Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient

Critical Holder Chart 2 (detail)
Columbia GSAPP’s Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery presents an exhibition of architectural drawings, writings, and research by Arakawa and Madeline Gins
Press Release
17 January 2018

The exhibition Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient traces the emergence of architecture as a wellspring of creativity and theoretical exploration for the artist Arakawa (1936-2010) and poet and philosopher Madeline Gins (1941-2014). The exhibition opens at the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery in Buell Hall, Columbia University, on March 30, 2018.

In the early 1960s, Arakawa and Madeline Gins began a remarkably original and prolific collaboration that spanned nearly five decades and encompassed painting, installations, poetry, literature, architecture, urbanism, philosophy, and scientific research. Complementing their independent artistic and literary practices, Arakawa and Gins’ creative partnership launched with visual, semiotic, and tactile experiments that questioned the limits and possibilities of human perception and consciousness. During the 1980s—a critical juncture in their careers—this line of inquiry became increasingly spatial as Arakawa and Gins together developed a series of speculative architectural projects that sought to challenge the bodily and psychological experience of users. Through these investigations, the artists began to articulate their concept of reversible destiny, arguing for the transformative capacity of architecture to empower humans to resist their own deaths. The exhibition examines this pivotal exploratory period through a stunning array of original drawings—many exhibited for the first time—as well as archival material and writings that illuminate the working methods and wide-ranging research interests of Arakawa and Gins. It uncovers a little-known body of visionary work that anticipated the artists’ subsequent commitment to architecture and their realization of various “sites of reversible destiny,” including Ubiquitous Site-Nagi’s Ryoanji (1994, Okayama, Japan); Yoro Park (1995, Gifu, Japan); Reversible Destiny Lofts Mitaka (2005, Tokyo, Japan); and Bioscleave House (2008, East Hampton, New York).

Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient features over 40 hand drawings, an architectural model, and archival material including ephemera, research materials, poetry, manuscripts, photographs, slides, and other items drawn from the Estate of Madeline Gins.

The exhibition Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient is organized by GSAPP Exhibitions. It is made possible in part by the Estate of Madeline Gins, and is organized in partnership with the Reversible Destiny Foundation.

The exhibition is curated by Irene Sunwoo, GSAPP Director of Exhibitions, and Tiffany Lambert, Assistant Director of Exhibitions. The exhibition design is by Norman Kelley, a Chicago/New York architectural and design office founded by Carrie Norman and Thomas Kelley.

About Arakawa and Madeline Gins

(Shusaku) Arakawa (1936-2010) was born in Nagoya, Japan and attended the Musashino Art University in Tokyo. Renowned for his paintings, drawings, and prints, as well as his visionary architectural constructions, Arakawa, was one of the founding members of the Japanese avant-garde collective Neo Dadaism Organizers and was one of the earliest practitioners of the international conceptual-art movement of the 1960s. After moving to New York from Japan in 1961, Arakawa produced diagrammatic paintings, drawings, and other conceptual works that employed systems of words and signs to both highlight and investigate the mechanics of human perception and knowledge. Throughout the following decades Arakawa continued to exhibit at museums and galleries extensively throughout North America, Western Europe and Japan with works that grew in scale and visual and intellectual complexity.

Madeline Gins (1941-2014) was an American poet, writer and philosopher. She grew up in Island Park, NY, and graduated from Barnard College in 1962 where she studied physics and philosophy. While studying painting at the Brooklyn Museum Art School in 1962, Gins met Arakawa and she would become one of the primary interpreters of Arakawa’s work. With Arakawa, Gins developed the philosophy of ‘procedural architecture’ to further its impact on human lives. These ideas were explored through three books that she co-authored with Arakawa: Pour ne Pas Mourir/To Not to Die (Éditions de la Différence, Paris 1987); Architectural Body (University of Alabama Press, 2002); and Making Dying Illegal – Architecture Against Death: Original to the 21st Century (Roof Books, New York, 2006).

Arakawa and Gins endeavored to create buildings through which people would “learn not die.” They firmly believed that their architectural works would have an impact on the residents’ personal well-being and longevity and formalized their belief as the concept of “reversible destiny.” Together they designed a number of architectural projects including four buildings that were realized during Arakawa’s lifetime. After Arakawa’s death in 2010, Gins completed the Biotopological Scale-Juggling Escalator installed at the Dover Street Market in New York in December 2013.

About Reversible Destiny Foundation
The Reversible Destiny Foundation was founded in 2010 by Arakawa and Madeline Gins to promote their work and philosophy in the areas of art, architecture and writing. The Foundation is dedicated to supporting research and greater public interest in the ideas and artistic practice of Arakawa and Madeline Gins through a range of initiatives to further advance and preserve their legacy.
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