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Video Shakkei

KREIDER + O’LEARY


Video Shakkei by Kreider + O’Leary Published by: Unnameable Press London 2014 www.unnameable.org Copyright © Kreider + O’Leary www.kreider-oleary.net Design: Kreider + O’Leary Fonts: Garamond, Optima A CIP catalogue record of this book is available in the British Library. ISBN: 978-1-908602-11-4 Cover image: Performance Still from Meoto Iwa, Mie, Japan Kreider + O’Leary 2009 Rear Cover image: Kansai Sundown, Performance Aftermath Kreider + O’Leary 2009


Video Shakkei Kreider + O’Leary


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Video Shakkei Site-Specificity & Immersive Drawing Practice

Drawing & Flatness Drawing is thinking made manifest: a graphic record of thought and intention. The line draws distinctions, cleaving a space from the conceptual void; it delineates entities, trajectories and boundaries. The line is a thread, propelled by thought, that moves and mutates with the process of plastic creation. Drawing is also, of course, a verb – a bodily action; more usually a sequence of actions that deposits traces between the maker and the medium of the drawing. The history of drawing is the history of mark making – figures darkening a surface or ground. Although the role of the drawing still retains its central role and purpose as primary mediator between design thinking, design instruction and design construction in architecture, there has been an ongoing solidification of drawing practices and standardisation of drawing procedures. The impact of digital software has further changed the nature of the drawing, removing its intimate crafted nature and the trace of the individual hand, levelling the diversity of drawing practices and producing a much more generic artefact across the board. In Video Shakkei, we specifically address this flattening of architectural drawing practice through an

engagement with site at the intersection of architecture, art and poetic practice. Site & Complexity The relationship between architect and site is a complex and troubled one. Architectural theorist Robin Evans alludes to this in his essay ‘Translations between Drawing and Building’ (1997) where he identifies “the particular disadvantage under which architects labour, never working directly with the object of their thought, always working at it through some intervening medium, almost always the drawing.”1 Displaced from the architectural object – and, by implication, the site of the object’s construction – throughout the process of design, the architectural drawing becomes, itself, a site for the architect’s intense delineations, layering, textures, modifications and erasures. However, in the architect’s pursuit of a rational spatial order, the drawing often takes on an aura of importance that often eclipses the material status of the architectural site itself. A tendency to overlook the specificity of the architectural site prevails in design practice. So argues architectural theorist Andrea Kahn in her essay ‘Overlooking: A Look at How we Look at Site’ (1996). Here Kahn emphasises

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the complexity inherent in any site: ‘Always mutable, site is a collection of scales, programmes, actors and ecologies that include past imprints as well as future changes,’ she argues.2 From this, we appreciate site as a spatial and material system of relationships that changes over time: imprinted with the trace of past changes; pregnant with the potential for future change. ‘To paraphrase Hélène Cixous,’ continues Kahn, site ‘belongs to the order of ‘feminine’ continuity,’3 by which we understand site as intrinsic to the natural continuum of time and space that is our worldly reality. Kahn goes on to critique how site is conceptualised in design practice, as compared with site-related art practices:

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While many artists recognise that we are always in the midst of site (Walter di Maria [sic], Richard Long or Robert Smithson), formally trained designers prefer to apprehend sites as finite, or fixed. By conceptualising them as distinct pieces (of land) defined through ownership, design thinking institutes a forceful myth: the contained and controllable site. It is a myth linked to assumptions that the goal of design is rational order and the purpose of analysis is preparing site through documentation, making way for design’s (supposedly benign) controls.4 Kahn’s critique raises a number of questions. Firstly, if the concept of site as a bounded and controllable entity paves the way for a design proposition predicated on the rational ordering of space, and if the purpose of site analysis is conventionally understood to prepare the ground for this proposition,

then how do the goals of design and the purpose of site analysis change when site is understood in Kahn’s terms? Furthermore, if we consider that the conventional function of an architectural drawing is to communicate clearly the design proposition informed by site analysis, then what are the implications for architectural drawing, in particular, if we conceive of site as this complex material, spatial, temporal – and, we would add, cultural – matrix, pursuing a method of design and analysis accordingly? To conceive of site as this multi-faceted and multilayered complex presents a challenge to any drawing practice, and particularly architectural drawing practices, that relate to site. The challenge, as we see it, is to develop an appropriate method for engaging with complexity. As an architect and poet who collaborate to make work in relation to sites of architectural and cultural interest, we take up this challenge by, firstly, collapsing the conventional differentiation between site analysis and design proposition in our work. Rather than seeing these as two different stages of a design practice, with site analysis preceding design proposition and its formal realisation, we devise means whereby these stages merge – as form emerges – through a subjective engagement with the complexity of site. Involving performance, installation, video work and artists books, employing the pansemiotic features of language, the results are neither site study, strictly speaking, nor design proposition, per se, but manifestations of representational form that include aspects of each: close analysis of material, contextual, social and historical aspects of site, on the one hand; imaginings of generative possibility, on the other. All of which embodies our subjective response


to the complexity inherent in any given site or, more accurately, records or documents this response.5 Q: How do we engage with the complexity of site in order to experience, relate and respond to it? Q: How do we, in turn, communicate this to an audience in another space and time? These questions underlie Video Shakkei, and we address them throughout the project by means of: our site-specific practice of ‘immersive drawings’ performed at fourteen carefully-selected locations in Japan; the documentation of these performances through a series of video composites or ‘captured drawings’; an exhibition of these video composites as one component of an installation work at The Centre for Drawing (London, UK); this book. ‘Immersive Drawing’ Video Shakkei originated as a series of 14 performances enacted throughout the Kansai region of Japan during June and July of 2009. Moving through these locations, we are foreign bodies inhabiting an alien space. We encounter physically what we have previously known only photographically or textually. The difference is radical as we re-calibrate our previously photo-realistic understandings and generic assumptions of place ‘as image’, toward an experiential understanding of the local and specific place ‘as experienced’. In this, the ‘liveness’ of the work is critical, alongside our embodied positioning and improvisational strategy, with each performance guided by the specific material and spatial qualities of its location. It is thus through performance that we

engage with the complexities of any given site. This relationship between performance and site and that characterizes Video Shakkei has been identified as central to contemporary site-specific art practice. Writing in Site-Specific Art: Performance, Place and Documentation (2000), performance and art critic Nick Kaye stresses the performative nature of contemporary site-specific art practice, in turn calling for a ‘transitive’ definition of site. Kaye bases this definition on anthropologist Michel de Certeau’s spatial theory in The Practice of Everyday Life (1974). Here De Certeau argues that ‘place’ is an ordering of coexisting elements, comparable to Saussure’s linguistic theorisation of ‘langue’ or language as a system of signs. Place, like language, has ‘proper’ rules of usage that may or may not be abided in any particular enactment of this order. This enactment, which de Certeau likens to parole or the act of speaking, is realised in and through one’s movement through place: that is, through spatial practice. (So, the act of walking is a spatial practice that acts out the urban system, just as speaking is a spatial practice that acts out the linguistic system.) De Certeau summarises his theory of spatial practice as follows: ‘space is a practiced place … spaces are produced by the practice of a particular place.’6 For his part, Kaye uses this dictum as a basis for his concept of an ‘underlying concept of ‘site’’ that has to do more with the performance of place than with ‘any given or particular kind of place.’7 This transitive definition of site, as Kaye calls it, feeds into his definition of site-specificity as ‘a working over of the production, definition and performance of ‘place’.8 All of this suggests that the Video Shakkei performances

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can be understood in terms of contemporary sitespecific art practice. We add to this our appreciation that these performances of place are acts of ‘immersive drawing.’ As Roland Barthes says in the course of discussing Cy Twombly’s work: ‘The line is a visible action.’9 In Video Shakkei, we visibly perform the line through our dynamic gestures and movements that, responding to environmental cues, act out the spatial and material conditions of each site. However, unlike conventional drawings that leave a visible trace, these drawing performances take visual and audial traces from the site through digital video recordings of each performance (see ‘Captured Drawing’ below).

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Significantly, we enacted each of the ‘immersive drawings’ that comprise Video Shakkei while in uniform (black trousers, black top and gold ‘bib’ [Kreider]; navy trousers, navy top and silver ‘bib’ [O’Leary]) and employing a constrained set of props (2 convex mirrors; 2 hand-held mirrors; 1 yellow ribbon [O’Leary]; 1 blue ribbon [Kreider]). This combination of uniforms and props acted as our aesthetic vocabulary: one that carried with it connotations from our situatedness ‘outside’ of Japan; one that accrued meaning contextually in and through the series of performances that comprise the work. Employing this vocabulary, we engaged with the complexity of a given site, experiencing and making meaning in relation to its spatial and environmental conditions through ‘immersive drawing’. Each performance thus encompasses our acts of reading, interpreting and responding to the specifics of site.

‘Captured Drawing’ The ‘immersive drawings’ that originated Video Shakkei were each documented by video recording the actions simultaneously from differing points of view using two high definition video cameras (one for each performer) as well as recently developed embedded miniature video camera technology (one for each performer). These recordings were then edited together in a series of filmic composites modelled on the multi-scaled architectural drawing, and borrowing from the Japanese compositional tradition of ‘shakkei’. Shakkei, which literally translates as ‘borrowed scenery’, is a method of incorporating distant vistas into the composition of a landscape design, thereby relating elements of the wider landscape to those on an intimate human scale, both literally and cosmologically.10 This reciprocal relationship between foreground and background is extended and exploited in Video Shakkei where the video composites ‘borrow’ environmental elements (urban, ‘natural’, architectural) to reinforce or contradict discreet actions unfolding in the foreground or middle distance. All of this relates place to performed event (i.e. space) at differing scales of relationship, all documented through the moving image composites. Relationships between architecture, performance and film, particularly the understanding of architectural space and the mediation of actions that it frames, have been the subject of a sustained analysis by architectural theorist and architect Bernard Tschumi in essays such as ‘Violence and Architecture’, ‘Spaces and Events’ and ‘Sequences’ written between 1981 and 1983. Writing in an era when, as now, formal concerns were dominating architectural thinking, Tschumi attempted to change the


trajectory of critical debate away from simplistic formfunction relationships toward a greater understanding of the frequently disjunctive relationship between architecture and programme, space and event. The opening statements from ‘Architecture and Violence’ state Tschumi’s position clearly: 1. There is no architecture without action, no architecture without event, no architecture without programme. 2. By extension, there is no architecture without violence.11 Clarifying claim toward violence in this context, Tschumi brings in the problematic inter-relationship between space and action, as well as between the architecture, drawing and notation that mediate this action in space: Architecture’s violence is fundamental and unavoidable, for architecture is linked to events in the same way that the guard is linked to the prisoner, the police to the criminal, the doctor to the patient, order to chaos. This also suggests that actions qualify spaces as much as spaces qualify actions; that space and action are inseparable and that no proper interpretation of architecture, drawing or notation can refuse to consider this fact.12 To unpack this inter-relationship between space and action further, Tschumi raids the historical cupboard of performance notation and filmic notational devices, using a range of images from sixteenth century Florentine pageant diagrams to

Oskar Schlemmer’s 1926 ‘Gesture Dance’ diagrams to reinforce his argument. The graphic language of event description developed considerably with the burgeoning development of fine art performance practice, contemporary music scoring and filmic storyboarding, all of which provided new tools for spatio-temporal description. These progressions have been facilitated by a more determined interest in finding a notational language that documents bodies, objects, locations, and movements within a spatial field. These multiple sources of performance, film and music are appropriated and further applied in Tschumi’s work to successfully challenge conventional codes of architectural drawing, most famously and perhaps successfully in his ‘Manhattan Transcripts’of 1981, where multiple film stills, choreographic notations, orthogonal plans and perspective drawings are all combined to form combinative sets of drawings that appear to unfold over time, developing sequentially as they proceed.13 However, the work remains exclusively on the page, curiously becoming a graphic armature that supports architectural work of the formal nature he claims to want to avoid. Tschumi here steps back from moving into the realm of performance directly to address and further interrogate the relationship between space and event in a trajectory that is more investigatively immersive and less graphically stylistic. Our work with Video Shakkei extends Tschumi’s line of enquiry between space, drawing and notation through accommodating strategies of direct observation, experience, and immersive practice directly into our representational form of the video composites. Importantly, the disorder of the original event refuses

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to become ordered into a ‘frozen’ set of relations between space and action. Reflective of our subjective encounter with each place, the unrehearsed hesitancy – stutters as we trip over unfamiliar terrain – is forever frozen in the multiple codes of digital video.

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Installation In her essay ‘I/Eye/Oculus: Performance, Installation and Video’ (2004), art critic Kristine Stiles offers a compelling account of the history and aesthetic specificity of performance, installation and video art since the 1960’s wherein she argues that performance, video and installation a) are capable of embodying time-based and kinetic aspects within artistic form, requiring both ‘artist and viewers to engage in temporal changes and duration over time’14; b) ‘include a wide spectrum of aesthetic practices’ that may generate representation through likeness (or, indeed, its opposite of abstraction), but necessarily entails making meaning through the direct connection that they have to actions and events; c) link artists and viewers directly to these real-time events and experiences, drawing attention to a person or place, thereby ‘enhancing reciprocity between art and viewer as interrelated subjects.’15 All of this suggests, to us, that these artistic media are capable of accounting for a subjective and spatio-temporally dynamic approach to site, and communicating the resultant proliferation of meaning. It is therefore apt that our exhibition of work relating to Video Shakkei include each of these three elements, amongst others. For this exhibition, culminating a six-week residency

at The Centre for Drawing in London, we presented an installation work: an assemblage consisting of seven video composites, themselves documenting our performances of ‘‘immersive drawing’’; our set of props; constructed elements, found objects and drawings made throughout the residency and reflecting on as well as responding to our experience in Japan; a text piece running throughout the space to hold each these elements together. An experimental narrative told through the pansemiotic features of language and including images, objects, actions and text, this installation work can be considered, on the one hand, as a type of writing and, on the other, a kind of drawing, when both hands extend to meet within an expanded field of creative practice informed by the disciplines of poetry, art and architecture. Ultimately, we consider this final installation in terms of a complex system of signs capable of accounting for our subjective and spatiotemporally dynamic approach to the complexity of site, as well as communicating the resultant proliferation of meaning to those in another time and space. Book The final creative output relating to Video Shakkei is this book. Throughout these pages you will find pages of text-and-image documenting the project overall. There are fourteen sets of pages, each relating to a one of the locations / performances in Japan. Each set contains: • 1 page of images presented in a grid. These images are taken from completely different stages of the project – from initial research to shots taken while travelling; from documentation of the performances to post-performance drawing and reflection – and presented at completely


different scales in the grid. • 1 page of visual poetry. Predicated on the haiku and working within a constrained form, these poems can be read in plan as documentation (or, indeed, score) of the performances of ‘immersive drawings’. • 1 page with a still from the relevant video composite. Drawing in an Expanded Field Ultimately, the Video Shakkei drawings can be understood to elevate the status of the site-drawing from a preliminary event in an architectural process to something finished in and of itself, much like Piranesi’s Antichita Romane, but constructed through contemporary media and technology.16 There is a conscious intention to explore the limits of contemporary drawing practice, and to play with the shape and definition of drawing to accommodate performance and time-based video practices as well as installation and text-based elements. Combining strategies and tactics from architectural, art and poetic practice, we nevertheless respect and retain the precision, tropes and standards of the traditional architectural drawing. This includes its scaled relationship to site as well as composite elements rendered from differing points of view. We add to this precise and holistic understanding of the three-dimensional make-up of space semiotic and formal elements that communicate our subjective experience, interpretation and response to it. The result is a hyper-digitized, absurdly choreographed and poetically rendered image of a place performed in one spatiotemporal context, to be experienced by those in another.

Notes 1. Evans, Robin, ‘Translations from Drawing to Building,’ in Translations from Drawing to Building and Other Essays (London: Architectural Association Publications, 1997): p.156. 2. Kahn, Andrea, ‘Overlooking: A Look at How we Look at Site or … site as ‘discrete object’ of desire’, in Desiring Practices: Architecture, Gender and Interdisciplinarity, eds. Duncan McCorquodale, Katerina Rüedi, Sarah Wigglesworth (London, Black Dog Publishing, 1996): p. 176. 3. Ibid., p. 176. 4. Ibid., p. 176. 5. For a full theoretical discussion site and complexity as well as our approach to this through creative practice see Kreider, Kristen and James O’Leary, ‘Particles of Moisture and Other Substance Suspended in Air and Visible as Clouds: Approaching Ambiguity through Site-Related Creative Practice’ in Drawing Ambiguity: Beside the Lines of Contemporary Art (London: IB Tauris, 2015 forthcoming). 6. De Certeau, Michel, The Practice of Everyday Life (1974), trans. Steven Rendell (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984): p. 98. 7. Kaye, Nick, Site-Specific Art: Performance, Place and Documentation (London, Routledge, 2000): p. 3. 8. Ibid., p. 3. 9. Roland Barthes, ‘Cy Twombly: Works on Paper’ (1979), The Responsibility of Forms: Critical Essays on Music, Art, and Representation, trans. Richard Howard, (Berkeley, University of California Press, 1985): p. 170. 10. A river, the ocean, fields, forests, large trees, or even a building may all serve as Shakkei, but the most frequently borrowed scene is a distant mountain. See Keane, Mark P., Japanese Garden Design (Boston: Tuttle Publishing, 1996). 11. Tschumi, Bernard, ‘Violence and Architecture,’ in Bernard Tschumi, ed., Architecture and Disjunction (Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press, 1994): p. 121. 12. Ibid., p.122. 13. Tschumi, Bernard, The Manhattan Transcripts (New York : St. Martins Press, 1981). 14. Stiles, Kristine, ‘I/Eye/Oculus: Performance, Installation and Video’, in Themes in Contemporary Art, eds. Gill Perry and Paul Wood (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2004): p. 183. 15. Ibid., p. 197. 16. For a description and documentation of this work see Ficacci, L., ‘Le Antichità Romane,’ in Piranesi, the Etchings (Cologne: Taschen, 2005): pp.82-225.

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‘I

f I want to imagine a fictive nation, I can give it an invented name, treat it declaratively as a novelistic object, create a new Garabagne, so as to compromise no realy country by my fantasy (though it is then that fantasy itself I compromise by the signs of literature). I can also – though in no way claiming to represent or to analyze reality itself (these being the major gestures of Western discourse) – isolate somewhere in the world (faraway) a certain number of features (a term employed by linguistics), and out of these features deliberately form a system. It is this system with I shall call: Japan.’

– Roland Barthes, Empire of Signs


01 Umeda Sky Building

framing

choreography —

• •

Crystals at the top of the building reflect the sky as the landscape outside. ‘you’ & ‘I’


the revolution

• — of circumference.


01 Umeda Sky Building


02 Awaji Water Temple

1

1

2

(as) so

analogy causality

light shines;

2

objects appear — the time of ‘now’


a mediation.


02 Awaji Water Temple


03 Oji Horyu-Ji

two paths

1

— straight — parallel

2

— each

1 2

A crowd of school children are walking between us. All are in uniform. One asks what we are doing. I do not want to speak, and


measure. unique a — meridian a represent our activity thorugh a simple line drawing. I give the drawing to the girl. She thanks me before returning to join her friends.


03 Oji Horyu-Ji


04 Origin Building

here

office street

(

crossing inside : at the


the threshold outside ) Origin.

we are


04 Origin Building


05 Kyoto Crafts Museum

( circling the tree )

: syn

crh

onic

ity.

— n 1. skill or ability, esp in handiwork — vb 7. ( tr ) to make or fashion with skill, esp by hand. tree


e

plac

of ion

ulat

artic


05 Kyoto Crafts Museum


06 Kyoto Intersection

1

slick

2

1 2

calculation of

•

movement

•

The torii is a gate found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine. The purpose of the torii is to mark a transition from the profane to the Sheathed in white, or, uplifting transparency: each to her replete architecture. The City has become an homogenous array of


•

pavement

reflecting • the red and green sacred plastic bubbles.


06 Kyoto Intersection


gestures

as

urban semaphore

signs

of

nothing

07 Higashi Hogan-Ji

‘the wake of the sign which seems to have been traced is erased’ – Roland Barthes, Empire of Signs Learning to see obliquely.


at the temple gate.


07 Higashi Hogan-Ji


08 Ryoan-Ji

. . . ants . . . running . . . along . . . sand . . . become . . . a

• •

Borrowed scenery, i.e., mountains, trees, and other landscape elements that are not actually part of a garden, but can be seen

__________


rivulets . . . of . . . . . . study . . . in . . . scale . . . •

from the garden and form a backdrop to it.


08 Ryoan-Ji


09 Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

incline

——

• •

ksh-eeeeeeee, ksh-eeeeeeee

extent linear

——

vertical uplift


( funereal cusp )


09 Arashiyama Bamboo Forest


10 Kyoto Station

this is space travel:

the world

in convexity

The ‘world’ in and through which we appear. (It could be a public square. It could be the moon.) 1920 x 1080


between our two hands.


10 Kyoto Station


11 Meoto Iwa

••

the sun rises between

An image of the wedded rocks taken at sunrise every single day from the exact same spot.


one (rock)

iconicity • •

and another


11 Meoto Iwa


12 Ise Geku

we are rocks outside

each beside a tree

:

:


rising hum of insects.

or, “a crescendo of insects”


12 Ise Geku


13 Ise Naiku

two birds that we do not see;

or, “a man that we do not see;�


we are rocks inside beside Isuzu.


13 Ise Naiku


14 Kansai Airport

a

2 1 • •

bus

(the end)

ride

away


peninsula.

1

• the

lights

of

this

colourful

new

2


14 Kansai Airport


Video Shakkei www.kreider-oleary.net/video/shakkei.htm


invented name, treat it declaratively as a novelistic object, create a new Garabagne, so as to compromise no real country by my fantasy (though it is then that fantasy itself I compromise by the signs of literature). I can also – though in no way claiming to represent or to analyze reality itself (these being the major gestures of Western discourse) – isolate somewhere in the world (faraway) a certain number of features (a term employed by linguistics), and out of these features deliberately form a system. It is this system which I shall call: Japan.’

– Roland Barthes, Empire of Signs

www.unnameable.org

KREIDER + O’LEARY

Video Shakkei originated as a series of 14 site-specific spatial performances enacted throughout the Kansai region of Japan during June and July of 2009. Moving through these locations with a constrained set of props and four high definition video cameras, Kreider + O’Leary are foreign bodies inhabiting an alien space. They encounter physically what they have previously known only photographically or textually. Through this act of absurd Grand Tourism they move from previously photo-realistic understandings and generic assumptions of place to an experiential understanding of the local and specific. All of which informs their own poetic rendering of Japan through video composition, installation and haiku. This book, as a document of Kreider + O’Leary’s multifarious practice, presents a composite of signs – a confusion of preconceptions, experiences and reflections – all of which image the place they call ‘Japan’.

Unnameable Press London © 2014

Video Shakkei

‘If I want to imagine a fictive nation, I can give it an


Kreider + O'Leary - Video Shakkei