Post (“post:notes on modern and contemporary art around the globe”) is a digital platform devoted to studies of experimental art of the 20th and 21st centuries, presented through a variety of text- and image-based media. Released by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, it functions as a fusion of online diary, archive, exhibition space and an open forum that makes the most of the hierarchy-free Internet environment, and opens itself up for experts and artists from all over the world to share their research knowledge, concepts and critical opinions.
This project was commissioned by Magdalena Moskalewicz and post editorial team as an artist’s response to the Sogetsu Art Center theme.
Arranging flowers takes place in silence.
Arranging flowers in Sogetsu ikebana, founded in 1927 by Sofu Teshigahara and considered the most experimental of all schools of the traditional Japanese art of flower composition, is no different in this respect.
There might have been a visible – or rather, audible – difference in the 1960s, however. Then, while the ikebana students were gathered in their classrooms, diligently and noiselessly following the centuries-old guidelines for the proper alignment of stems with leaves and buds, other young Japanese just three floors below them were vigorously attempting to break every rule of composition: this time, musical.
The Sogetsu Ikebana building, a gem of modernist architecture designed by Kenzo Tange, was completed in 1957 and now, sadly, no longer exists. It was comprised of two complementary but very different sets of spaces. The three floors that rose above ground housed the school’s offices and classrooms, while underground lay a vast auditorium and concert hall. It was in the latter that events and concerts of theSogetsu Art Center, the school’s sister institution founded by Sofu’s son, Hiroshi, took place.
The seemingly irreconcilable tension between these two spaces is the subject of this project by Katarzyna Krakowiak, who investigates the inconspicuous relationships between sound and architecture. The artist is fascinated by how the noiselessness of the school’s upper rooms, where noble women (ikebana was originally a leisure activity for the wealthy) spent hours contemplating the forms of roots and petals, must have been contaminated by echos of sound produced by the experimental musicians working below. The contrast between their exuberant noise-making and the aura of silence and reticence, handed down by generations of ikebana practitioners, triggers imagination. Krakowiak probes this tension in two visual models that she designed on the basis of archival photographs of the building, now destroyed.
In one model, she imagines the reverberations of sounds produced during concerts entering the upper rooms of the Ikebana school in the form of multicolored spheres. The shapes are dispersed from the stage, where the music was produced, and travel toward the back of the auditorium, bouncing against the walls, with a few penetrating the staircase. In the second model, Krakowiak takes us on a soundless journey through the modernist building’s empty spaces, following the path of the reverberations. Performing a Gordon Matta-Clark-like gesture in her digital visualization, she cuts a hole through all the floors, down to the ground, allowing the ikebana and the concert hall spaces to directly interact. Krakowiak treats the upper spaces of the classrooms and the lower auditorium as resonating chambers, visually simulating how these two very different sound environments could have affected each other. This mute visualization of sound dispersal was prompted by ikebana itself: its meticulously choreographed set of hand movements, where silence is a method, rather than a mere lack of sound.
From a musical perspective, it’s so often just taken for granted that sound is primarily an acoustic phenomenon to be heard and sensed by the ears. But I love these videos because by being silent, they make you realize that sound is also physical, in motion, and material. Katarzyna, have you checked out Emily Thompson’s book, The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933? Your piece made me think of her text, where she writes a history of modernity in America by looking at the construction of symphony halls, the soundscape of the modern American city, technologies of electroacoustic sound reproduction, and how all this changed the way people listened, sensed, and came to terms with “modernity.”
Awesome videos! I’m so happy that they’re finally up on post!
By A Thairungroj
Posted on 26 Sep
I liked the idea of attempting to reconcile two contradictory spaces, and also the concept of the two somehow contributing to each other in their own ways despite the difference in their natures. I think that the echoes from the experimental musicians can somehow add an imaginative aspect to the silence of ikebana practice, while ikebana’s discipline of refined vitality can give experimental music a new aspect.
Although the traditional image of ikebana’s noiselessness may seem to be the polar opposite of the realm of experimental music, I think that the practice of ikebana itself has a certain energy that stems from it’s short-lived nature, giving it a somewhat loud and daring aspect. Thus, despite ikebana’s aural silence, the loudness of its transient beauty- derived from the fact that it has limited time to flaunt its beauty before wilting- allows it to give off energy that interacts well with the “exuberant noise making” of the space of experimental music.
By Miki Kaneda
Posted on 6 Sep