsons The New School for Design, a transdisciplinary media research initiative bridging design and the social sciences, and dedicated to the exploration of the transformative potential of emerging technologies upon the foundational practices of everyday life across a range of settings.

Our species has made a declaration. Let us call this the Reversible Destiny Declaration. We will not just take it anymore. We will no longer throw ourselves into the mortality waste-baskets. Shall we put it in the following gentle but firm way? Oh yes we shall! Enough is enough. We have decided not to die. And how do we go about doing this? Through architectural procedures, made explicitly to help us reconfigure ourselves. If you do not yet know what an architectural procedure is, you will know soon. Start with this declaration, and never back away from it: we have decided not to die. ~Madeline Gins

Volume 8 is dedicated to The Reversible Destiny Foundation created by Arakawa and Madeline Gins. The Foundation is much more than an architectural practice. It articulates art, philosophy, poetry, architecture and, to some extent, science in a dialogue that benefits each of these disciplines and ultimately serves one of the most radical ideas that apply to architecture: the action of non-dying. Guest authors include Shingo Tsuji, Stanley Shostak, Russell Hughes, and Jean-François Lyotard.



Introduction: Towards an Architecture of Joy

01 / Architectures of Joy: A Spinozist Reading of Parent/Virilio and Arakawa/Gins’s Architecture

02 / Applied Spinozism: Architectures of the Sky vs. Architectures of the Earth

03 / Architecture of the Conatus: “Tentative Constructing Towards a Holding in Place”

04 / Architectures of Joy: A Conversation Between Two Puzzle Creatures [Part A]

05 / Architectures of Joy: A Conversation Between Two Puzzle Creatures [Part B]

06 / Domesticity in the Reversible Destiny’s Architectural Terrains

07 / Reversible Destiny Loft in Action: A Tentative Report from a Resident by Shingo Tsuji

08 / A Subversive Approach to the Ideal Normalized Body

09 / The Counter-Biopolitical Bioscleave Experiment Imagined by Stanley Shostak

10 / Funambulist Paper #35 / DIY Biopolitics: The Deregulated Self by Russell Hughes

11 / Letter from Jean-François Lyotard to Arakawa and Madeline Gins

12 / Architectures for Non-Dying Creatures: The Artistic-Philosophical-Poetic-Architectural Work of Arakawa and Gins

13 / “All Men Are Sisters”: A Joy Named Madeline Gins

Related Publications

Le trajectoire merveilleuse de Shusaku Arakawa

Author:Fumi Tukahara

Published:NTT Publishing Co., Ltd.



Related Publications


Author:Shusaku Arakawa, Madeline Gins, etc.

Published:Collage of Holy Cross and University of Paris VII




Introduction by Jean-Michel Rabate

Arakawa and Gins, Directions for Architectural Procedure Invention and Assembly

Arakawa and Gins, Vital Contextualizing Information for Directions for Architectural Procedure Invention and Assembly

I. Architecture against Death

Hank Lazer, The Art and Architecture of Holding Open: The Radical Yes of Architectural Body

Jean-Jacques Lecercle, The Tense of Architecture

Trish Glazebrook, Architecture Against Mortality: Building Origins

Don Ihde, The Ultimate Phenomenological Reduction

Mark Hansen, The Arche-Technics of Life

Hideo Kawamoto, The Mystery of Nagi’s Ryoanji: Arakawa and Gins and Autopoiesis

Gary Shapiro, Building, Timing, Thinking: Reversible Destiny After Hegel, Heidegger and Smithson

Steve McCaffery, ‘To Lose One’s Way’ (For Snails and Nomads): The Radical Labyrinths of Constant, and Arakawa/Gins

Jost Muxfeldt, Does Death Survive? A Reverse Teleology

II. Poesis and Autopoesis

Martin E. Rosenberg, Constructing Autopoiesis: The Architectual Body in Light of Contemporary Cognitive Science

Michel Delville, The Poet as the World: The Multidimensional Poetics of Arakawa and Madeline Gins

Craig Adcock, The Meaning of Blank in Arakawa’s Early Work

Dagmar Buchwald, ‘Invisible Microphytic Colonies’: Word Rain by Madeline Gins

Mary Ann Caws, The Construction in Question

Lissa Wolsak, Union of Open Sets

Marianne Shaneen, Regarding the Impossible

Marcia Landy and Stanley Shostak, Five Senses to Immortality

Patrick Pardo, Of Self-Marmots and Humansnails: Arakawa + Gins and the Architectural Body

Charles Bernstein, Every Which Way but Loose

III. Vita Nuova — Life On New Terms

Chet Wiener, Some Critical Steps to Life on New Terms

Art Shostak, Helping Sociology to Reinvent Itself: Another G/A Possibility

Shaughan Lavine, The Architecture of a Person

Klaus Benesch, The Architectural Body: Reconfigurations of Space in Postmodern Culture

Sandy Baldwin, Tentatively Dedicated to our Transhuman Destiny

David Kolb, Oh Pioneers! Bodily Reformation Amid Daily Life

Shaun Gallagher, Body Experiments

Jondi Keane, The Multimodal Consequences of Coordinology

Reuben Baron, Towards a Social Ecology of Landing Sites and Architectural Bodies


Further Information → Interfaces Journal