Sharjapan 3: Contemplating possibilities of new lifestyles, modes of human existence

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A wonderful exhibition, the third iteration of Sharjapan, illustrating the connection between Japanese architecture and Nature is currently open in Al Mureijah Square, Sharjah, in Galleries 1, 2 & 3 of the Sharjah Art Foundation.

Curated by Yuko Hasegawa and aptly titled ‘Remain Calm: Solitude and Connectivity in Japanese Architecture,’ the show can be easily accessed with elegant models, illustrations, alluring pictures, and multimedia to draw in the viewer into an expertly woven narrative.

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The exhibition examines architectural projects that date from the 13th Century to the present, from both historic and contemporary perspectives, through the lens of two key themes: solitude and connectivity.

Sutemi Horiguchi's house for Emperor Hirohito in 1950. (Courtesy: SAF)
Sutemi Horiguchi's house for Emperor Hirohito in 1950. (Courtesy: SAF)

Sharjapan is open till October 1, 2021, and reflects on the intimate role architecture plays in our lives.

Sharjapan explores the work of notable Japanese architects and an artist who use traditional concepts to create physical spaces with both modern and contemporary resonance.

Conventionally understood as a space of enclosure, architecture exists independent of the external world, and yet the curator Hasegawa shows the viewer, with a light touch, that it is simultaneously in dialogue with its surrounding environment.

Installation view of Sharjapan 3. (Courtesy: SAF)
Installation view of Sharjapan 3. (Courtesy: SAF)

‘Remain Calm’ draws inspiration from the 13th Century poet Kamo no Chōmei and looks to the hut, or hermitage, as a prototype that illustrates one of the underlying spiritual aspects of Japanese architecture. Having witnessed famine, natural disaster, and war, Chōmei became a hermit and retreated to a tiny, collapsible hut that he moved along the banks of the Kamo River.

This portable shelter offered Chōmei a place for quiet reflection, a space to remain calm — independent from the outside world while at the same time connected to the surrounding environment through sensory perception.

The modern and contemporary projects presented in this exhibition have inherited simplicity, serenity — and autonomy from, yet connection with, the outside world—qualities integral to Japanese huts, tea ceremony rooms, and traditional ‘sukiya-zukuri’ residential architecture that originated in Zen culture.

Togo Murano's Yatsugatake MUsem of Art designed in 1979 comprising 25 domes connected to each other. (Courtesy: SAF)
Togo Murano's Yatsugatake MUsem of Art designed in 1979 comprising 25 domes connected to each other. (Courtesy: SAF)

The exhibition introduces visitors to experiments in Japanese architecture that aesthetically, stylistically, and methodologically demonstrate a similar clarity of construction.

‘Remain Calm’ features an expansive design, which includes sculptural models that explore abstract concepts, spatial , and performative multi-media installations as well as drawings, photographs, and scale models of architectural projects.

A model of Sen no Rikyū’s Tai-an tea house. (Courtesy: SAF)
A model of Sen no Rikyū’s Tai-an tea house. (Courtesy: SAF)

A model of Sen no Rikyū’s Tai-an tea house serves as the starting point of this survey, which subsequently introduces the work of emergent and established architects Koji Fuji, Togo Murano, Sutemi Horiguchi, Toyo Ito, Kazuyo Sejima, Junya Ishigami, onishimaki+hyakudayuki architects, Shingo Masuda and Katsuhisa Otsubo, alongside a performative installation by artist Nile Koetting.

On the opening day of Sharjapan on July 24, Koetting –a multidisciplinary artist will present ‘Remain Calm (Reduced +),” a new version of his ongoing performative installation, inspired by the writings of author and researcher Miriam Stoney.

The futuristic landscape is programmed to simulate the conditions of natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, fires and meteorite impacts. As disaster unfolds on a simulative ‘set’, the installation imagines an institution in a state of emergency and questions the kinds of solidarity that would emerge. The performance offers practical perspectives on the role museums and art centers can play in times of crisis. Speculative scenography is evoked by sensory elements such as fog, light, micro plastic sand and stylized moving images like those seen on airport information display boards.

Toyou Ito's 'White U' made in 1976. (Courtesy: SAF)
Toyou Ito's 'White U' made in 1976. (Courtesy: SAF)

‘Remain Calm: Solitude and Connectivity in Japanese Architecture’ is the third iteration of Sharjah Art Foundation’s four-year collaboration with curator Yuko Hasegawa that aims to introduce aspects of Japanese culture to audiences in Sharjah.

Sharjapan 1 titled ‘The Poetics of Space’ highlighted book design in Japan through innovative exhibition methods, bringing together typography, page design and photographs combining text and images.

Sharjapan 2, titled ‘Inter-Resonance: Inter-Organic,’ focused on performance and sound-based installations.

This year’s edition of Sharjapan explores ideas that resonate powerfully in these uncertain times when the pandemic has made staying at home the ‘new normal,’ while disrupting individual connectivity to an outside world that feels fraught with challenges, risk, and unknown possibilities.

The Double Helix house made in 2011by onishimaki+hyakudayuki architects. (Courtesy: SAF)
The Double Helix house made in 2011by onishimaki+hyakudayuki architects. (Courtesy: SAF)

‘Remain Calm’ is a proposition for a place to contemplate the possibilities of new lifestyles and modes of human existence: to cultivate serenity infused with a richness of thought, to nurture ways of life that are both productive and intellectual, and to understand the choice between isolation, exclusion and connection as a process of negotiation.

About Yuko Hasegawa

Award-winning Yuko Hasegawa is the Director of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa (April 2021–present), Professor in Curatorial Studies at the Graduate School of Global Arts, Tokyo University of the Arts (2016–present), and Artistic Director of Inujima Art House Project (2011–present).

She was the Artistic Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2016–March 2021).

She has curated numerous exhibitions in Japan and internationally, authored many scholarly publications, and also served as adviser for many art events, and art councils.

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