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Ambiguous Zones, 11

Dear Friends,

For Ambiguous Zones 11, we are pleased to introduce guest author Keenan Jay, who wrote an insightful essay on Arakawa’s solo exhibition of mainly coffin works at the Zuni Gallery in Buffalo, NY, in March of 1964. Jay is a researcher of modern and contemporary art with an interest in diasporic art and the neo-avant-garde. He was a 2021 research fellow with PoNJA-GenKon and Asia Art Archive in America and has recently presented at the annual conference of the Association for Asian American Studies among others. He has been conducting a series of oral history interviews on Montez Press Radio since 2019.

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

Figure 1. Container of Sand (1958-59), an example of a coffin work made in Tokyo. Photograph by Masataka Nakano.

In a January 1967 Artforum article, critic Yoshiaki Tono recalls his surprise at a new group of artists who had appeared in Tokyo during the late 1950s. He frames these artists, who called their collective Neo Dada (initially the Neo Dadaism Organizers), through their formative postwar upbringing, writing that “they desired an art which could respond more directly . . . to the chaotic realities of the world they knew.”[1] This world was that of Japan during reconstruction, a world trying to come to terms with its wartime imperialism against a backdrop of leveled cities and widespread famine. More recently, it was the world of the ensuing development and consumerism that had turned “the teeming city of Tokyo” into an “immense junk-yard”[2] and of the Anpo treaty’s re-signing, which would establish Japan’s Cold War role despite popular protests against it. Given that the works of Neo Dada were inextricable from these circumstances, Tono argued that the group’s activities should be understood primarily in sociological rather than artistic terms.

Figure 2. Installation shot from 1964 Zuni exhibition, photograph by Sherwin Greenberg Studio, Inc.

Having introduced Arakawa in this way, Tono goes on to observe in the artist’s work an “obsession with death and nothingness,” reflecting the sensibilities of the “post-Hiroshima generation.”[3] Tono felt this was particularly true of Arakawa’s coffin-like sculptures. Perhaps Arakawa’s best-known works outside of his diagrammatic paintings and architectural projects with Madeline Gins, these ominous boxes confronted the viewer with dimensions suggestive of human proportions. The works required the viewer to remove the lids to reveal the biomorphic and mutant masses contained inside (fig. 1). Made primarily of cement and cotton, Arakawa also sometimes embedded objects from Tokyo’s industrial refuse into his compositions. However, he typically used such discarded objects sparingly, turning their original use-values alien through their isolated appropriation.

In this same article, Tono moves on to a discussion of Arakawa’s immigration to New York in 1961 and, jumping to 1963, his abandonment of the coffin works in favor of the diagrammatic paintings for which he would become known. 1963 saw Arakawa’s first Galerie Schmela exhibition in Düsseldorf and the beginning of his collaboration with Madeline Gins on The Mechanism of Meaning, with his work at this time employing diagrammatic and informational visual languages that marked a definitive departure from his sculptural practice. By Tono’s condensed account, it would indeed seem that “Arakawa left his boxes in Japan.”[4]

In the period immediately following Arakawa’s move to New York, however, he not only continued to produce new coffin works but also substantially developed their concept and form. In March of 1964, an exhibition at Zuni Gallery in Buffalo, NY, showcases the culmination of this brief but compelling period (figs. 2-5). At first glance, the works in the show are familiar: the coffin-like sculptures that gained Arakawa notoriety in Tokyo populate the space, punctuated by diagrammatic drawings that evoke his painterly output in New York. Yet we soon notice a difference in these coffin works, with their unusual mechanical parts conjuring the image of reanimation rather than the mortuary air of their predecessors. The Zuni exhibition therefore reveals a distinct period within an already established body of coffin works that has gone relatively unstudied, marked by an increased complexity and modification via mechanical apparatuses.

An unpretentious gallery in a basement in Buffalo, New York, artists Ben Perrone and Adele Cohen started Zuni in 1963 and operated it for two years. Arakawa’s show had been coordinated in early 1964 by Bill Dorr, whom Perrone described to the Reversible Destiny Foundation as “somewhat of an entrepreneur in the arts.”[5] Dorr also helped organize a group exhibition a few months prior to Arakawa’s solo show, featuring Arakawa, Ay-O, Masunobu Yoshimura (another central Neo Dada artist), Robert Morris, Dorr himself, and other artists including John Chamberlain, Robert Motherwell, Claes Oldenberg, and Jim Dine (fig. 6).[6] The first four of these artists had in fact shown together in a separate group exhibition almost a year earlier entitled Boxing Match at Gordon’s Fifth Avenue Gallery in New York City, suggesting a relationship between Dorr and the gallery.

Figure 6. Announcement for the Zuni group exhibition, 1964.

The Arakawa works in the Zuni solo show appear to be related to the works shown in the Boxing Match exhibition roughly a year earlier, both of which reveal an increasing orientation toward mechanization relative to the previous coffin works.[7] We know from a letter sent from Dorr to Arakawa that Dorr intended to exhibit at least some of the works from the Boxing Match show at Zuni, with Dorr specifically mentioning Mechanized Plant (1963), a work that was ultimately not included. Be Kind Enough to Turn the Switch On (1962), in which a distinctive mechanical device perches atop the coffin-like box’s right-hand corner, does appear to have been exhibited in both shows according to available documentation. It is impossible, however, to verify whether the contents of the coffins were the same in both exhibitions as the documentation from Boxing Match only shows it with its lid closed.

Figure 7. The Method of Advancing a Great Distance by Descending (1962). Photograph by O.E. Nelson. Installation shot at Gordon’s Fifth Avenue Gallery.
Figure 8. The Law of Perspective Discovered for the Second Time (1960).

In a review of Boxing Match, Donald Judd writes about two other works that further support mechanization as a distinctive development within Arakawa’s practice. He describes a work that has “parts of a chemical apparatus, a reversed plaster hand, a plastic case and a minute blinking light.”[8] The work in question appears to be The Method of Advancing a Great Distance by Descending (1962) (fig. 7), which can be seen peeking out from behind Robert Morris’s Untitled (Cloud) (1962) in the background of one of the installation shots.[9] Judd also mentions The Law of Perspective Discovered for the Second Time (1960) (fig. 8), describing it as “[a] four-by-eight black box, with a lid, [that] contains, laid out on pink silk, a bifurcated ray with a wide crest and a phallic tail of foam rubber, a body of cotton and three eyes which are lenses.”[10] This work most likely appears with its lid closed behind Yoshimura’s sculptures in the photographic documentation. In the Dwan Gallery archive, this latter coffin is dated to 1960, although an October 1963 issue of Bijutsu Techo contradicts this, suggesting that its production occurred after Arakawa’s move in late 1961.[11] Regardless, comparing these two works described by Judd reveals the progression that had occurred in Arakawa’s coffin works within his first year of moving to New York. While the materials used in The Law of Perspective Discovered for the Second Time are congruent with the materials and forms Arakawa used in the coffin works in Tokyo, The Method of Advancing a Great Distance by Descending displays an increased use of mechanical and manufactured parts to new effect.

Figure 9. Unidentified work in Zuni exhibition.
Figure 10a. Work (1963) in Zuni exhibition.
Figure 10b. Work (1963), in Mizue (January 1964). Photograph by Eric Pollitzer.

The Zuni solo exhibition of 1964, nearly one year after the Boxing Match show, confirms such a trend through a new set of coffin works.[12] These works contain long glass tubular rods arranged in organized rows, compartmentalized plexiglass structures, and an abundance of wires, switches, buzzers, and hinges (fig. 9). In general, the Zuni works are distinct in their language of technological complexity uncharacteristic of the coffin works prior to Arakawa’s move to the United States. One such work, simply titled Work (1963), makes apparent the extent to which the industrial parts Arakawa utilized no longer adorn the corporeal masses and instead have become incorporated in ways that imply elaborate functions (fig. 10a).[13] This large coffin work holds within its complex apparatus a smaller one, as if expropriating a vital resource from it. In this remarkable instance of self-referentiality, the smaller coffin—reminiscent of the earlier and more simple coffin works—is hooked up to a series of conduits and wires housed in different interconnected compartments. A cord spills out from the frame of the larger coffin, connecting it to a bulbous glass fixture suspended above a small vitrine resting on the floor. This work also appears in color in a January 1964 issue of Mizue magazine, showing a central object on its bed of lilac satin in the smaller coffin, which itself is nested on a lilac bed within the body of the larger coffin, producing a humorous mise en abyme effect (fig. 10b).

Arakawa’s drawings exhibited in the Zuni show also seem to be in a state of transition, en route to the diagrams of his mid-career work. While these works employ the visual language familiar from the later paintings, they also feature more organic, growth-like forms and painting methods not characteristic of them. Arakawa’s choice of watercolor, whose transparent wash preserves the presence of hand, heightens this effect as the brushwork does not yet display the removal of his touch seen in the later paintings. Accordingly, these works may be seen to link the corporeality of the coffin works and the diagrammatic language of the paintings to follow (fig. 11).

Figure 11. Unidentified work in Zuni exhibition.

In this simultaneous mechanization of the coffin works and atypical biomorphism of the diagrams, we observe Arakawa thinking through new artistic ideas in his existing practice. A significant factor in this development was Arakawa’s relationship with Duchamp, which began in 1961. According to an oral history interview with Arakawa conducted by Reiko Tomii and Midori Yoshimoto, Arakawa met Duchamp immediately upon his arrival in New York.[14] The two maintained a friendship until Duchamp’s death in 1968 and his influence would have profound consequences on Arakawa’s practice.

The fact that Arakawa made reference to the older artist in his later coffin works indicates this. For example, Arakawa’s use of both positive and negative casts of body parts in these late coffin works recalls Duchamp’s own casts in With my tongue in my cheek (1959) and his “erotic objects.” We also observe references in Arakawa’s titling, such as The Method of Advancing a Great Distance by Descending, which directly alludes to Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2, (1912). Although this coffin sculpture was not shown at Zuni, likely due to the work’s inclusion by John Weber in the Dwan Gallery’s own box-themed show that took place around the same time, another smaller, unidentified Zuni work shares many of its distinctive features. These include its mouse-eared silhouette and the body’s framing of a gridded, topological plane akin to the Euclidean space of the diagrammatic drawings (fig. 12). Such recurring features suggest that this smaller work might have served as a study or model for The Method of Advancing a Great Distance by Descending. This association helps to contextualize the series of square doors set into the base of the smaller Zuni work, a feature that also appears in Arakawa’s Diagram with Duchamp’s Glass as a Minor Detail (1964). This latter sculpture, which was not a coffin work, paid homage to The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-1923), also known as The Large Glass.

Figure 12. Unidentified works in Zuni exhibition.

Instances such as these in the later coffin works underscore the importance of Duchamp in their new integration of complex machinery. As the coffin works became more cyborgic, they also entered into close dialogue with the bachelor machines of The Large Glass. Both reimagined the figure through a mechanics of absurd expenditure: like the bachelor machines’ fruitless endeavoring, the late coffin works labor futilely. These parallels suggest that Duchamp played at least some role in the mutation of Arakawa’s sculptural practice after his arrival in New York.

Arakawa’s next exhibition, Die-agrams, marked his divergence away from the coffin sculpture format while maintaining a connection to his fascination with death in the next major period of his oeuvre. A further ode to Duchamp with its use of pun, this inaugural solo exhibition at the Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles, opened on March 29th of 1964, less than a week after the Zuni exhibition closed. It seems, then, that it would be more accurate to say that Arakawa left his boxes in Buffalo than in Japan as suggested in the article by Tono cited at the beginning of this essay, a misunderstanding further perpetuated by Arakawa’s omission of the Zuni solo from his exhibition record altogether by the time of his show at the Stedelijk van Abbemuseum in December 1966. His reasons for this were never stated, though it suggests that he no longer saw the exhibition and its works as representative of his artistic identity. Analysis of the late coffins works, therefore, has much to tell us about Arakawa’s thinking at this crucial juncture in the trajectory of his career. Further study would not only yield new insight into these relatively obscure works, but also into Arakawa’s own self-conception as an artist within the social context he encountered in New York.

[1] Yoshiaki Tono, “Shusaku Arakawa, Tomio Miki, and Tetsumi Kudo,” Artforum (January 1967): 53.

[2] Tono, “Shusaku Arakawa,” 53.

[3] Tono, “Shusaku Arakawa,” 53.

[4] Tono, “Shusaku Arakawa,” 55.

[5] Email correspondence between Ben Perrone and Amara Magloughlin, June 9th, 2018.

[6] These latter artists appear to have come from Dorr’s own collection. Email correspondence between Ben Perrone and Amara Magloughlin, June 9th, 2018.

[7] This exhibition was revisited by Castelli Gallery in 2019. The exhibition catalog includes materials crucial to this research and may be accessed at https://www.castelligallery.com/publications/1963-boxing-match-revisited.

[8] Donald Judd, “Reviews for Arts Magazine, April – May/June 1963,” in Donald Judd: Complete Writings 1959-1975: Gallery Reviews, Book Reviews, Articles, Letters to the Editor, Reports, Statements, Complaints (Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1975), 90.

[9] ARTnews reviewer K.L. writes that “Cloud, a horizontal box (a grey plane) suspended at eye level, gives a curious effect of blindness.” K.L., “Boxing Match,” ARTnews (March 1963): n.p. Re-printed in Boxing Match: 4 Sculptors: Arakawa, Ay-O, Morris, Yoshimura, ed. Castelli Gallery (New York, NY: Castelli Gallery, 2019): 24.

[10] Judd, “Reviews,” 90.

[11] Yusuke Nakahara, “Shusaku Arakawa,” Bijutsu Techo (October 1963): n.p.

[12] The possible exception of Be Kind Enough to Turn the Switch On is mentioned above.

[13] Yoshiaki Tono, “Statement by Japanese Vanguard Artists from Saito to Arakawa,” Mizue (January 1964): 26.

[14] Oral History Interview with Shusaku Arakawa, conducted by Midori Yoshimoto and Reiko Tomii, April 4, 2009, Oral History Archives of Japanese Art (URL: https://oralarthistory.org/archives/arakawa_shusaku/interview_01.php).

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Events front page News

Neon Dance: Beyond Body and Things

‘Beyond Body and Things’ by Neon Dance explores social connectivity and collaboration using bio-inspired robotics. The work is designed to unravel the origins of loneliness and explores the idea that loneliness stems from the interaction of the individual with the social realm, so that it is not just mental, but also physical, sensorial, and material.

Adrienne Hart (Neon Dance) presented her work both at Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2018 and Setouchi Art Triennale 2019. It was this experience of working with rural communities in Japan that led the artist to consider why, given our hyper connectivity, loneliness is so prevalent today.  ‘Beyond Body and Things’ invites participants to enter the installation and leave their mark in sand whilst interacting with robot creatures and a virtual performer. The work is an attempt to cultivate the ‘architectural body’—a concept formulated by Madeline Gins and Arakawa—as a potential cure to loneliness. Perhaps there’s little room for loneliness if life is a stream of constant connections where one relates not just to people but also objects and environment. 

‘Beyond Body and Things’ is a collaborative work developed in 2021-22, during which time Neon Dance ran a series of ‘co-creation’ workshops with Bristol Robotics Lab, sharing and inviting members of the public to feed into the robot creation process. There are 2 twin robots that feature in ‘Beyond Body and Things’ with turtle inspired feet. The robots use tele-operation to enable a live performer from the UK to respond to audience members physically. Kneel down next to one and hold out your hand to become an attractor, the robots will follow and respond to your movement. At the end, step back and observe the sand painting created by both robot and human bodies. 

Event Information
https://setouchi-artfest.jp/en/event/detail495.html
November 3, 4, and 5 2022 
@Former YOSHIDA Sake Brewery, Tadotsu town, Kagawa, Japan
Setouchi Triennale 2022 https://setouchi-artfest.jp/en/

 

Credits

Concept / Direction:
Adrienne Hart

Choreography
Adrienne Hart in collaboration with Fukiko Takase

Robot Design and Concept 
Bristol Robotics Lab (Hemma Philamore, Alix Partridge and Calum Gillespie) 

Dance Artists
Fukiko Takase

Music
Sebastian Reynolds 

Costume
Mikio Sakabe 

Funded by 
Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grants, Brigstow Institute, The
Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and EPSRC Impact Acceleration Fund.

Supported by 
Swindon Dance, University of Bristol, The Place, Wellcome Collection, Bristol
Beacon, Dance4, South East Dance, Reversible Destiny Foundation and Arakawa
+ Gins Tokyo Office

Top image: Photo by Miles Hart

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front page Recent Exhibitions

STILL ALIVE – Aichi Triennale 2022

STILL ALIVE  Aichi Triennale 2022

Aichi Arts Center , Nagoya City, Japan

July 30 – October 10, 2022

 

We are pleased to announce that Arakawa and Madeline Gins will be participating in the Aichi Triennale 2022 “STILL ALIVE”.

For more information, visit https://aichitriennale.jp/en/

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Ambiguous Zones, 10

Dear Friends,

Even though there are about two weeks left of summer in New York, where the RDF office is located, we have been inundated with advertisements for pumpkin spice everything (lattes, donuts, beer, etc.) since the last week of August. Rather than turn to this fall flavor already, we thought we would share the recipe for Banana Cake from Arakawa’s painting, Untitled, 1968, for Ambiguous Zones 10. Unlike your typical banana bread recipe, which is full of spice, this cake heroes the banana, and topped with pillowy layers of whipped cream, it sounded like a perfect dessert to celebrate the end of summer. While Arakawa most likely did not intend for the recipe to be baked, this painting offers a set of instructions that you can follow, as many of his other paintings explicitly ask you to do. It is always an interesting experiment to see the divergent outcomes when different people follow the same set of instructions.

joy-of-cooking

This recipe comes from the 1963 edition of The Joy of Cooking, which Madeline and Arakawa most likely had on their shelves and was often the first place you might look when searching for a recipe in the pre-internet era. With the proliferation of recipes available online today, the question is this: should you try this recipe at home? Only if you heed its first sentence: “Do try this, if you enjoy a banana flavor.” Without any spice to speak of, this cake indeed tastes like a mashed banana, so if that does not appeal to you, then you should find a different recipe. Two of RDF’s staff members who enjoy baking—Amara and Kathryn—came to this conclusion by baking it for themselves. Nonetheless, The Joy of Cooking remains an amazing resource and, perhaps tellingly, later editions dropped this recipe. When Kathryn asked her father if he still had his copy of this edition, he answered that he did not, but suggested several times that she instead bake one of Martha Stewart’s banana cake recipes (which do look very good). Amara’s mother still had her copy and kindly sent over a photograph, which is shared above. Despite Kathryn’s father’s warnings, Amara and Kathryn were determined to stick with the recipe that Arakawa painted. Kathryn did so to the letter and ended up with a very sweet and slightly dry cake. As a very experienced baker, she knew this was a likely outcome, but she altruistically followed through. The recipe really does call for an inordinate amount of sugar, given how sweet bananas are! Learning from Kathryn’s experience, Amara chose to interpret Arakawa’s label of “mistake,” written near the list of ingredients in the lower portion of the painting, as a license to make any mistake she wanted to and so she dramatically reduced the sugar and baked the cake for a shorter period. Both “mistakes” helped a lot! Kathryn chose to present her cake plain with slices from two bananas between the layers, one of the options in the recipe, but quickly served it with whipped cream as the recipe suggests. Amara sandwiched the layers with unsweetened whipped cream and an almost-two-year-old added banana slices from only one banana, leaving one slice vertical for reasons she did not state when questioned. Amara then topped the cake with whipped cream as well. In the end, their consensus is that banana bread, which usually calls for spices and less sugar, is better than banana cake, and that plums might be a better dessert fruit to bridge the gap between the end of August and the third week of September, seasonally still summer, but starting to feel a bit more like autumn. Sorry to this Banana Cake.

Yours in the reversible destiny mode,

Reversible Destiny Foundation and the ARAKAWA+GINS Tokyo Office

Top image: Arakawa, Untitled, 1968
Second image:
Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker, “Banana Cake,” in The Joy of Cooking (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1963), 630.

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front page News Recent Exhibitions

Dead Lecturer/distant relative:
Notes from the Woodshed, 1950-1980

Dead Lecturer/distant relative: Notes from the Woodshed, 1950-1980
 
Exhibition at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery

Lenfest Center for the Arts, Columbia University
615 West 129th Street
New York, NY 10027

Through Oct 1, 2022
 
Arakawa’s paintings, Who is it? No. 2 (1970) and “No!” says THE SIGNIFIED NO. 2 (1973), are now on view as part of the group exhibition curated by Genji Amino, Dead Lecturer/distant relative: Notes from the Woodshed, 1950–1980, at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University. The exhibition focuses on works by Asian American and African American artists whose approaches to abstraction provided alternatives to prevailing vocabularies for representation and resistance during the social movements of the 1960s and 70s, and for whom the parameters of visibility continue to remain a problem for thought today.

Image: Arakawa, “No!” says THE SIGNIFIED NO. 2, 1973. Acrylic, oil on canvas, styrofoam.
Collection Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; gift of Mr. and Mrs. Miles Q. Fiterman, 1991

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AG conferences Events front page News

“AGxKANSAI 2022” Arakawa and Gins International Conference

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

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

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

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

Please do not forget to register in advance

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

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Events front page News Recent Exhibitions

ARAKAWA: Waiting Voices at Gagosian Gallery in Basel

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

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

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

Lecture Précis:

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

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

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

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

Lecturer:

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

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

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

Categories
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Children Who Won’t Die, Arakawa / WE, Madeline Gins

Reversible Destiny Foundation is pleased to announce that the International edition of the Documentary Films Childen Who Won’t Die and We, directed by Nobu Yamaoka, is now available for purchase online

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: https://www.architectural-body.com

 

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.

Cast:
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.

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

Director: Nobu Yamaoka

 

For more information please visit: https://www.architectural-body.com

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Multiples, Inc.: 1965–1992

Arakawa, Landscape (mistake), 1970

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

 

Multiples, Inc.: 1965–1992

Marian Goodman Gallery, New York

Jan 12 – Feb 27, 2021

 

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

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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 www.amazon.co.jp

Categories
front page Recent Exhibitions

How to Survive

Arakawa + Gins in group exhibition How to Survive, at the Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany.

Gustav Metzger – Shusaku Arakawa/Madeline Gins – Alina Szapocznikow – Tracey Emin – Valérie Favre – Jean-Pascal Flavien – Elizabeth Jäger – Mike Kelley – An-My Lê – Beatrice Olmedo

On view November 14, 2020 through February 28, 2021.

“Expulsions, disasters and injuries are ruptures in human lives that prompt survivors to question the meaning and nature of survival. Managing to come to terms with this issue is like a creative act, a self-empowerment. The exhibition project will evoke this power of art by presenting three central figures whose work will be shown in depth in combination with individual works by other artists.

Gustav Metzger (1926 – 2017), Shusaku Arakawa (1936 – 2010)/Madeline Gins (1941 – 2014) and Alina Szapocznikow (1926 – 1973) represent three central positions that formulate survival strategies in their artistic work and address existential issues that are particularly urgent today.”


– Carina Plath, curator