Barrel - Tadashi Kawamata

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Art Agency (ed.)


Tadashi Kawamata




Art Agency (ed.)


Tadashi Kawamata in collaboration with Christophe Scheidegger


5 Foreword 15 Descend to look skyward Survival with Tadashi Kawamata

Karin Frei Rappenecker and Brigitte Ulmer

31 A Heavenly Refuge Matsutake ya shiranu ki no ha no hebari tsuku. Matsutake, upon which lives / The leaf of an unknown tree

Stefan Zweifel

41 “Just sit down, smell, listen …” Tadashi Kawamata – A Conversation

Interview: Brigitte Ulmer and Karin Frei Rappenecker

47 Biographies 48 Impressum



They certainly make an odd couple. The timbered barrel – embedded deep in the soil, accessible below ground level, with a cupola made out of window frames – stands immediately adjacent to the coolly elegant steel-and-glass apartment building, right on its lawn. What they have in common is that both are architectural structures which have undergone design, planning and construction phases. They are, however, governed by different principles. The creator of Barrel, Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata, explains that he likes simple things, improvising, and working with his hands. Architects, on the other hand, usually prefer clean lines, a calculated sense of refinement, and employ software in the design process. Which raises the following questions: at what point does architecture become art, and when should planning give way to improvisation? The Roman architect Vitruvius saw architecture as “the mother of all arts”. Nowadays, however, architecture is tightly constrained by business con­ siderations and the question of function, not to mention the building code (especially in order loving Switzerland). Art, by contrast, is more experimental, and thus perhaps one of the last domains of unadulterated freedom (if one dis­regards the mercantilist din of the art market). Even in cases where art takes the form of a built structure, it is perfectly entitled to challenge the norms and enter the realm of dream and imagination, or to exuberantly hold up a mirror to reality. Art may also jostle with architecture. It is an indication of the client’s progressive stance that it commissioned an artist who reflects critically on the Swiss penchant for neat and

perfectly disciplined construction. The purpose of art is not to beautify or tame an environment; instead, Barrel invites us to ponder on construction, housing, and how we position ourselves in today’s globalized world, which has established itself with such extraordinary speed. The purpose of Barrel is, perhaps, to provide a mental anchor – a task nowadays often delegated to arts centres, but which in this instance has been deftly shifted by the client into the private sphere, so to speak. Barrel occupies a location where private ownership is part of the status quo, and for the apartment owners who share this joint space it constitutes a physical invi­ tation to reflect. This publication, conceived in close collabo­ ration with the artist, provides a detailed account of how Barrel was created, from initial pencil drawing to final completion. The sketches and the model from the studios of the artist and his collaborator, architect Christophe Scheidegger, trace the genesis of the idea underlying the work. Gian Marco Castelberg’s photographs document the on-site construction process.* An interview with Tadashi Kawamata, conducted in Kilchberg and Paris, provides insight into the artist’s thoughts and ideas. Philosopher and journalist Stefan Zweifel’s essay expands on his own idea of the Barrel as “a poem in wood”, offering interpretations for which his source of inspiration included French philosopher Michel Serres’ writings about parasites. A further article discusses Barrel in the context of Kawamata’s oeuvre and art history as a whole. Thanks are owed to Wolfgang Hänsli, Peter Kyncl and Eduard Stürmlin, represented by ­Prismag Bau AG, who financed the work, to the artist Tadashi Kawamata, and to his right-hand man Christophe Scheidegger and his construction team.

* The performative aspects of ­Kawamata’s approach to construction can be seen in a short film produced by Pixibarfilm: 5










Descend to look skyward Survival with Tadashi Kawamata Karin Frei Rappenecker and Brigitte Ulmer

as though it were actually alive. Situated in the part of the garden which faces away from the lake, it possesses an air of being singularly unimpressed by the gorgeous views on the other side, of being perfectly happy to remain stoically detached. Precarious edifices versus Swiss building regulations

From a distance, at first you just see a dome. On closer inspection, it’s actually windows and window frames, arranged – seemingly at ­random – on top of one another, in a state of orderly chaos, where mysterious principles seem to apply. Occasionally the windowpanes catch the sunlight; at night, when the lights inside are on, the impression is of glowing magma, glimpsed through the encrusted surface of a volcano. Take the stairs down and you descend into a sub­terranean cylinder lined with larchwood slats, like a king-sized, walk-in barrel. In the surroundings, you inevitably look upward, as though in church, and through the window frames, with their constant play of light and shadow, you see the sky. There is an accompanying scent of larchwood, and perhaps, depending on the weather and season, you might see and hear falling raindrops, or watch dancing snowflakes. The overall effect is all-encompassing. Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata’s Barrel, commissioned for a Kilchberg garden, is surrounded by buildings which face the lake. Against the backdrop of orderly frontages, and relative to the axes of the surrounding architecture, there is something organic about the edifice,

Tadashi Kawamata’s works, spanning the globe from Versailles to New York, from Venice to Tokyo, from Zug to Zuoz, differ from one location to the next, but for Kawamata they are all part of a single, continuous project. Barrel – a permanent installation – is a continuation of his o ­ ngoing research into the built environment and permanent versus temporary structures (which he calls “dwellings”), though this is the first time he has built one underground. By “dwellings” he means cardboard structures or small, fragile-­ looking edifices or huts, like the ones he built for Documenta 9 in Kassel in 1992 or for the Favela Café at Art Basel 2013. Irredeemably associated with slums in developing countries, or allotments on the edge of European cities, these temporary works are an important part of his oeuvre, drawing attention to the contrast between the structures’ shabby outward appearance and the surrounding “wealthy” landscape or architecture. Barrel is meant to last for many years. It must therefore be structurally stable and safe, which means Kawamata had to meet the challenge of compliance with Swiss building regulations, without compromising his artistic freedom. Hence he opted for materials which he does not habitually use. Originally he intended to use recycled materials, as an echo of the past, just as he would for a temporary project, in this case the windows of the house knocked down to make way for the new apartment building.

Tadashi Kawamata, Under the Water, 2016 Recovered parts of wooden furniture; Exhibition view «Under the Water», Centre Pompidou Metz, Metz.


However, the building code specified shatterproof glass, i.e. new, custom-produced windows. Kawamata also toyed with the idea of creating a direct link with the apartment building. That idea was quickly abandoned when it was decided that the Barrel should be usable by the building’s residents, and no-one wanted people traipsing through their apartment in order to get there. Dive in, then come up for air

Designed in 2013, Barrel shares its DNA with Kawamata’s “dwellings”, and with other of his works that make you look upwards. His installation Under the Water, of which there are versions in Paris and Metz, is suspended above the viewer’s head, with untreated wooden planks slung beneath the ceiling 1. Le passage des chaises is a cavern made of chairs, with a gap­ing opening at the apex through which the ceiling above is visible 2. A view right through to the open sky featured for the first time in his Ittingen Charterhouse Log Tower 3, created in the same year as the first sketch of Barrel. By contrast with the “tower version”, when entering the Barrel you must first descend the stairs before you can come up for air and see the sky above as if through a myriad of rain droplets. In formal terms, Barrel borrows from Kawamata’s igloo-type creation at the Donjon de Vez 4 (a 14 th century medieval fortress in north-eastern France), which is made out of windows and French windows. In Barrel’s case, there is an additional subterranean element, adding a whole new dimension to the experience. As with all Kawamata works, Barrel engages in a dialogue with its surroundings. Inspired by seeing an empty swimming pool on the adjacent property, Kawamata started with the idea of diving into water and coming back up for air.

Drawing on that initial inspiration, he created a space into which you can withdraw in order to recover from the hectic pace of everyday life. A visit to the Barrel invites you to take a different view in both senses: the view through the windows opens up into the skies, which fan out as though seen through a prism, providing a glimpse of the infinite. From outside, the dome of windows is eye-catching in the context of the garden and the residential area as a whole. In fact it rather steals the show from the surrounding architecture. Its apparently chaotic aesthetics also hint at transformation, while the unconventional arrangement of the windows grabs attention by staging a richly varied drama of light and shadow. Looking heavenwards has played an important role in architecture throughout the millennia. First it was cupolas at cultic sites that caught the eye; churches and mosques soon followed. During the Baroque period, cupolas became “heavens” populated by putti, in palace chapels as well as churches. In the 20 th century, agnostic artists tackled the question of “the heavenly” by suspending coal sacks 5 or silver helium-filled balloons 6 beneath ceilings, in works which have been widely quoted or rendered in different variations by artists around the world. Sur­ prisingly, few of them focused on the sky itself. One artist who has achieved global fame by doing so is James Turrell. Contemporary architecture looks skywards sometimes too, for example by breaking open a roof to allow interplay between the view out and the roof’s pro­ tective function, and between direct and indirect incident light. For the Louvre Abu Dhabi, French architect Jean Nouvel created a roof made of ornamental aluminium sections: it protects the museum against incident sunshine, while at the same time creating effects of light and shadow which change continuously throughout the day.

Tadashi Kawamata, Le passage des chaises, 1997; Chairs; Festival ­d’Automne, Chapelle Saint-Louis de L’hôpital Pitié Salpêtrière, Paris.

Tadashi Kawamata, Sketch for Barrel, 2013. 16

Aesthetics of survival

Kawamata’s dome in Kilchberg engenders asso­ ciations of that kind. And since migration is currently an ongoing issue, it also calls to mind shoddy, temporary accommodation. French architect Yona Friedman has suggested that “we don’t think in terms of survival enough,”7 but clearly he was not referring to the works of Kawamata. Despite its earthquake-proof construction and use of concrete and shatterproof glass, Barrel invokes the aesthetics of survival. Located on one of Switzerland’s wealthiest shorelines, it broadens one’s associative range, as well as reminding us of one’s own struggle for inner survival. The architecture of survival can be found all over the world, in both permanent and tem­ porary forms, for a wide range of purposes. It exists in inflatable form, or as structures built from compressed bamboo and recycled paper, or from translucent, lightweight, prefabricated materials, in some cases suspended from street lamps or building facades, as temporary housing for the homeless, or as emergency accommodation, or to increase urban population density. In certain countries, where urban accommodation and workspaces are in short supply, space is utilized in highly imaginative – but sometimes illegal – ways, for example, on the roofs of residential tower blocks. Architects occasionally suspend temporary resi­ dential or office structures in the gaps between buildings. In Taipei, there are even secret networks which affix illegal architectural structures to legally constructed buildings. The structures are used as urban farms, night markets, or other social venues. The common denominator is their parasitic nature: these structures physically dock on to the host edifice. Kawamata’s works also dock on, to walls, roofs and trees. Barrel, however, at first glance

appears to be freestanding. Its foundations are underground, it has its own entrance, and its positioning is autonomous with respect to the rest of the garden. Nonetheless, it feeds off its host, and does not come into bloom until the residents put it to use. That is how it feeds. For Kawamata, art is an instrument for raising consciousness about a particular location, for reflecting on the built environment, and for making contact with people. Barrel is an irri­ tating element among orderly structures, and draws attention to the charged relationship between the perfect and the precarious, and between construction and deconstruction, which has always been a characteristic of the built world. The desire to preserve that charged relationship and render it visible or perceptible has been Kawamata’s objective over the past thirty years. Achieving that goal has meant keeping sight of the imperfect, and never falling victim to habit or certainty. By working with interdisciplinary, international teams, Kawamata has fruitfully combined conventional planning with the more random nature of creative works, to present a vision of a more holistic approach to building and construction. Barrel as social sculpture

Barrel can also be considered a kind of intervention into social structure, insofar as it provides, in a residential area, somewhere to talk to friends, or hold a party, yoga class or book club meetup. The possibilities are endless. Joseph Beuys and his idea of social sculpture and the definition of art as a social act come to mind. Barrel provides a venue for encounters with other residents or with oneself, thereby subtly influencing one’s social existence. It also sharpens one’s perceptions, functions as an observation post for looking up at the sky, and creates a space in which

Tadashi Kawamata, Chairs for Abu Dhabi, 2012; Chairs, armchairs, sofa, benches, stools and metal structure. 17

to cultivate spirituality, shelter the soul, or meditate. It is also a celebration of the magic of the moment, and of the idea of immersing oneself in a different world. Each visitor will experience Barrel in his or her own unique way, and the range of different associations it prompts – a slum, or an air raid shelter, for example – need not present a paradox. Plunging into another world allows one to seek new perspectives on life and new ways to look at the sky, the world, and oneself. It is sometimes said that artists have seismographic abilities. Kawamata goes a step further: his works establish the pre-conditions that allow small changes, oscillations, or even major upheavals in social existence to occur, before in due course they become noticeable.

1 Tadashi Kawamata: Under the Water, Galerie Kamel Mennour, Paris, 2011–2012. Under the Water – Metz, 2016. 2 Tadashi Kawamata: Le passage des chaises, Chapelle Saint-Louis de l’Hôpital Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris; Chairs for Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Art, UAE, 2012. 3 Tadashi Kawamata: Log Tower, The Ittingen Charterhouse, 2013.

4 Tadashi Kawamata: Installation de fenêtres et de portes, The Donjon de Vez, France, 2009. 5 Marcel Duchamp: Ciel de roussettes, Exposition Internationale du Surréa­ lisme, Paris, 1938. 6 Andy Warhol: Silver Clouds, 1966. 7 See Yona Friedman: L’architecture de survie. Une philosophie de la pauvreté, Editions de l’Éclat, 2003.

Tadashi Kawamata, Sketch for Barrel, 2013 (top), Construction site (top view), 2017, (bottom).














A Heavenly Refuge Matsutake ya shiranu ki no ha no hebari tsuku. Matsutake, upon which lives / The leaf of an unknown tree Stefan Zweifel

Why wouldn’t you want to live down here in the Barrel, protected and cordoned off against road noise and the thunderous roar of aircraft, enveloped in a light scent of larch? Softly embedded in wintertime by snow, which is falling enchantingly among the numerous struts of the cupola and its windows – positioned at multiple angles to frame the view in multiple ways – I’m gazing out from here at the centre of the octahedron, far out into the sky above, out into the realm of Platonic ideas which will pass overhead as polyhedra along with the stars once the sunlight on the glimmering snowflakes fades. A poem not in words but in wood, at the heart of a residential neigh­bourhood. In the shadow of the mushroom cloud

Here, beneath the ground, protected by the chthonic gods – the ones to whom all the world’s statues bear witness, according to French ­philosopher Michel Serres. Every artwork is a tomb or memorial, like the Pyramid of C ­ heops, towering stone on stone above the pha­raoh’s mummified body, as high as the sky, topped with gold rather than snow, catching the rays of the rising sun each morning after Osiris’

dismembered body has been restored night by night, seam by seam, like the glass in the window frames of the Barrel. And so you sit here, a modern-­day mummy yearning for the Ished tree, which proffers itself to dead souls like a breast tapered at the top to a nipple, like this cupola made of windows – a fragmented breast offering maternal security to those who long for it. Resembling a shattered meteorite from the sky, the fragmented structure of Tadashi Kawamata’s Barrel lies by the side of the road in Kilchberg among the neatly arranged pitched- and flatroofed Kilchberg homes in which we’re housed. The philosopher Gaston Bachelard has analyzed what it means to dwell and live out our lives inside houses, and written vividly about how we all long for a refuge in which to sleep safe and sound: a refuge as a counter-project to the Net, which spans the globe and entices us all into a virtual here-and-now. Here in the Barrel you can leave the here-and-now behind and enter the here-I-am of the self. Nowadays, however, the self is no longer deemed to be a closed-off “windowless” Leibnizian monad wandering through the best of all possible worlds by virtue of divine providence, in spherical harmony with other souls. The roads we travel here are very different. After the almighty nuclear flash that destroyed Hiroshima, the first thing to re-emerge from the soil and primal chthonic earth was a mushroom: the matsutake. With a wild aroma strong enough to cause gagging when cut with a metal knife, it was a delicacy among Japan’s upper classes until around 1900, when an agricultural pest arrived from Europe and caused its numbers to plummet. Today, migrants from Laos and Cambodia hunt the matsutake in locations all over the world, in North America in particular. In the woods of Oregon, they follow the scent of the


mushrooms, harvest them, and ship them to Japan, back to the land of the rising sun, where they sell for large sums. These migrants, following on the trail of the other migrant, the matsutake, tend to live in flimsy huts, in the Canadian forests and elsewhere. Not for them the secure accommodation of a Swiss lakefront villa; instead they gaze out, at the same sky as we do here in Kilchberg, through the roofs of rickety wooden shacks. Like Rodin’s Gates of Hell through which you can descend into hell at five global locations, in front of the Kunsthaus Zurich, and in Philadelphia, Stanford, Paris and Tokyo – admittedly a hell which in Rodin’s day was not envisioned to be as destructive as the hell of the atom bomb, which instantaneously turned city residents into little more than shadowy outlines on white walls – Kawamata’s works can be found all over the world, like counter-gateways to heaven. They form a worldwide network of their own, a matrix of rickety refuges in the shadow of the mushroom cloud. Thus one’s thoughts propagate like rhizomes, just as they do in the works of Gilles Deleuze, in which Kawamata engrossed himself as a student in Tokyo, along with the works of Michel Serres and Gaston Bachelard. The roots and spores of the matsutake, too, form a global network, multiplying beneath the roots of red spruces in Japan and contorta pines in North America. Our thoughts proliferate, sheltered within the larch timbers of the Kilchberg Barrel. On the dungheap

Just as Michel Serres questioned the Hegelian dialectic of master and servant, we ought to rethink the dialectics of host and parasite. Mushrooms are not merely unwanted guests freeloading at the table of the trees. They enable and

accelerate the growth of woodlands, resettling the soil just as they did in Hiroshima, making it possible for forests to rejuvenate. Weren’t the trees parasitic upon the mushrooms? The logic of parasites, however, doesn’t acknowledge such hierarchies. Our innards are crawling with parasites, which perhaps means it is we who are parasitic upon the bacteria. And according to that logic, is art our own creation, or are we parasitic upon art? Art opens up new living spaces and creates unexpected situations in towns and cities. Kawamata has dreamed of such spaces elsewhere in Switzerland, for example in Zurich and in Zug. A timber walkway leads out to Lake Zug along with a set of wooden benches grouped to form an amphitheatre. Among the chorus of remarks about these Kawamata works, the comments of a local municipal street cleaner stand out: “That crap over there, that’s modern art. Whoever made it should have to scrape away the crap from under the timbers.” But dirt and shit are not merely the waste products of the good life, or the sputum from Platonic ideas; they are actually a hotbed for new life, and function as fertiliser for city people alienated from the land. As Kawamata’s house and court philosopher Michel Serres has observed, the smell of our excrement is repulsive to others; that may be true, but like the matsutake mushroom it envelops us with what is most innate to us, namely our own smell. Like Proust’s madeleine, it repeatedly leads us back into our own past. For Proust, it was the whiff of a madeleine dipped in lime blossom tea that enabled him to recall his childhood in Combray. Lying prostrate, in the opening chapter of Remembrance of Things Past, Proust’s narrator Marcel tries


to recall his own present. As he slumbers, his limbs scatter like those of the dismembered Osiris and travel up the walls to the ceiling, while the lip of a beloved grows out of an angled rib and bestows a kiss at dawn. So what does the scent of larch call to mind? Beneath the maternal breast

Whenever Proust lay down in a room in which he had never been before, he felt threatened by the unfamiliar upright mirror, the high ceiling took his breath away, and the strange odours transported him to a world of the eerie and alien, prompting yearnings for his mother and the sense of subterranean protection that she provided through her presence. By contrast, it’s actually the unusual height of Barrel’s ceiling that offers you a sense of protection. You grow accustomed to it, and after returning home to a standard-­ height ceiling you long to return to the Kilchberg Barrel and its high, fragmented ceiling. The ceiling does not enclose the self in a windowless monad; instead, it releases the gaze out through the glassed and glassless windows into the high heavens of your desires. At night in your dreams the ceiling becomes a fragmented maternal breast, but unlike the Pyramid of Cheops, rather than striving for the eternal the ceiling merely underscores the homeless side to our existence, prompting yearnings for the protection of a mother or matsutake mushroom with milky whiteness muted by snow crystals, transforming Kilchberg into a milk-berg. You too become a mushroom, a matsutake, a global migrant far from home, far from Japan. You remain connected to the homeland via an invisible network of roots, but in a dialectical reversal, you are connected with or earthed into the distant yonder not merely via underground roots but also via aerial roots. Kawamata’s works

are aerial roots which function as intermediaries between the subterranean world of death, to which all the statues in our museums and public squares bear witness, and the heaven of pure ideas and clearly defined geometric figures, in a striking example of the dialectic. When exposed to the effects of heat and cold, the wood expands and contracts. Gradually, from month to month and season to season, it breathes. And expands your own breathing into another time, a remembered time as in Proust, where the whiff of a madeleine suspends time itself, embodying a piece of the eternal that you can actually inhale. The present now combines with the past now to create the hereand-now, capable of withstanding the all devastating lightning and preparing the soil on the ground of ­Hiroshima for new forests. The refuge expands to become a network, a network of the here-and-now.








“Just sit down, smell, listen …” Tadashi Kawamata – A Conversation

through. In this way we could literally open the barrel. One could go underground then sit down, smell, listen – and look up at the sky.

Interview: Brigitte Ulmer and Karin Frei Rappenecker

A dome made out of piled-up windows in the front garden of a Kilchberg apartment building: an unusual sight in the neighbourhood. A local bus driver even made an unscheduled stop on his route, which in Switzerland means a lot. He actually got out of the bus, let his passengers take a good look, took a photo and then drove on. What’s the idea behind Barrel? Tadashi Kawamata: When we were visiting the site in Kilchberg a few years ago there was an old house with quite a wild garden and some old trees. I remember the empty swimming pool very well. It made me think of a structure that goes underground, like a pool. A place where you could jump underground and resurface. It was just a fleeting idea, a thought that touched me. Originally we proposed a springboard, a kind of long walkway, on the other side of the building by the lakeside. Finally, we decided to choose a spot for a gathering in the front garden. I felt that what the residents need is a place for contemplation. Something special. Why not go underground and look up at the sky? Why not leave everything behind? Soon we decided it should have a transparent cover. Hence the idea of the windows, so that the light could come

The Greek philosopher Diogenes is famous for having lived in a barrel, to demonstrate self-­ sufficiency and meet only his most elemental needs. True. Not that I thought of him. But yes, he lived in a barrel. He escaped from ordinary life. My idea of Barrel is that one can leave every­thing behind to escape and feel like being in the midst of nowhere. Life in the city and in the digital world has become so complex nowadays; many people are stressed most of the time. Everyone is connected around the clock. Basically, I wanted to offer a space of emptiness: a quiet place, a place where one can disconnect. In Switzerland, don’t you have all those nuclear bunkers? You must be used to this idea of escape. A gardener who worked at the site compared Barrel to a large mushroom. The round shape is also reminiscent of a dome. Why did you choose the architectural form of a cupola, a form that has been employed since ancient times? It is certainly a contrast to all the other buildings in the neighbourhood and to all those squares and rectangles that Swiss architecture is generally known for. I think the built envi­ ronment has a huge influence on people and how they feel. Many people here dislike buildings that aren’t square. I know that from a reaction I received the other day. But, as an outsider, it’s only natural to create an object that has a different aesthetic and therefore evokes a different feeling. I had something more disturbing in mind. I wanted people to have a different experience in their everyday life.


Usually you work with reclaimed materials and create ephemeral structures. By contrast, ­Barrel seems very robust and built to last. We wanted the structure to be permanent, so we had our concerns with snow, water, moisture and wind. We could not use just normal or reclaimed windows. The windows had to be fabricated according to our needs, with unbreakable glass. The structure might look easy and light but it is very strong, made out of oak by professional window makers, and an engineer was involved. I think we were very much concerned about the longevity and security of the structure. You had to comply with the relevant building regulations, and Kilchberg city council had to issue an approval. Contractors were involved. How do such restrictions go hand in hand with artistic freedom? What always comes first in the process is the idea and the sketches. When it comes to the implementation, technical drawings must be conceived, a model built. There are lots of discussions in between and, of course, then comes the bureaucratic part. It is part of the process: paperwork, calculations, engineering, meeting the building regulations and getting author­ ization from the authorities. That is the job of Christophe, my project manager and architect in Switzerland. Speaking of regulations, I don’t resist them; I adapt to them. You see, I am not fighting against but working within the envi­ ronment. I study the regulations and transform my project accordingly. This is the way I work. Wood has always been your preferred material. You started with the rear components and frames of artists’ canvases. Since then you and your assistants have processed many tons

of wood, all over the world. Why did you choose such an ordinary material in the first place? I chose wood because it is very easy to work with, for everybody, not only for professionals. I am an artist, not a carpenter. I like to touch the material, to use it, handle it with ease at the site, so that I can change it. Handling, cutting, fixing: everybody can do this. In contrast, if you work with metal, you need very special skills and people cannot easily collaborate. Furthermore, wood is very easy to get; wherever I work, it exists in standard sizes. As the weather conditions vary from location to location, we always have to be very careful which wood we choose. You seem to have used a certain amount of intuition when working at this location. How do you maintain a balance between planning and improvisation? Christophe made the technical drawings from my sketches and then we had, as always, our disputes because I wanted changes. We always work like that. Of course, we needed to obtain the authorization from an engineer. This is an obligation for such a structure. But at the same time, I try to break fixed plans and to find a certain freedom of construction. So within the calculation and engineering there must be space for freedom and improvisation. Christophe ordered a much bigger amount of the material than usual, by the way. The reason is that we need material and space for improvisation. That’s how we work. Collaboration is also a key aspect of your work. The work you performed here on the building site seemed more like a long, uninterrupted performance than a well-planned, hierarchically organised construction process.


I always work with artists and assistants from Paris and from the location of the site. So this time they came mostly from Paris and from Basel. They are not carpenters, but artists. They know how I work and the artist’s behaviour from their own experience. We always discuss things together, and they are very flexible and receptive to changing ideas. That’s very important. Carpenters mostly don’t want to change, which would not work for me. I need flexibility and spontaneity. Nonetheless, there must be certain principles that have proved effective when you conduct your work. How do you organize yourself and your teams? I am not the master and there is no hierarchy. The collaboration is more spontaneous. We also do not work from nine to five. Most im­portant is respect for every individual. Even ­someone who doesn’t work as hard as others deserves respect. We can only work like we do if everybody is respectful of each other. We work, we eat, we drink together. This is very much the Japanese style. We do not distinguish between work and leisure. After work, we start cooking and drinking together. That makes it easier to discuss things and it is also good for the spirit. If we had a contradiction or a conflict, it would result in bad work. When we are in good spirits we also make good work. It’s like an exchange. After the work is done we separate again. ––– You were born and raised up in the mountains of the Japanese island of Hokkaido. How did your upbringing influence your life and work?

I was a mountain boy and never saw the sea until I was 14. My father was a coal miner and we lived in an industrial town. I am not a nature person. I prefer living and working in the city. You could call me a working-class artist. Although I did go to art school, I quit after two years to become a painter. But I had an allergy to oil. My constitution didn’t accept the paint. Also, I preferred the physicality of working outside the studio. As you know, in Tokyo space is very scarce. Everybody needs a part-time job to afford a studio. This is paradoxical, as you don’t have the time to work in that space when you have to work for the money to pay for the space. So I just decided to work on site. My work followed economic and practical structures. Wherever I was, I got the material and constructed there, on the spot. I didn’t really need a studio. That’s why I started to work so often outside Japan. Usually, artists need a lot of money for transport and insurance. But in my case, I just book an economy ticket, go to the location and work with the material of the place and with assistants from that place. You have travelled a lot. How has that informed your work over the years? True, from the very beginning I was always travelling. I lived for a while in New York, and often came to Europe. To be honest, I am not so interested in staying in Japan. I am more of a nomad. The nomadic spirit seems to have influenced your work. It seems you pitch a tent wherever you are. From early on you created installations on site, and they are often functional. In a way, I tried to escape from art. In 1982, when I was 28, I was selected to represent Japan at the Venice Biennale. To exhibit in the


Japanese pavilion at an international art show meant a lot of attention. It was my first exhibition outside Japan so there was a lot of pressure. I remember, I stayed for two months in Venice but I received practically no response. At that time, painting was very in vogue with the Transavanguardia movement. Nobody wanted installations. So I realized I was not a mainstream artist, and I was quite disappointed. When I returned to Japan I tried to quit art. I realized I was outside of the art system. Then I started to rent apartments for my installations and I invited people to visit. I just invented my own way of working. In the beginning I didn’t get much of a reaction, but this didn’t matter to me. I just started it for myself. From 1983 I worked on my own projects, paid for by myself. Once, I rented a roof. I just asked the owner of an apartment if he would let me rent his roof for a month. I sent out an invitation with a map and the visitors came. This way of renting spaces for my art worked really well. Every apartment was something completely different. Eventually, I went more outdoors. That was my starting point. You said once you see your work as parasitic, as you often attach your installations to pre-­ existing sites. I see myself as a kind of parasite in Paris! When you go somewhere and you stay and create, you collaborate, you don’t stay unchanged. In this respect, everybody is a parasite who sucks energy out of his environment. My tree huts are parasites like my other buildings, the favelas, the dwellings. Maybe, in a different way, Barrel is also a parasite that sucks the energy from its surroundings. Even Barrel is not in direct connection with the residential building, it takes the energy from the environment and transforms it into something else. The French

philosopher Michel Serres wrote about parasites. It’s like in judo. You don’t need to have power yourself, you just use the power of someone else. This is a very different way to Western thinking, by the way. Would you say your work follows the logic of judo? Maybe. In fact, I always try to get some energy from the site and use it for my own project. The Barrel remains somehow in contradiction to the building. At first, I wanted a connection between the Barrel and the building, but this was superseded. Sometimes your vision exceeds your means as in real life. One must always stay open to change. Have you ever cancelled a project because it became too far removed from your initial idea? Yes, that has happened. Sometimes there is the question: what does the owner want of the project, and what do I want as the artist? What does it mean to work in a private space for a private client, as opposed to the public domain? The audience is certainly different. A private audience is smaller and you also tend to know each other. If I work for a private client the whole process is more straightforward. Although I like public projects, they can be tiring because the approvals process with the authorities and regulations is more time-­consuming. Recently, I made a bedroom for a collector. The collector’s wife asked me: “Why don’t you create a nest in the bedroom?” Imagine, it was a five-storey building with a sauna, a swimming pool, a transparent elevator and every comfort you can think of. And then they want a nest in the bedroom. This is quite archaic!


You said you don’t resist restrictions; instead you take them and try to transform them. Yes, I accept everything. That is a Buddhist attitude. Buddhists accept the circumstances they are in; they don’t care too much about them. There is too much pushing and fighting around us. I would say that, although I am not a religious person, I am influenced by the idea of theBuddhist circle of time: the idea of reincarnation and the temporality of life. Life is temporary; nobody and nothing stays forever. All material things and all objects are temporary. The permanent is an imaginary idea. Life is always changing. There are natural hazards, like tsunamis and earthquakes, which nobody can stop. So the only thing is to accept them. Nature has so much power, so we just have to comply and accept Nature. This is the opposite of fighting. I think fighting is not good for creativity anyway. There is no meaning, no solution in fighting. I was somewhat influenced by French ­philosophy when I was a student, by the way, by Michel Foucault especially.

My works are indeed not only functional; they are also metaphorical. If you look at my tree huts or favelas, they are most often a different element attached to an already existing structure. They connect to the environment. Once, I just built a bridge underneath an existing bridge. I wanted to offer a different experience. With Barrel, it’s the very first time that I have gone underground. Once you go down, you step into a different world. You are just with yourself and your thoughts. You automatically have a dif­ ferent outlook. You go underground and all of a sudden you see the sky. It’s almost like the feeling you have when you enter a church; you immediately find yourself immersed in a dif­ ferent world. September 2017, Alte Landstrasse Kilchberg and Tennis Court Kilchberg December 2017, a café on Rue Saint-André des Arts, Paris.

The philosopher who examined power relations, control and social systems … Yes, Michel Foucault analysed social systems and how hierarchies evolve. He described prisons and how a society defines who is crazy and who is normal. Social systems decide who is in and who is out, who is sick, who is normal. But those structures are never stable. They are fragile and are changed by the power of the people. The same with artists: who decides who is in the art system and who not? Or the media. One has to rethink what one reads in the news­paper or on the internet. You find power games everywhere. So do you see your work as kind of a social comment, or even a subversive act?

Tadashi Kawamata with architects Peter Kyncl and Günther Schaller. 45



(Swiss Arts Council) and for Swiss cantons and cities. Co-founder of art agency, an art consultancy in Zurich. Brigitte Ulmer (born in Zurich), arts journalist and art advisor. Studied history, communication and political science at the University of Zurich, and art history at Goldsmiths, University of London. Contributor to various Swiss publi­cations such as Neue Zürcher Zeitung, du and Bilanz. Co-founder of art agency, an art consultancy in Zurich.

Tadashi Kawamata (born in Hokkaido, Japan). A graduate of Tokyo University of the Arts, he represented Japan at the 1982 Venice Biennale and was a participant at documenta 8 1987 and documenta 9 1992 (Kassel). Projects all over the world, including in Japan, the United States, Canada, France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Spain. Christophe Scheidegger (born in Lucerne), architect. Draughtsman apprenticeship and preliminary course in Lucerne; studied interior design at HfG Basel. 2008: Master of Arts in Architecture. 1997–2010: assistant to Tadashi Kawamata, various positions and freelance assignments. Since 2010: Kawamata + Scheidegger. Karin Frei Rappenecker (born in Basel), curator and art advisor. Studied art history, history of architecture, and anthropology at the University of Bern. Numerous articles on art and architecture. She has worked on a freelance basis and as a project leader inter alia for Pro Helvetia

Stefan Zweifel (born in Zurich), philosopher, author and independent curator. Studied phi­ losophy, comparative literature and Egyptology at the University of Zurich. Regular contributor to Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Tages-Anzeiger, du, Literaturen, and the arts pages of German newspapers. Lead role in exhibitions on Dadaism and Surrealism. Adrian Feuchtwanger (born in Honiton UK), translator (German into English). Studied German literature at Oxford University, doctorate in German literature from the University of Southern California. Dissertation on his great-uncle the novelist Lion Feuchtwanger. Numerous translations of art history texts for Swiss publishers such as Scheidegger & Spiess. Marie Lusa (born in Porrentruy), graphic designer. Studied graphic design at ECAL (École cantonale d‘art de Lausanne). Commissions for books and visual identities for Serpentine ­Gallery London, Kunsthaus Zürich, Fondation Beyeler, Gallery Hauser and Wirth, Migros Museum, Fondation Vincent van Gogh Arles, Swiss Institute New York, and others. Instructor at ECAL.


Barrel   Tadashi Kawamata Art and Architecture


Architecture (overall planning) Kyncl Schaller Architekten

Editor Art Agency, Karin Frei Rappenecker + Brigitte Ulmer

Art Tadashi Kawamata (artist) Christophe Scheidegger (architect) Art Advisory Art Agency, Karin Frei Rappenecker + Brigitte Ulmer

Translation from German Adrian Feuchtwanger Design + Layout Studio Marie Lusa, Marie Lusa, Dominique Wyss Image Credits Tadashi Kawamata Christophe Scheidegger Photo Credits p. 15  © Photos: Fabrice Seixas Courtesy of the artist and Kamel Mennour, Paris / London p. 16  © Photo: Leo van der Kleij Courtesy of the artist and Kamel Mennour, Paris / London pp. 16, 18 Sketches  © Tadashi Kawamata p. 17  © Tadashi Kawamata © Photo: Daniel Suarez Courtesy the artist and Kamel Mennour, Paris / London All other photographs  © Gian Marco Castelberg Litography, Printing + Production Musumeci S. p. A., Quart (AO) Italy Published by Kyncl Schaller Architekten + Art Agency Publisher Till Schaap Edition Printed in Italy All rights reserved © 2018 Art Agency, Zürich / London © Photographs: see Photo Credits and by the artist © Texts by the authors

The short film Barrel was produced by Pixibarfilm, Annette Carle and Karin Heberlein

ISBN 978-3-03878-028-1

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