HAWAIIAN CONSCIENCISM with Linda Tuhiwai Smith on May 2, 2013 at UH Manoa. She spoke on activism, feminism, culture, difference,...
After 666 comments, a friend of mine was kicked off Metafilter. That was ten years ago. He told me his old screennames over drinks a...
This is used to good effect by the artist-photographer Jorge Ribalta who reconstructed and photographed scale models of the ‘urban decay’ of working class districts of Barcelona prior to their gentrification.
As John Roberts writes, this is an elegy to “an area that once had a rich and variegated social and economic history” now designated by capital as “unproductive”. Such an approach mobilises the ‘opacity’ of urban decay – and memory – against the transparent homogenisation that capital desires for city space while emphasising the simultaneous production of both.
WATASHI TO TOKYO explains:
We call useless buildings, architecture, and objects “Thomasson.” This useless door, useless stairway, useless wash stand, useless wall, and impossible parking lot are all examples of Thomasson. Thomasson was named after Gary Thomasson, who played for the Dodgers in the US, and then joined the Tokyo Giants in 1982. In Japan, he had a mountain of strikeouts, and Japanese people called him “a human windmill.” He left Japan a year later without any success. Then someone started calling useless stuff “Thomason.”
From Big in Japan:
In the early 1980s, Genpei Akasegawa and some of his students encountered this useless staircase in Yotsuya, Tokyo. He recalls how taken they were by fact that it had “no entertainment, no utility, no ornamentation”. It appeared to be a mistake, since capitalism shouldn’t allow for such pointlessness. It had the form of a staircase without the function, and they decided that a staircase leading nowhere was in fact no longer a staircase. It was, by virtue of its new obsolescence, art. Hyper Art, to be exact: art that was made without any artistic intent. Art made by the city.
They set out in search of more architectural relics where planned utility had given way to accidental futility. This was as the crazed bubble economy was blowing up and Tokyo had money bursting out of its eyeballs: the built environment was in a constant state of redevelopment and flux. Akasegawa formed the Street Observation Science Society in 1986 with a group of students and Professor Fujimori Terunobu of Tokyo University, with the express purpose of seeking out the city’s inadvertent useless leftovers that were ready to be elevated to Hyper Art.
To label these urban vestiges, they settled on the name ‘Thomassons’ after the American major-league baseball star who played for the Yomiuri Giants in Japan. Gary Thomasson famously had a perfect swing, but never managed to touch the ball. In Akasegawa’s words, “he had a fully formed body and yet served no purpose in the world … It was a beautiful thing.” He was living Hyper Art; like the superfluous stairs they had christened le stairs pour le stairs, he was an inversion of Louis Sullivan’s modernist credo that form follows function. They were also pleased to find that if one wrote Thomasson’s name in Japanese characters it spelt the word for Hyper Art.
* Also it’s the first time I’ve bought a book via the internet and the confirmation email asked me if I am related to other Kohs, who are in fact my cousins! Kaya Press! Friend of Kohs everywhere.
Images of interstellar yogurt lids as a series do the needful. In aggregate, they discombobulate further, make the familiar unfamiliar long enough for us to have a sober acid flashback. I am less enthusiastic about the collections of photographs of street detritus or pocket lint (actually my pocket lint is fascinating, come to think of it).
Thanks to Less Is More, I now know who to blame. Ed Ruscha, look what you did to us. Wikipedia tells me Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963) was “a major influence on the emerging artist’s book culture, especially in America.”
I think the emerging artist’s book is something like “You must look at what I see and find it just as fascinating.” Curated collections of the contents of your bag/purse/satchel or a lot of Tumblrs devoted to a single theme run this risk as well. Fifty years ago, Ruscha might have been the first to demand his audience/reader to stare at the mundane with a kind of religious devotion. Now we have the internet.
In the early sixties, Ed Ruscha begins his first projects of series of photographic art books that documented ordinary aspects of life in Los Angeles. Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), Every Building on the Sunset Strip (1966), or Nine Swimming Pools and Broken Glass (1968) are some examples.
I was trying to find a copy of the Peter Jennings “edited” photographic history of 20th century America — The Century — but got lost in the library stacks and came out with something else entirely. (something amazing I promise) What I was looking for was the one and only image of Asian Americans that appeared in his version of 20th century U.S. history. When I wonder why we as a community spend so much time fretting over media representation, I remember that the single photo of an Asian American was an armed Korean shopkeeper, fulfilling his assigned role as the middleman minority. This image is a close approximation (found at Ask a Korean).
The L.A. riots signified a lot of things for my generation — the first home video of police brutality, race relations in a multicultural America, the Mad Max dystopian city that would find its sequel in images of post-Katrina New Orleans. I kinda wish there was a way to talk about this on the internet in a real way. Something more than hash tags and remember whens.