Tadashi Kawamata

Artist (1953)

In the late 1970s, Tadashi Kawamata started to create in situ installations. At first, he worked in private indoor spaces, galleries and Japanese apartments, where he cut the space up into minimal units and passages. In 1979, he started to wrap façades of buildings with salvaged wooden planks, which, as a result of the graphic effect of the assembled slats conjuring up the game of Mikado, display a fragile character. In Venice, Fukuoka, Sapporo, New York, the Hague, Tokyo, and the like, his constructions are grafted onto existing architectures, occupying interstices, passages and interstitial areas. In each one of his projects, the artist surrounds himself with students and inhabitants who take part in the assembly of the work, a work which conveys a line of thinking about both the urban context and the social context. In 1987, at Documenta VIII in Kassel in Germany, the artist focused attention on the remains of a church destroyed during the Second World War (Destroyed Church). At Alkmaar (Working Progress, 1996), people in difficult social situations took part in the construction of a footbridge which, by linking the reintegration centre with the city, reestablished the links undone between various social categories. The architecture, lifestyles, urban development issues, empty and abandoned spaces, and building sites, all these urban situations were carefully analyzed and then re-used in structures deriving their materials from the intervention site. With the Field Works and the Favelas (shown at the 1992 Documenta), Kawamata retrieved materials thrown out by the city (wooden planks, corrugated iron sheets…) which he put back together as small cells, which occupied the abandoned city places. Circulation and travel time are the foundations of his work: the projects at Saché in 1994 (Transfert), at the Chapel of Saint-Louis de la Salpêtrière in 1997 (Le Passage des chaises), at Evreux in 2000 (Sur la voie), in Tokyo in 2008 (Walkway), and in Nantes in 2009 (Observatoire) among others, all demonstrate the artist’s refusal to see space separately from the person who moves across it.

Born in Hokkaido in Japan, Takashi Kawamata lives and works mainly in Paris and Tokyo. He obtained a Ph.D. at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts in 1984. Kawamata’s selection for the 1982 Venice Biennale, when he was only 28, opened the way for an international career for him. Since his invitation to the Atelier Calder at Saché in 1994, he has worked regularly in France. He was a professor at the Tokyo University of Fine Arts from 1999 to 2005, then directed the Yokohama Triennial in 2005; he currently teaches at the National School of Fine Arts in Paris.

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