Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

Arakawa Shusaku

Posted in Art by bourdaghs on the May 21st, 2010

When I was a visiting professor at International Christian University in Tokyo (2005-2007), on my way home from campus I used to walk past a queer building. It was obviously an apartment building of some sort, but it was a striking conglomeration of strange shapes and vivid colors, like something designed by Dr. Seuss. My curiosity was piqued, and some on-line exploration told me that this was in fact Reversible Destiny Mitaka, a new art project by Arakawa Shusaku and Madeline Gins.

The press is reporting today that Arakawa passed away on Wednesday. The news is both sad and ironic: Arakawa vowed that his work was “architecture against death,” and he and Gins famously announced for an exhibit that “we have decided not to die.” It is also ironic, because today at the University of Chicago we begin “Engaging Commodities: Crossing Mass Culture and the Avant Garde in 1960s Japanese Film, Music and Art,” a conference exploring figures like Arakawa, who troubled the boundaries of art, commerce, and scholarship to generate a remarkable moment in global cultural history.

Of course, Arakawa lives on — in his impact, in our conference, and, surely not least of all, in the Reversible Destiny Mitaka buildings:

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