KOBO, Tokyo

16 Dec 2013 - 27 Dec 2013

One day towards the end of 2013, I peeked through the entrance of an old building with telltale signs of its age located on a back street by Exit 10 of the Ginza-Itchome subway station. Then unexpectedly, I felt an ancient memory rise from deep inside my brain.

I followed the light overflowing out the glass doors and was lead into a brightly lit room.

In the middle of the room was a 3×3 grid of nine vertically aligned metallic prismatic forms. Without even a moment to figure out what they were, my eyes alighted on a circular composition on the wall made of seven mysterious white forms that looked like excavated fossils of man made materials. When I turned back to see the shadows cast by the nine metallic forms, five white figures appeared in a row on the opposite wall as though conjured from memory. They were shaped like scale models of enormous buildings from long ago. It made me feel as though I had unwittingly stepped into a magic square. On the hallway wall was a long thin metallic plank with a tool-like brass handle. Its polished shine reflected light while maintaining equilibrium. What was its use, I wondered. Could it be bronze? I looked back at the base of the nine metallic prismatic forms once again. Crudely carved compass needless teetered atop each form. I pushed one with my finger then the others moved in unison. Was this a trick of sorts?

As I stood surrounded by forms of what looked like remains of a legendary ancient civilization, I began to trip. Had Atlantis really existed, this room may very well be an incarnate record of it. The moment this thought crossed my mind, the formally silent room was overtaken by a constant buzz that called to mind the vigor and wisdom of an ancient civilization. Detailed carvings covered the surface of the ceramic objects on the wall. I heard the voice of my altered state of consciousness say that matter is but memory storage. Just as I was being swallowed into a vortex of anonymous memories, my consciousness pulled me back to remind me that the exhibit continued into the basement gallery. The feeling of having lived through this time period and civilization persisted. And so I proceeded down the stairs intending to prolong this sensation.

Once in the dimly-lit basement I could see a space defined by solid light and shadow beyond the glass doors. A few dozen iron rods, roughly 1 cm diameter in size, arranged in subtly angled clusters from floor to ceiling played off one another as a hidden light source emitted a radial shadow pattern. The space itself was minimalistic, cold and strained; however, it also conveyed the organic nature of a bamboo forest. Standing in the room reset the unfolding story from earlier and I was met instead with a sudden wave of solitude that made me dizzy.

Averting my eyes from the metal rods, I looked outside the room toward the dead space under the stairs. I noticed the circular light emitted from a small naked light bulb hung from the slanted ceiling. I could faintly see something beneath it… was it a coffin?

I stepped closer to what looked like a black coffin-like box and saw that its cover was made of bumpy clay plates placed together like puzzle pieces. The linear intersections cast shadows along the straight-edged seams of the individual plates and made it look as though it was a diorama of vast tracts of land with artificial boundaries. Under the light of the sun, this diorama born of earth, water and fire cast a shadow to produce a detailed three-dimensional map and then with its enormous corpse, the coffin faded into the strata.

On the surface was a hill, a valley with water running through it, and a plain that had been leveled by the wind. While following the few manmade ridges and geoglyph-like hollows scattered across the land by sight, a road appeared where nothing existed before and when I realized it, I was looking down at the earth from high above. What I had considered to be a record of an ancient civilization also looked to be representing a landscape from a distant life in the future that had ceased to exist.

The world reproduced by Katayama Takatoshi showcases a meticulous perspective that manipulates scale and time. The balance between the unwavering harmony of our mysterious universe and the finite nature of civilizations and the human life cycle overwhelmed me. It felt as though I had been casually shown the elusive identity of “beauty”. Life borrows the form of the human body to temporarily defect into this world and then returns back to harmony. Could this world be a huge coffin and everything in it mere relics? From Katayama’s world composed of stationary objects, I sensed a vital force reverberating like white noise.

Mario Tauchi / mario mandala (Artist / Literary Agent)

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