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Written by Mika TAKIGUCHI   
Published: February 10 2009

fig. 1 Dani Karavan "Ladder": Courtesy of Setagaya Art Museum ", Exhibition of Dani Karavan Setagaya Art Museum, September-October 2008 and photographed by Taro Hirano, copy right(c) Dani Karavan, courtesy of Setagaya Art Museum

fig. 2 Dani Karavan "Way of Light, Homage to King Sejong" (1987-88); Olympic Sculpture Park, Seoul, South Korea. Courtesy of Spatial Design Consultants Co., Ltd., copy right(c) Dani Karavan, courtesy of Spatial Design Consultants Co., Ltd.

fig. 3 Wilkinson Eyre Architects "Bridge of Aspiration" (2001-03); The Royal Ballet School, London. Photographed by Nick Wood, Courtesy of Wilkinson Eyre Architects, copy right(c)Wilkinson Eyre Architects

fig. 4 Wilkinson Eyre Architects "Bridge of Aspiration" (2001-03); The Royal Ballet School, London. Photographed by Nick Wood, Courtesy of Wilkinson Eyre Architects, copy right(c)Wilkinson Eyre Architects

fig. 5 Tadashi Kawamata [ Walkway] (2008); Courtesy of MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART TOKYO, photographed by Shinya Akutagawa, copy right(c) Tadashi KAWAMATA, courtesy of MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART TOKYO

     In Setagaya Museum, there is a long corridor with glazed windows. It links the exhibition hall and a high-ceilinged lobby where a ticket counter is located. We walk through the corridor to the end, and museum displays usually begin from there, in the exhibition hall. However, Dani has put his first work on display in this corridor [fig. 1].

     In the middle of the corridor, several ladders stand, with their tops reaching the ceiling. At the foot of each ladder, there is a stone the size of a human head.

     This represents the Jacob’s ladder in the Old Testament, and the stone which Jacob used as a pillow. Quotations from Genesis are written on the window. On the way to his uncle’s home, Jacob stayed overnight at a certain place, and had a dream. Angels were climbing up and down a ladder which reached heaven. When he woke up, he realized that the spot where he had slept was the gate to heaven. He named the place Bethel, which means the house of God.

     Why did Dani put the ladders here in the corridor? I think that for Dani, the corridor is not merely a passage to the exhibition hall but a passage which leads to the house of God. If we assume that this corridor is comparable with a passage to the house of God (or the gate to heaven), the exhibition hall is no less a place than heaven.

     For those who do not believe in God, the heaven means practically nothing. However, Dani replaced the entrance to the exhibition hall by the gate to heaven, putting Jacob’s ladder in the corridor. The viewers who visit the museum are unexpectedly invited into the house of God.

     The gaps between the rungs get narrower towards the top of the ladders. I could hear the footsteps of angels who are running up the ladders, trying to reach the top. Bags of rice are hung from the ceiling. The angels not only climb up and down the ladders, but they carry these bags on their shoulders. They pile up treasures (the bags of rice) in heaven while they are busily coming and going between heaven and earth.

      I once complained when I had to do some chores which were important but which no one wanted to do because there was no profit in them. In response to my complaint, my mother said that I was piling up treasures in heaven. Since my talent was a gift from heaven, I simply returned it to heaven, rather than just using it for my own benefit. Here, angels are working hard and silently, piling up treasures in heaven.

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     Logs about six meters in height are split into two down the middle [fig. 2]. The flat surfaces of the split sides face each other, and twelve pairs stand straight in a row, vertically stretching towards the sky. The cut faces are painted white. I felt that God had passed through here between the logs at the speed of light, cracking the logs one after another. God ran through very fast and only a trace was left here. The shadows of the logs stretch in various directions and are short or long, depending on the angle of the Sun. The whiteness of the logs suggests that the spectrum of the striking light when God passed by still remains imprinted on the viewer’s eye.

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     This is a passage nine meters long which connects two adjacent buildings at the fourth floor [fig. 3, 4]. The passage resembles the bellows of an accordion. Twenty-three square frames are jointed lengthways and form a passage. The gaps between each square frame are glazed with glass. However, the passage does not form a simple rectangular parallelepiped, because each square is turned slightly at an angle of four degrees. The top right angle of the first square frame tilts slightly towards the center in the second square. Likewise, the top left angle of the first square tilts downwards to the left in the second square. The third square tilts more, at an angle of four degrees again. The last square at the end of the passage turns exactly at an angle of ninety degrees to the first square at the entrance. Thus the twenty-three tilted squares as a whole form a passage which looks like a twisted bellows. One steps into the passage and walks through, with one’s head upwards. However, one’s head is not inclined upwards any more at the exit, since the space itself is twisted. This passage makes the walker turn too much. If I walk through the passage, what will I be, who will stand at the end of it?

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     Narrow passages which are partitioned by plywood run in all directions in the exhibition hall. There are working spaces called laboratories where several projects are in progress [fig. 5]. Pictures and drawings are displayed on boards, and often someone is working there. We walk through the passage, visiting one laboratory after another.

     As is stated in the catalogue, the passages reflect the content of Kawamata’s brain. He wrote about his experience of going inside a Buddhist statue and observing the uneven hollow from inside. Likewise, the viewer is invited to come inside Kawamata’s brain. We are looking at his brain from inside. Several projects are going on, and the viewer walking through the passage is comparable with sparks of impulse or dopamine in the brain.

     The viewers’ reactions are diverse. What is that? It is a waste. It is stimulating. Some contemplate the works, while others sympathize with them. The reactions of each viewer come and go through the passage, sometimes meeting each other, sometimes passing through each other, colliding and melting. All of them take place in the brain of Kawamata. This brain is alive. Inside, people flit around like impulses. Nothing is complete, but something is generated on the site, stimulated by these impulses. In comparison with Kawamata’s passage, the complete works of art displayed in the exhibition hall look more like motionless corpses.

Images [fig. 1, 2] reproduced from:
Y. Takashima, et. al., eds., Dani Karavan Retrospective, Setagaya Art Museum, 2008.

Referred Exhibition

1. Exhibition of Dani Karavan Retrospective Setagaya Art Museum, 2 September-21 October 2008
2. Exhibition of Skin+Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture, The National Art Center, 6 June –13 August, 2007
3. Exhibition of Tadashi Kawamata Walkway, Museum of Contemporary Art,Tokyo, 9 February –13 April, 2008

Last Updated on July 06 2010

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