July 2013 Archives

July 25, 2013

Dome Half Full

You know what? It's the little differences.

When Americans think of Buckminster Fuller's Geodesic dome, they probably remember the eternal, benevolent optimism of the US Pavilion at the 1967 World's Fair in Montreal. Oh yes, good times.

If only Europe could look back to these days, and past the array of geodesic domes dotting the continent, the ones in which NATO radar dishes and surveillance equipment have been cloaked, then everything would be awesome once again.

der_spiegel_bundesdome.jpg

Looks like Der Spiegel didn't get the memo.

What spate of unfortunate public disclosures and Oscar losses could ever have precipitated the CIA's decision to allow coverage of its "museum"? Or maybe what beat needed to be freshly greased by NBC, that it would propose a tour of the awesome, closed-to-the-public historical exhibition spaces at Langley?

cia_ak47_display_makelynbc.jpg
image: John Makely/NBC News

We'll never really know, but the day before military prosecutors made their closing arguments against Pfc Bradley Manning, we were somehow lucky enough to see the AK-47 that belonged to Osama bin Laden himself, or at least the one that was found, in undiscussed circumstances, near him in the Abottabad room where he was killed.

I am most impressed by its presentation, on a simple painted grey shelf, with a bullet-riddled book of some kind, which is mounted against a tumultuous photomural of, of what, exactly? A massive explosion ripping apart a heavily forested hillside? I'm sure that's not an image from the botched attack on the caves of Tora Bora, where the US, already chomping at the Iraqi bit, let bin Laden get away in 2002. The CIA would not have such self-criticality [on unclassified display].

steinbach_bard_inst_1979.jpg
Haim Steinbach, installation, 1979, image via bard.edu

But one thing we do know: at least one operative in Langley is a fan of Haim Steinbach.

'Secret' CIA museum features Osama bin Laden's AK-47 [nbcnews]
Haim Steinbach: Once Again The World Is Flat, runs through Dec. 20, 2013 at CCS Bard [bard.edu]

July 25, 2013

The Notorious J.D.

So this is it, the end of the East Coast/West Coast, dealer/museum director rivalry going on within Jeffrey Deitch himself.

tupac_hologram.jpg

And yet the illest news comes from way back in April 2012, the height [or nadir] of Deitch's drive-by MOCA leadership. How did I miss these things? In his incisive post-mortem, William Poundstone notes that Jeffrey and his guest curator-in-marketing Mike D had wanted to include Tupac Hologram in their Mercedes-Benz Avant/Garde Diaries show, "Transmission LA: A/V Club" but that they "couldn't swing the loan."

Which, what??

Sure enough, in an interview with Isabel Wilkinson published on Apr. 20, 2012 in the Daily Beast [which might explain why I didn't see it], Mike D said, "We wanted to see if we could bring the Tupac hologram here, but it has to be at Coachella again next weekend."

Yes, well, I guess it was just one of those last minute things. Tupac Hologram appeared at Coachella on Sunday, April 15, and Transmission LA: A/V Club opened on April 20th. And the Beastie Boys only had pull with Doctor Dré the Hot 97 DJ, who had previously been a DJ for their performances, not Dr. Dre the rapper/producer who orchestrated the entire digital reincarnation project for Coachella in the first place.

And maybe it would have been odd for Tupac to participate, even posthumously--especially posthumously--in a Mercedes promotional event, seeing as how he was gunned down in the passenger seat of a BMW 7-Series. Gotta say I'm with Team Dre on this one.

deitch_house_nyt_minton.jpg

And another PR piece timed to the opening of the Mercedes show, the April 22 NYT Magazine tour of "Jeffrey Deitch's Party House". Which leads with this brilliant photo by Jeff Minton of JD posing as just another wacky element of his Gaetano Pesce Gli amici sofa. I didn't realize it at the time, but when Stacey Allan tweeted this picture this morning, I knew what we needed all along was some Yo Gabba Gabba!-style action figures. Maybe it's not too late for one more indie vinyl toy exhibit before he blows town? Deitch & Friends! Collect'em all!

codax_lobster_gavin_brown.jpg

Gavin Brown's enterprise has a show of Henry Codax paintings organized by Shoot the Lobster.

The press release quotes an interview Codax did with Peter Scott, which ran in Grey Magazine in March. Scott runs Carriage Trade, where Codax's paintings were shown for the first time in Summer 2011.

codax_ct_blue_green_yellow.jpg
Henry Codax, installation view, 2011, Carriage Trade

Shoot the Lobster is the projects program/backroom of Jose Martos' gallery on 29th Street.

codax_martos_nada_2012.jpg
Henry Codax, NADA NYC 2012 installation view, Martos Gallery

Martos showed Codax's paintings twice in 2012: first at NADA NYC in May, then in the gallery from June through August.

codax_martos_2012.jpg
Henry Codax, "Long Suffering," installation view, Summer 2012, Martos Gallery

Martos Gallery's current summer show is No Place Like You, works by Peter Scott. Shoot the Lobster's current summer show is No Place Like You (continued), a related group show with works by Dan Graham, Servane Mary, Heidi Schlatter and Jaques Tati.

Last year, I wrote of Codax's practice:

What little we know of Codax comes from fiction, but his paintings are real, physical facts. As the ambiguities about the artist persist, even multiply, the paintings remain unchanged. When I first saw Codax's work last summer, it intrigued me. I liked it, but worried that it might be a stunt, a one-liner in the form of a show. But Codax keeps making and showing work. And selling it, sometimes to people who try to flip it. And getting reviewed and written about. At some point, it's possible that the persistence of Codax's paintings may overcome the uncertainties of their origins. We'll just accept them--and buy and sell and show them--for what they are: Henry Codax paintings.
Which seems both truer and wronger today. Codax's paintings certainly persist. After three Summer shows in New York, it may be time to consider Henry Codax paintings a fixture, a tradition. A Codax show holds the gallery walls while the nonfictional art world is out of town. They're the painting equivalent of a lamp timer, set up to convince the passerby that someone's home.

They're a housesitter that doesn't water your plants And won't cover your bills. Because is it just me, or are these some of the same actual paintings? Why doesn't anyone want the yellow one? Are Codax paintings like Hirst Spots, no two colors alike, or are people still just not getting it?

From the Grey interview:

Scott:...Though the idea of a pseudonym may not be new, if this was a recent example, it entered it into a system of valuation and exchange, which is dependent upon a traceable identification between the maker and the object. This identification was never made publicly, nor offered contractually, which created problems when the work came up for auction. The speculation around the authorship dovetailed with the market speculation around the work until they were indistinguishable to some.
Codax: Until the auction.
Scott: The irony is that the market speculation was hindered by "Henry's" rumored origins being asserted as fact. As long as you remained an artist that "might have been" created by actual, living artists, there was no "true" identity to be lost. The moment that any living person either claimed or disclaimed you, you were subject to verification to establish your "actual" worth.
Codax: So you're now saying I no longer exist.
Scott: I'm saying you exist through all the paintings out there attributed to the artist Henry Codax.
Lights are on. I believe.

Henry Codax Shoot the Lobster at Gavin Brown's enterprise, through 10 Aug 2013 [gavinbrown.biz]
An interview with Henry Codax [grey-magazine]

Previous Codaxplanations on greg.org:
Henry Codax at Auction; Speculation, on the Codax auction aftermath

Thumbnail image for sop_red_gregorg.jpg

OK, It's hard to complain about your day-to-day when you're doing a project on people being held in indefinite detention for a decade, even after being cleared for release, and then being force fed with nasal tubes when you go on a hunger strike in a last ditch effort to get attention for your existence.

So anyway, Standard Operating Procedure is out, and it is rather amazing.

2. When the Nurse is satisfied that the detainee is secured and a safe environment exists, they shall insert the EF tube ias SOP NO:JTF-JMT #001 and secure it as dsecribed in (A).
3. The guard may then release their hold on the detainee's head

E. If a particular detainee displays repeated attempts to bite the tube, a weighted 10f tube shall be used for all subsequent EF.

F. If the detainee is able to gain the tube between his teeth, the nurse will:
1. Simultaneously turn off feed and, immediately stabilize the distal end of the tube and pull the tube from the detainee's nose.
2. Maintain traction on the proximal portion of the tube until the detainee releases the tube from between his teeth. This may take considerable time. [p. 281]

These documents--these words, in this order--are extraordinary. They have been written this way.

Buy Standard Operating Procedure in unsigned, unnumbered edition, 6x9x1.5, $15.99 plus shipping [createspace]
Previously: Standard Operating Procedure

View from the window at Le Gras, 1826, Joseph Nicephore Niepce

The world's first photograph, a persistent image made by exposing chemicals to light, was taken in 1826 by Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce. [NEES-uh-fore NYEHps]

It's the view from a window of his house in Le Gras. It was made by projecting the view through a camera obscura onto a small pewter plate coated with bitumen and developed with lavender oil. The exposure took several days [The sun can be seen hitting opposite sides of the buildings.] Niépce called it a heliograph.

Niépce eventually partnered with Louis Daguerre who was also working to fix images chemically, but Niépce died, his less inventive son stepped into the partnership, and thanks to some branding jiujitsu, Daguerre basically crossed the history finish line alone in 1839 as the inventor of photography. [Niépce son did write a pamphlet in 1841 titled, Historique de la Découverte Improprement Nomée Daguerreotype, procédé d'une notice sur son véritable inventeur feu, M. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (History of the discovery improperly misnamed daguerreotype, preceded by a note from its real inventor Joseph Nicéphore Niépce.) So there's that.]

niecpe_view_flipped.jpg
An enhanced view of Niepce's View, flipped to match the actual view

View from the window at Le Gras, known as Point de vue de Gras in French, was lost until 1952, when the historian/collector Helmut Gernsheim tracked it down. It's now in the collection of the Ransom Center at UT Austin.

Niépce's house, in a village called Saint-Loup-de-Varennes, is now a museum, open for visitors in July and August [and other times of the year for a flat EUR150 get out of bed fee.]

The property was divided in the mid-19th century, but the house is largely intact. Yet it was unclear exactly from which window the image had been made. Gernsheim thought it was from the attic. This French site discusses all sorts of details about maps, lenses, exposure times, focal lengths, angles, and suggests it was on the 1st floor.

Or maybe that window's not even there anymore. A restoration project at the house in 1999 found evidence of a remodeling that moved the window on the 1st floor sideways by 70cm. Here's a short video about the investigation, trapped inside a tiny Flash window.

Alas, you can't try to recreate Niépce's photo yourself, because photos are not allowed in the photography museum. The operators have sold exclusive rights to some agency. Here's the sign on StreetView.

niepce_street_view.jpg

View from the Window at le Gras [wikipedia]
Niepce house museum [niepce.org]

Jonathan Rosenbaum taught a seminar on American independent film at Bela Tarr's film.factory, the 3-year graduate film/filmmaking program he's begun in Sarajevo. How's that going?

I soon discovered that one of the main reasons why film.factory wasn't a school was that it was much closer to a film shoot, something Béla knew and understood a lot better. This meant that everything, my screenings and lectures included, was subject to last-minute revisions due to weather, equipment, health, sudden inspirations and other variables. And bearing in mind Orson Welles' definition of a film director as someone who presides over accidents - along with the dawning realisation that the same vicissitudes might even apply to film historians, and therefore to what we all know as film history - an important part of my own education over my 18 days in Sarajevo was learning how to roll with all the punches.
One good thing about being Bela Tarr is you're never at a loss for ways to fill a sudden gap in the schedule:
a screening of Béla's 450-minute Sátántangó one Saturday (the first time [f.f program mgr] Sunčica and nearly all the others saw it), introduced by me. This was followed the next day by Béla lecturing for four-and-a-half hours about how he made it, shot by shot and take by take, using a sort of post-it storyboard as his narrative thread. (As with the film itself, there were two intermissions.)
The workshop before Rosenbaum's was led by Carlos Reygadas. The one after was by Tilda Swinton, a Socratic dialogue about performers, and it sounds fascinating. Seriously.

a personal report on an adventure called film.factory [bfi via keyframe daily]

In Japan, I woke up a couple of nights angry from dreams about having dinner at the White House, and sitting across from Pres. Obama, and arguing with him about hunger striking prisoners at Guantanamo.

We talked--I talked at him, because, I guess my mind was incapable of imagining a viable retort, really, what could he say?--about Yasiin Bey's video demonstrating the standard procedure the military uses to force feed hunger strikers through their noses. And I asked if the Constitution was now as quaint as the Geneva Conventions, a reference to Bush era torture theorist John Yoo's position on following the rule of law and international treaties the US had nominally upheld for decades.

It was the kind of dream where I felt that surge of adrenaline, that this moment, this conversation, was going to be what opened the President's eyes to the awful urgency of this situation our country is in. These people are in.

I had seen the reports by investigative journalist Jason Leopold which revealed JTF-GTMO's recent, extraordinary revisions to the prison hospital's forced feeding procedures. But it wasn't until a couple of days ago that, with Jason's assistance, I found the actual military manuals and memos themselves. They are in an archive of documents produced in response to Freedom of Information Act requests maintained byThe Department of Defense's FOIA Service Center.

sop_red_gregorg.jpg

I can't not do something, so I have published the three sets of detainee treatment regulations, known as Standard Operating Procedures, as a book. Which, believe me, I know. I feel a bit like an outraged @Powhida jamming @BarackObama into all his tweets, until the non-effect wore him out.

It's weird feeling compelled to do something that you recognize is irrational and irrelevant. But again, I can't not do something, and this is one thing I do. Andwith all due respect to Richard Prince, this text, as it is, and as it drives the world, is the kind of thing I feel must be propagated and put examined and contextualized if appropriation, or art, or attention, really, is going to mean anything at all.

Standard Operating Procedure includes the SOP Manual for Camp Delta, the prison side of GTMO, which was implemented in 2003. It's 240-some pages, not including the various classified appendices for detainee transport and adjudication, which have not, apparently, been released. It also contains the 2003 version of SOP for the detention hospital for "Voluntary and Non-Voluntary Total Fasting and Re-Feeding," which has several p.ages completely redacted. And then there's the May 2013 revision to those procedures, which are contained in an SOP for the Joint Medical Group for the "Medical Management of Detainees on Hunger Strike." That's the regime the detainees are currently under.

Of course, as Leopold and others continue to report, the situation of detainees is even worse than what these SOP prescribe. There are indications that regulations are extensively, if not routinely ignored by guards and prison commanders. These primary documents embody the best case scenario for people who have been cleared for release for years, but who remain in harsh, indefinite, imprisonment.

So whether youbuy the book [which should be is finally available to order this weekend, I think; I've been experiencing some friction from the printer/publisher, which is kind of annoying, and it's been going on all week.] or read the regulations in electronic format, read them, and know that they exist.

Buy Standard Operating Procedure, 284pp, unsigned edition, $15.99 +s/h [createspace]

July 18, 2013

Gursky Goods

gurusuki-ten.png

An exhibition of Andreas Gursky photos opened at the National Art Center on July 3rd, the day after I arrived in Tokyo. My first instinct was to not go, because of the whole Ghetto Gursky thing, but I decided that, precisely because I'm making some of my own now, I really should see the Gursky Gurskys again up close. It was highly enlightening.

I would not call the show a retrospective. There were three curators involved from two Japanese institutions, but the 65 photos were "specially selected by Gursky himself." In fact, except for a lone Pyongyang photo which is in the collection of the other venue for the show, the National Art Museum, Osaka, all the works come from the artist's own collection. [The selection looks very similar to to the Museum Kunstapalast show last year.] Another similarity: instead of a chronological approach, the show organizers explain, Gursky designed the exhibition to "uniquely aim to show the entire body of work as a single unified entity with both old and new and small and large formats displayed side by side."

Which, wait, what? Small format Gursky? Is that some kind of Zen koan? Above all else, a Gursky is known for its "panoramic scale"; a "huge scale that envelops our body"; a "huge picture" with "a powerful presence...as an object," which requires an "active viewing experience," moving out and in, similar to that commonly used for large paintings. These descriptions all come from the current show's catalogue essays, but they're identical to nearly everything that's been written about Gursky's photographs since the 1990s. They're bleeding edge big, and they've only been getting bigger.

gursky_nact_inst_gadabout.jpg
Gursky NACT installation shot showing small prints, taken by gadabout.jp, which also has a great photo of the artist

And yet fully a quarter of the prints in this exhibition, including some of his most well-known images, are small, around 40x50, 60, or 70cm. That includes Rhine II [whose$4.3 million auction result is mentioned in the show's introduction]. It's a dry-mounted inkjet print measuring just 43x71cm. That's even smaller than the exhibition poster.

gursky_nact_poster.jpg
Exhibition poster for NACT's "Gursky" depicting Rhine II, size A1, signed ed. of 200, 58,000 yen.

How often were such editions made or shown? Only your dealer knows for sure. I admit, it wasn't until Rhine II sold in 2011 that I realized Gursky made an image in sizes other than "absolutely biggest possible." From the part of Christie's catalogue notes not cribbed from Tate: "Unusually for the artist, this series contains photographs produced on multiple scales, the present work being the largest of the entire edition." But that meant 2x3.5m [like at Tate and Christie's], and 1.5x3m, [like at MoMA and the Pinakothek Moderne, Munich]. Now there's a 40x70cm pocket size, too? And what to do about that poster, which is available as a signed edition of 200, for 58,000 yen, in the exhibition site's Gursky "Goods" section? Yes. アンドレアス・グッズキー。

gursky_pompidou_tate.jpg
Centre George Pompidou, 1995, image: tate

It's not like there's never been any. There's everyone's My First Gursky, of course, the Pompidou image (54x70cm) he released as a Parkett edition of 60+?? in 1995. [Ironically, the image above is of one of two large-scale artist proofs of the image, which was a gift to Tate Modern from architects Herzog & deMeuron, whose exhibition is depicted.]

gursky_white_cube_99cent_inst.jpg

And in a show at White Cube in 2003, Gursky did include an adorable little diptych of 99 Cent. Actually, those wide borders kind of kill it for me.

gursky_99cent_xs_whitecube.jpg

OK, jump back. Here's the Gursky page at the local Cologne auction house Van Ham, which has more than a dozen small images, published in editions of 12-30, including even a couple of offset prints.

gursky_nact_ed_bangkok.jpg

So the three Bangkok series prints, in editions of 50 each, being sold by lottery at the gift shop for 500,000 yen, have context after all.

Since seeing the show until I sat down to research and write this out, I had assumed that with these little prints, I'd been beaten to the Ghetto Gursky punch by the artist himself. But these are not Ghetto Gurskys; they're Entry Level Gurskys. Totally different. And those early German ones? Emerging Artist Gurskys. Also totally different.

Anyway, back to the show. These small prints did not really work for me. They primarily serve, along with the non-chronological hanging, to obscure the evolutionary relationship between Gursky and his technology, namely large-format photo printing and Photoshop.

There are definitely transition points and leaps to be seen between prints of different eras, in terms of size, medium, and resolution. And though two of the three curators emphasize the objecthood of Gursky's photos, these actual characteristics, the print equivalent of a painting's facture, go completely unmentioned.

One thing that jumped out at me: 1996-7 seems like it was a rough period for C-prints. Up close, a couple of those Prada shelf images looked like Seurats. But by 1999 they got better. The massive Ocean prints (2010), which were worked up from satellite imagery to look like animated airline inflight video maps, are giant C-prints of quality. But the Bangkok series (2011) of manipulated, river reflections, are crispy inkjets, perhaps another process shift.

All the small photos are inkjets, too, even the Parkett edition that was originally a C-print. A very early photo, Ruhr Valley (1989), is seen as a C-print 2.2x3m C-print, a scale I don't believe was possible when the image was made. Indeed, it used to be dated 1993, which is presumably when the 57x66-inch version was produced. Which means Gursky's objects are actually photographs after all. He goes back and prints them again. Size matters, but not as an indication of age. Emulsion grain and chemistry matter, but not as an indication of patina. I've heard Gursky will offer collectors reprints when images have destabilized or faded. Which is probably good customer service. But which seems rough on the object/painting positioning. In any case, no one in Japan, at least, cares when anything was printed.

gursky_kamiokande_650.jpg
Gursky's Kamiokande, 2007, image via: whitecube

Something else that really complicated my view of Gursky's works was evident from the signature image for the show: Kamiokande (2007). It's a photo of the Super Kamiokande neutrino detector which, coincidentally, I'd tried to visit on this trip. [We spent time nearby, in the mountains of Gifu prefecture.] It's also something I have written about here before. And so it's extremely obvious to me that Gursky's image, in aspects large and small, is nearly identical to earlier published images of the giant underground tank.

super_kamiokande_boat2.jpg
Image from 2001 or whenever, from Super-K themselves

Indeed, in the catalogue's obligatory, "But what does Gursky think about Japan?" essay, curator Yuka Uematsu writes:

After seeing pictures of the facility in a magazine, Gursky chose the site as a motif for his work. At the time he shot the picture, the water had been drained to repair a damaged photoelectric tube, so he used a digital editing technique to add the water's surface, which reflects the image and the workers riding in two boats.
Gursky's well known to use digital manipulations and alterations to transform his images from depictions of reality to embodiments of his own Gursky Vision. "A restructured image" seen, as curator Mitsue Nagaya puts it, "through the filter of Gursky's eye." It's just that sometimes, that eye looks at someone else's photograph.

Gursky's work, writes Nagaya, "presents a new vision of the relationship between people and the world." He reveals and revels in the awesome scale of globalized capital. In 2001, when he had his MoMA show, people wrote of Gursky's "zeitgeist images." The artist himself called them "icons of our time." Peter Galassi's essay for that show was titled, "Gursky's World." But Gursky is not (or not just) looking at the world; he's looking at images of the world. Images in the world. And that seems like a significant, and under-recognized difference.

gursky_tokyo_stock_exchange.jpg

It began in 1990, we're told, when he saw a photo of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in a newspaper and decided to shoot one like it himself during a visit for a group show. Gursky started scouring the media with his GurskyVision. When he found an awesome image, a spectacle that captured man's dehumanity to man, his puniness in the face of the vast systems he's built, he'd set out to have his own Gursky Moment, by photographing it. By rephotographing it. And when the reality he photographed didn't approach the image in his eye, or in his head, or in his scrapbook, he'd invoke artistic license to alter it. The result is not an idealized, aestheticized version of the world, but of the mediated representation of it.

gursky_99ct_eki.jpg
Gursky NACT exhibit ad on Tokyo Metro platform, photographed by ysmn1120

Which may be why my favorite images from Gursky's Tokyo show are not in the gallery at all. User ysmn1120 shot this Instagram of an ad featuring 99 Cent on a Tokyo subway platform. [Tonotype snapped it too.] It's spectacular. Exactly where it belongs and for what it is. It is the Ghettoest Gursky of all, and I am bummed I didn't think of it, that couldn't find it, and that I don't have one.

gursky_roppongi_1.jpg

I did find a sweet, domestic-sized lightbox version of Kamiokande at Roppongi, though. It's a nice nod to Jeff Wall, who exerted an early, formative influence on Gursky's push into large-format.

gursky_roppongi_2.jpg

OK, this is sweet. Gursky's show last year at Gagosian Hong Kong had even bigger billboards, which are included in the gallery's installation shots. [There were also several little editions. They really are the perfect synthesis of collectibility and pointlessness.]

gursky_billboard_hk_gagosian.jpg

Meanwhile, the Ghetto Gursky project turns out to be much closer to Gursky's own practice than I initially realized. The only difference being that the imageworld I'm picking from has Gurskys in it, too.

tokyo_midtown_porcelain.jpg

This was the first untouched old house in the middle of Tokyo I came across on this trip, so it got photographed. I love stumbling across these things; they're the barn finds of architecture.

This one is especially good because you can go in it. It's a little vintage porcelain shop. It's really awesome, mostly untouched inside, too. I'd move in tomorrow. Even though it's in a kind of disgusting corner of Roppongi, sandwiched between the elevated freeway and Tokyo Midtown.

tokyo_midtown_stanchions.jpg

Speaking of Tokyo Midtown, I love that these little portable stanchions don't realize the chain's down and they're free to wander. [What, you think Japan doesn't have robot stanchions for responsive crowd control in development somewhere?]

fujimoto_sou_na_curtains.jpg

And speaking of slightly out of town, and tiny, kawaii places I'd move into tomorrow, we went to check out Sou Fujimoto's NA House. The house's location is unpublished, but it took all of five minutes to figure it out online. So don't ask me to tell you.

What's the point, one might ask, of going to visit a building that has been so widely published, and why take a picture when it's been so skillfully documented by Iwan Baan?

fujimoto_sou_na_wires.jpg

Because you get to see how someone actually lives in that thing [answer: with lots of curtains], and you get to see it in context. Which, especially in Japan, means surrounded by 1) random architectural noise, and 2) electric power lines, transformers, and poles. I'd go so far as to say that this dense infrastructural web is one of urban Japan's defining spatial conditions. I wonder if rather than cursing or ignoring it, an architect has ever addressed it in some way? What if you considered it a feature, not a bug?

IRL, NA House's white steel grid and varied floor planes feel like a barely solidified extension of the criss-crossing mesh thicket in which it's embedded.

July 15, 2013

Kusakabe House, Takayama

Just got back from a 2-week trip to Japan. Though we spent a lot of time in familiar places in Tokyo and Kyoto, we also took a 2-day trip to Takayama, a small city in the mountains of Gifu-ken, an extraordinary 2.5-hr train ride north of Nagoya.

Takayama retains many Edo-era buildings and streetscapes, which were really great to visit. The Kusakabe Mingei-kan is a large minka, in this case a merchant house in town, originally built in the early 19th century, and then reconstructed after a fire in 1896, is one of the best in town.

While visiting Takayama and neighboring Hida and Shirakawa during a summer break from college, the late great architecture photographer Yukio Futagawa was inspired by the anonymous, vernacular architecture of minka. In the mid-50s, he set off on a multi-year, cross-country trip to study and document these Japanese homes which were rapidly disappearing in the postwar reconstruction boom.

kusakabe_entry.jpg

Kusakabe House was turned into a house museum in 1966. The large public area of the house [above] was for conducting business and receiving guests. Those beams are sick.

kusakabe_irori.jpg

The kitchen is in the rear of this public-facing area. A fire was constantly maintained in the sunken hearth, or irori; the heat and smoke helped preserve the wood from insects and moisture damage. That crazy, gnarled hook is called a jizaikagi.

kusakabe_table.jpg

Pivoting 180 degreess from the top photo are the more private rooms of the house, including this amazing block table and chair set.

kusakabe_table2.jpg

Do want. Or do want to make.

kusakabe_fusuma.jpg

There are a couple of small gardens and these corridors. I took this looking back toward the streetside of the house.

kusakabe_cutouts.jpg

Above the fusuma sliding doors, where I'd call it a transom, are these thick hinoki boards with flower and leaf motifs sawed out. They had to have been done by hand. Aha, they're called ranma, which means the space between columns. These turn out to be pretty simple designs, as far as ranma carvings go.

kusakabe_yanagi.jpg

The second floor and the 2-story storehouse in back have collections of mingei: lacquerware, basketry, tansu--and Sori Yanagi's Butterfly Stool.

kusakabe_plan.jpg

On the way out I noticed this panel, which I thought was blank, but which turns out to be the builder's blueprint for the house. It's also visible in the background of the irori picture, under the horse.

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Posts from July 2013, in reverse chronological order

Older: June 2013

Newer August 2013

recent projects, &c.


pm_social_medium_recent_proj_160x124.jpg
Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

madf_twitter_avatar.jpg
Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

chop_shop_at_springbreak
Chop Shop
at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

do_not_bid_or_buy_iris_sidebar.jpg
eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

shanzhai_gursky_mb_thumb.jpg
It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

therealhennessy_tweet_sidebar.jpg
TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
about

sop_red_gregorg.jpg
Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

weeksville_echo_sidebar.jpg
"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots


HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.


drp_04_gregorg_sidebar.jpg
Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

czrpyr_blogads.jpg
Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99

archives