Art Works Ushio Sakusabe


Aomori Contemporary Art Center/Aomori-city, Aomori-pref.
Iron bar, Natural stone, Stainless steel wire rope, wire
h6m × w6m × d9m

Another Angle

At Art Works


  • Mr. Gouji Hamada

My Impression of USHIO SAKUSABE and His Art Pieces
Goji Hamada
Artist, Director of Aomori Contemporary Art Center


In a memo that Ushio Sakusabe wrote to himself, he writes of a balance with “gravity,” and that its result is to acknowledge natural laws. Such a sense that takes on scientific acknowledgement is a characteristic of twentieth century art. Sakusabe is also probably one of the artists attracted by this sense. Epistemology, or the study of nature, in line with Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am,” is actually an anthropocentric quest for existence. From my point of view, Sakusabe’s piece seems to be based more on anthropocentric epistemology rather than on pure physical law. There was an intention of trying to push the differentiation of physical properties which connote this physical sense to the extreme limits. I felt an impression similar to that of the rational beauty of the mechanism in machines that appeared in the beginning of twentieth century. However, if such rational beauty is “gravity,” then Sakusabe’s art piece can rather be considered as “antigravity,” or anthropocentric. This antagonism is probably the first motivation behind the piece’s existence.In winter of 2004, Sakusabe appeared with a stern and even attitude at the Aomori Contemporary Art Center, which is located in the forest on the outskirts of Aomori city. He had come to exhibit an art piece in the “Zeit” exhibition, which was a group exhibition for artists of Aomori prefecture as well as other prefectures.In 1996, I was with Sakusabe at a Japanese contemporary art exhibition in Hamburg, entitled “IKO.” At the time, he was creating, in a given space, a piece consisting of hanging many stones using thin piano wires. Although it was definitely an independent piece of “art,” there was also the impression that at the same time, the various-sized stones were overwhelming adjacent pieces. Broadening the interpretation of Sakusabe’s memo, this piece reminded me of an image of a continual dispersion of the pieces of a nebula that had exploded beyond space. Strangely, however, I remember that what remains in my memory from that time instead is the countless piano wires running through the open space. The “lines” themselves made certain, in a principle meaning, that Sakusabe is an artist. I had never directly talked about these such thoughts of mine to Sakusabe, but the moment that I saw his project sketch at Aomori Contemporary Art Center, they came back to me. As the name suggests, the installation space built for this exhibition at the Aomori Contemporary Art Center was a white cube. One of the corners, of about 90 square meters and called the “B Gallery,” became the location for Sakusabe’s exhibition. Sakusabe was to start by drawing his first line in this space, which was 6 meters high, had a white, squarish wall on one side, and full window on another. In other words, a line was sketched with the view that one wall itself represents space. The line drew a simple and beautiful arc. It was an image of a stone floating in air. The line was made of steel and its “existence” consisted of a stone. The words used to describe the substantial structure drawn are simple. The sense that both the impression of the sketch and the art piece, as a reality, created the same image was, as stated before, extremely physical and structural. Although I never accurately measured the distance between the space and the material or its weight, it had the impression of being infallible and having almost no discrepancies.In the past, the sculptor Morio Shinoda has named a lot of Sakusabe’s pieces “Tension and Compression,” but Sakusabe’s piece (as it will daringly be called a piece here) creates tension in regards to the space itself, rather than on the piece. The strict calculations of the relationship between the piece and space are expressed as follows. He combined 100 iron bars each with a diameter of 10 millimeters to create an iron bar with a length of 9 meters, and 25 pieces of wire to hang this bar as well as a stone weighing 25 kilograms. As the artist says, this piece is 6 meters high, 8 meters wide and 9 meters long. It is exactly the same size as the B gallery, and if, for example, space expresses quantity, then this piece of the same size represents quality. As a beautiful spatial drawing, this piece, completed in such a way, came to give strikingly beautiful impressions in various exhibitions at the Aomori Contemporary Art Center. It is certain, however, that not more than handful of visitors could see it in its complete form, because Sakusabe, intent on precision, continued working on it during the exhibitions. From a different point of view, although it was accidental, and not the artist’s plan, this instead enabled for the creation process to be shown to many visitors. Visitors were able to take with them memories of a new discovery and experience, including discovering the artist’s movements of his mind in speculating the finished product, and learning new techniques. Of course, it is needless to say that art pieces should be unveiled upon the opening of an exhibition. In some situations, however, if an artist’s fundamental purpose can be skillfully expressed “accidentally,” then this can be considered a method for understanding something more important. Speaking in literary terms, “gravity” predicts the completion and “antigravity” represents human nature. It is while antagonizing “gravity” and “antigravity” that Sakusabe’s pieces symbolize his existence. Ushio Sakusabe has used stones in almost all his pieces. Natural stones, that is. Here, he unconsciously projects his philosophy that nature is existence in its final form. In the end, if the concept of “gravity” and function of “antigravity” are created by mankind, then I cannot help but feel that in the distance, what Sakusabe’s piece cannot see, is a spirit that overlaps with Cezanne’s scientific perspective and Monet’s retinal analyses, both which use nature as a model. Nature itself is modern science.

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