Ken’ichiro Taniguchi

Mikiko Sato Gallery

The conventional wisdom used to be that there was no spot on earth that hadn’t already been mapped and surveyed. But in recent decades, artists have been showing us how much we’ve overlooked, inventing or postulating new criteria to help us locate our surroundings in fresh ways. Among these artists is Ken’ichiro Taniguchi, who since 2000 has been defining his art of the urban map using the Japanese concept of hecomi (crack, indentation, or, figuratively, exhaustion). This fall, Taniguchi showed his recent work in Hamburg as the fourteenth installment of this ongoing project.

Delicately branching cracks and furrows that resemble river deltas are the forms that capture Taniguchi’s interest. He uses transparent film to transfer their outlines to yellow plastic—or, sometimes, to other materials like stainless steel—creating an exact negative. He then transforms these raw materials into foldable sculptures by slicing through the casts, often at the thinnest possible points, and mounting hinges at each fold. And so every crack, every crevice, is transformed into a literally manifold sculpture that can be given many different configurations. Each sculpture is named for the location of the cracks that produced it, including addresses in Russia, the Netherlands, and Thailand. Taniguchi’s largest “hecomi” to date, Brunnenstraße 10 #3, Berlin, 2008, would have an unfolded length of more than thirty-five feet.

Taniguchi’s way of transforming the most ordinary, inconspicuous things into noteworthy artifacts has reminded commentators of Leonardo’s interest in finding chance landscapes or figures within the heterogeneous surfaces of stones and walls. Imaginative viewings of Taniguchi’s variable sculptures allow one to picture things such as futuristic clockwork, delicate webbing, or animals. While photographs included in the show identify the original sites of the cracks, once these accidental forms have been removed from their original contexts and turned into sculptures, they lose any sense of local reference. The scars on the street or the fractures in the wall are given lives of their own. This conversion of negative to positive, of in-between space to autonomous space, characterizes Taniguchi’s topography. Holes within places previously charted are made accessible; separated from their original, conventional maps, they assume the form of manipulable and contingent constructions.

Inevitably, Taniguchi’s sculptures recall other Japanese traditions: the art of folding paper in origami or, as one author has remarked, the ancient practice of not concealing the cracks in fine ceramics when repairing them, but instead using gold dust to highlight these precious marks of time. If Taniguchi recounts that when he began producing his folding sculptures, he was fascinated by the mechanism of a Swiss Army knife, his sculptures nevertheless remain strongly rooted in Japanese contexts. Mikiko Sato (who has been running her gallery since 2002, formerly as CAI Contemporary Art International, now under her own name) concentrates on this quieter variant of Far Eastern culture—more tea ceremony than manga, as the gallerist herself puts it: the work of artists like Taniguchi, whose oeuvres can be read as slowly unfurling meditations on space and time.

Wolf Jahn

Translated from German by Oliver E. Dryfuss.