Thursday, August 27, 2009

Jacques Gautier d'Agoty (1716 - 1785)

Wikipedia : Gautier d'Agoty
Myologie complette en couleur et grandeur naturelle
"I think the experience of dissecting a human cadaver is a profoundly moving one. There's no question that the whole process, day by day, of paring away the skin, separating the blood vessels and nerves, delving down through the muscles, laying bare the physical being that once walked this earth, is deeply moving, and is as close to a human being as one can ever get."
-- J.G. Ballard

"We have contests in which we decide who is the most beautiful woman in the world, and yet, if you were to show the inside of that woman's body, you would have a lot of grossed-out people. Why is that? We should be able to have a World's Most Perfect Kidney contest, where women or men unzip to show their kidneys. We can't become integral creatures until we come to terms with our bodies and we haven't come remotely close to that. We're incredibly schizophrenic."
-- David Cronenberg

"We left her head intact for your viewing pleasure."
-- Gautier d'Agoty

"Indeed. She lies not on her stomach, as would be necessary for the dissection of the back muscles, but sits up and peers slightly, altogether not unlike the myriad coy nudes in contemporaneous paintings. Indeed, the intertextual relation between this image and the painted nude is increased by the effect of Gautier d'Agoty's varnishing his prints to give them something of the luster of oil paintings -- the prints veritably glisten with a sheen that deepens their colors and contributes to our pleasure in looking. The mutilated woman is alert, and seemingly made up to receive us, hair carefully coiffed, eyes bright, and ears pink. She is, in short, alive and expressive. She is also predominantly the color of blood. (Gautier d'Argoty's use of color printing favored red.) The 'wings' formed by her folded-out back flesh and muscles -- the Surrealists named her the 'anatomical angel' -- seem to vibrate with blood flow, though not a drop of it is shed by the procedure."
-- 'Art and the Committed Eye' by Richard D. Leppert

Paul Pfurtscheller

"This chart comes from a series of zoological charts by Paul Pfurtscheller, a high-school teacher, biologist, and one of the early producers of wall charts. All of Pfurtscheller’s charts exhibit similar visual qualities: one large image of the whole animal surrounded by a few, carefully chosen and economically illustrated details of the anatomy. Otto Schmeil wrote about Pfurtscheller’s charts, “In my opinion, they are the most artistically accomplished wallcharts that have appeared so far." -- reference

Rudolf Leuckart (1822 - 1898)

Karl Georg Friedrich Rudolf Leuckart
Leuckart's Zoological Wall Charts

Otto Schmeil (1860 - 1942)

Otto Schmeil

Monday, August 24, 2009

the Future of Attention

by Michael Erard

"In 1971, the oft-quoted political scientist Herbert Simon predicted that in an information age, cultural producers (that's designers, but also filmmakers, theater types, musicians, artists) would quickly face a shortage of attention. "What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients," he wrote. The more information, the less attention, and "the need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it."

Now we have a wide-ranging discussion about what is and what can't be free (Malcolm Gladwell on Chris Anderson, Virginia Postrel on Chris Anderson), which is basically about the future of profit. Maybe we should be considering a dilemma of a human nature: the future of attention.

Because there's a connection between the two..."

[東京都 p17 ] The Lost Decade (失われた10年)

photos by Shibakouen Hamutaro

Setting Sun (Japan: What went wrong?)
By Paul Krugman
(posted Thursday, June 11, 1998)

"In an early-'90s Dilbert, an excessively trendy manager exhorted his team to "search for excellence in the total quality chaos, or whatever the Japanese are doing this month." Only a few years ago, the business sections of airport bookstores were largely given over to tracts revealing the supposed secrets of Japanese management and the menace Japan posed to the United States. Then it turned out the Japanese were human, after all, and everyone lost interest. Western pundits, having once placed Japan on a pedestal, now either prefer not to discuss the subject or see Japan's failures mainly as an occasion for smug self-congratulation.

But the new story is much more interesting than the old one. How could a wealthy, productive, sophisticated country have gone from enviable growth in the 1980s to stagnation in the '90s, and now be slipping into a downward spiral of recession and deflation? True, Japan is not a country on the edge of chaos--as Indonesia or Russia is--but that only adds to the mystery. Japan isn't a place where the state is weak, unable to collect taxes or convince investors that their property rights are secure. Nor is it a country at the mercy of skittish foreign investors who must be persuaded to roll over its debt: Japan is still the world's largest creditor. So what's the explanation?

Inefficiency? Japan has many inefficiencies that limit its productive capacity--too many mom-and-pop stores, not enough computerization in the office, and so on--but inefficiency per se is not the immediate problem. What Japan lacks right now is not supply but demand: Japan's consumers and investors just aren't spending enough to keep the country's shops and factories busy.

And the usual remedies for inadequate demand aren't working. Interest rates have been pushed down almost as far as they can go. Like the Fed, the Bank of Japan normally targets the interest rate on overnight loans that banks make to each other. The difference is that this rate is more than 5 percent here, but basically zero there. The big public spending projects the Japanese government launches every now and then do create some jobs, but they never seem to yield enough bang for the yen: The economy keeps relapsing, while government debt keeps mounting."
-- Paul Krugman

"The early period, also referred to as the 'new golden age of Japanese architecture', saw a spectacular overproduction of unusual buildings and urban complexes in Japan's major cities; while the period that followed, around the mid-1990s, shows work that demonstrated a sense of modesty, restraint and 'earthly' innovation. The Bubble era was pioneered by names such as Arata Isozaki, Tadao Ando, Fumihiko Maki, Kazuo Shinohara, Toyo Ito, Hiroshi Hara and Shin Takamatsu. With the Japanese economy booming, there was huge investment in fantastical and often very experimental urban building projects. However, by 1993 financial recession had started to gain a firm grip on the country, affecting it on every level. Japan began restructuring its economy and, as a consequence, social, cultural and architectural changes took place on a big scale. Architects throughout Japan started experimenting and building in new ways. Environmental and ecological concerns led to the development of innovative materials and technologies. This backlash against the overdevelopment and spending that took place in earlier years was led by established figures such as Toyo Ito, Tadao Ando, Fumihiko Maki, Ryoji Suzuki, as well as emerging architects including Kengo Kuma, Jun Aoki, Shigeru Ban, Kazuyo Sejima and others."
-- Beyond the Bubble : The New Japanese Architecture

[東京都 p16 ] バブル景気 : The Bubble

"Skyrocketing land and stock prices in the Japanese economy, lasting from 1986 to 1990. It is one of the most famous economic bubbles.

In the decades following World War II, Japan implemented stringent tariffs and policies to encourage the people to save their income. With more money in banks, loans and credit became more easy to obtain, and with Japan running large trade surpluses, the yen was able to appreciate against foreign currencies. This allowed Japanese companies to invest in capital resources much more easily than their competitors, which made goods cheaper, which widened the trade surplus further. And, with the yen appreciating, financial assets became very lucrative.

Unfortunately, with so much money readily available for investment, speculation was inevitable, particularly in the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the real estate market. The rates for housing, stocks, and bonds rose so much that at one point the government issued 100-year bonds. Additionally, banks granted increasingly risky loans.

At the height of the bubble, "it was a matter of pride that the land around the Imperial Palace in Tokyo was at one point worth more than California", the Financial Times said. Japan regained a sense of national pride and assertiveness as a result of its new power, which manifested itself in works such as The Japan That Can Say No by Shintaro Ishihara and SONY founder Akio Morita. Accounts also report of high-level executives eating gold-sprinkled food and eating with gold chopsticks. Many outside Japan were alarmed by this resurgence, leading to criticism from foreign observers. Michael Crichton, for example, wrote Rising Sun at this time, which highlighted (some say unfairly) problems with the growing Japanese economic power.

Prices were highest in Tokyo's Ginza district in 1989, with some fetching over US$1.5 million per square meter ($139,000 per square foot), and only slightly less in other areas of Tokyo. By 2004, prime "A" property in Tokyo's financial districts were less than 1/100th of their peak, and Tokyo's residential homes were 1/10th of their peak, but still managed to be listed as the most expensive real estate in the world. Some US$20 trillion (1999 dollars) was wiped out with the combined collapse of the real estate market and the Tokyo stock market.

With Japan's economy driven by its high rates of reinvestment, this crash hit particularly hard. Investments were made increasingly out of the country, and Japanese manufacturing firms lost much of their technological edge. As Japanese products became less competitive overseas, the low consumption rate began to bear on the economy, causing a deflationary spiral.

The easily obtainable credit that had helped create and engorge the real estate bubble continued to be a problem for several years to come, and as late as 1997, banks were still making loans that had a low guarantee of being repaid. Correcting the credit problem became even more difficult as the government began to subsidize failing banks and businesses, creating many 'zombie businesses'.

The time after the bubble's collapse (崩壊, hōkai), which occurred gradually rather than catastrophically, is known as the "lost decade" (失われた10年, ushinawareta jūnen) in Japan."
-- Picture Tokyo : Bubble Years

[東京都 p15] : The Metabolists (1959)

"In 1959 a group of Japanese architects and city planners joined forces under the name the Metabolists. Their vision of a city of the future inhabited by a mass society was characterized by large scale, flexible and extensible structures that enable an organic growth process. In their view the traditional laws of form and function were obsolete. They believed that the laws of space and functional transformation held the future for society and culture. Metabolism's development in Post World War II Japan meant that much of the work produced in the movement is primarily concerned with housing issues.

The group's work is often called technocratic and their designs are described as avant-garde with a rhetorical character. The work of the Metabolists is often comparable to the unbuilt designs of Archigram.

Their designs relied heavily on technological advancements and they often consist of adaptable plug-in megastructures. Famous projects included the floating city in the sea (Unabara project), Kiyonari Kikutake's Marine City, tower city, ocean city, the wall city, the agricultural city and the 'Helix City' by Kisho Kurokawa, as well as his Nakagin Capsule Tower."
-- Wikipedia : Metabolist Movement

"Kisho Kurokawa was a leading member of the Metabolist movement in Japanese architecture of the 1960s, a movement reflecting the belief that cities could be designed according to organic paradigms. Metabolist architects hoped that the use of biological processes as models would give them efficient ways to deal with the rapid growth and technological progress of societies all over the world. Their design philosophy involved gigantic buildings, of a size that Le Corbusier had envisioned and sometimes built in past decades. This monumental scale reflected operations they also saw at work in contemporary urban growth; their buildings were to become nodes in the organic fabric of the rapidly growing city. The Metabolist architect Fumihiko Maki is credited with coining the word "megastructure", in an essay of 1961; he defined it as "a large frame in which all the functions of a city or part of a city are housed . . . [the frame is] made possible by present-day technology." For the international movement of architects trying to design the ideal city of the future, "megastructure" became a key word."
-- MoMA

Nakagin Capsule Tower

"Constructed in 1972, the tower is a prime example of [Kurokawa] Kisho’s Metabolism architecture movement that focused on adaptable, growing, and interchangeable building designs. Metabolism — the word suggesting organic growth that responds to its environment — influenced every step of the tower’s construction. The capsules were manufactured in a factory in Shiga Prefecture and transported to Tokyo by truck. They were then attached to the tower’s central beam. The capsules were designed to be removable and replaceable from the central beam. Even the seemingly small space inside the capsules can be modified — it can be increased by connecting capsules to other capsules. The tower’s simple, minimalist design was deliberate. As a Metabolist building, Kurokawa believed that the inherent beauty of materials like concrete and steel meant that they didn’t need any special modifications or decorations.

But why construct a capsule building in the first place? Kurokawa observed that throughout Japanese history, frequent natural disasters — and also the destruction caused by World War 2 — meant that Japanese cities built from natural materials had temporary, even unpredictable lifespans. Kurokawa therefore wanted to continue that tradition of temporality in building design by constructing modern but changeable buildings."
-- PingMag

"Kurokawa's impressive Helix City Project envisioned an organic city plan, shown in this drawing, based on service towers connected by an infrastructure of bridges spanning both land and sea. Residential buildings would neatly fill the spaces between, and the pattern could be repeated ad infinitum. Kurokawa, who had worked with Kenzo Tange on his generative Plan for Tokyo of 1960, based his architecture "on the principle of life", he stated in 1998. More than a utopian vision, his Helix City shows an attempt to respond to the dramatic shortage of dwelling space in modern Japan by distributing the built environment in a more structured and sensible way."
-- MoMA

[東京都 p14] 双六 : Sugoroku

"Meisho Sugoroku was a board game from the Edo and Meiji periods in which one travelled to famous places. The board was a patchwork of pictures of these places arranged in a multi-directional manner around the board (usually in a spiral and facing outwards). As on the Sugoroku board, the city, writes Hidenobu Jinnai, 'is comprehended ... as a sequence of points each bearing some single strong impression' and this summarizes, he believes, 'the Japanese understanding of a city' ... It is a collection of memorable patches between which there is void and therefore, if one moves between these places, it is across time rather than topography."
-- 'Learning from the Japanese City' Barrie Shelton

"Jinnai makes a comparison of the idea the Japanese have of their city with a Japanese game for two or more players; Sugoroku, vaguely resembling the game of snakes and ladders. The element of play is an integral part of Japanese culture, as Isozaki explains: Rules are strictly obeyed, or with Japanese behavior can be likened to the playing of ta game where the rules of the game can not be usurped by rectitude, for it is in adherence to the rules alone that value can be assessed. The mastery of the game demands an alliance, an honouring of regulations that results in a precision of play that can only be seen as fervent devotion if not obsessive reflexivity. This Meisho Sugoroku was played at the time of the Edo period; players moved over the board from one famous place to another (meisho means fmaous place). This is how the layout of the city became apparent. Hidenobu considers the sum of these various places to be characteristic for Tokyo; one obtains a mental picture of the relationship when moving over the Sugoroku board of Tokyo."
-- 'The Socius of Architecture' Ad Graafland, Arie Graafland

"The characteristic pattern of Tokyo is sometimes compared to a Sugoroku board, Sugoroku being a game for a number of players that takes you from one famous place to another. I consider the discrete nature of the city to be characteristic of the urban experience of Tokyo. The city is divided into a heterogeneous field of different wards, each with its own character and with strongly inwardly-focused elements such as parks, gardens, and brothels. I use a term of Foucault's to describe the character of the spaces, i.e. their inward-looking nature, and the way in which they accumulate history. He calls this a heterotopia. This is the very quality I consider to be so characteristic of the squares on the Sugoroku board. They are small enclaves in the urban tissue, entities that store and present the Japanese culture. These heterotopias are contrasted with recent large-scale urban plans for the Bay, Ariake in Tokyo Bay and Minato Mirai in Yokohama. I consider both projects to be homotopias."
-- 'The Socius of Architecture' Ad Graafland, Arie Graafland

"If we consider the genre of Edo guidebooks, beginning with Asai Ryoi-s 'Chronicle of the Famous Places of Edo' of 1662 and concluding with Saito Gesshin's massive gazeteer 'Illustrations of the Famous Places of Edo' of 1834-36, we can detect a spatial conception that grasps the city as a homogeneous whole, corresponding to the kind of bird's-eye vantage point found in large screen paintings of the city of Edo. By contrast, the 'tales of prosperity' style that found its precedent in Gennai's depiction of Ryogoku in 'Rootless Grass' developed a method of composition by which was then constituted as a scene combining landscape and figures with the use of linear perspective. Using Andre Leroi-Gourhan's classification of space into two types, 'itinerant' and 'radial', the Edo guidebook genre would appear to be roughly equivalent to itinerant space, that movement along an itinerary. Asai Ryoi, in the preface of his Chronicle of the Famous Places of Edo', uses the phrase, "If one tours around Edo, with its countless places of note...", and Saito Gesshin in Illustrations of the Famous Places of Edo described the space of Edo as the 'ground' [chi, ji] on which the three generations of the Saito family -- Gesshin, his father, and his grandfather -- had inscribed the 'figure' [zugara] of their wanderings about the city. In this way, the image of the city was constituted by the complex traces connecting the countless points of the city's historical memory, in shrines and temples, in places made famous by poetic tradition, and in sites of history and legend. Gesshin thus conceived of the city of Edo as a dense distribution of such symbolic places as shrines, temples, and historical sites..."
-- 'Text and the City' Ai Maeda, James A. Fujii

Sunday, August 23, 2009

[東京都 p8.5] The Garden City

"The garden city movement is an approach to urban planning that was founded in 1898 by Sir Ebenezer Howard in the United Kingdom. Garden cities were intended to be planned, self-contained, communities surrounded by greenbelts, containing carefully balanced areas of residences, industry, and agriculture.

Inspired by the Utopian novel Looking Backward, Howard published To-morrow: a Peaceful Path to Real Reform in 1898 (which was reissued in 1902 as Garden Cities of To-morrow). His idealised garden city would house 32,000 people on a site of 6,000 acres (24,000,000 m2), planned on a concentric pattern with open spaces, public parks and six radial boulevards, 120 ft (37 m) wide, extending from the centre. The garden city would be self-sufficient and when it reached full population, a further garden city would be developed nearby. Howard envisaged a cluster of several garden cities as satellites of a central city of 50,000 people, linked by road and rail."
-- Wikipedia

"Shibusawa Eiichi, one of the most successful entrepreneurs of the Meiji era (1868-1912), formed the Denen Toshi Corporation (Garden City Corporation), predecessor to what today is the Tokyu Corporation. As suggested by the comapny's name, Eiichi sought to relieve Tokyo of overcrowding by building communities in pastoral settings, borrowing heavily from the ideas of Ebenezer Howard. However, unlike Howard, who sought to create self-contained new towns that were physically and economically independent of London, Eiichi envisioned Japan's garden cities as mainly bedroom communities where commuters and their families would reside. While Eiichi managed to build several suburban housing enclaves, the most successful being Denen Chofu, which today remains one of the greater Tokyo's most prestigious residential addresses, his dreams were sidetracked by World War II and the events that led up to it. It was through the vision and leadership of Eiichi's successor, Keita Gotoh ... that Tama Denen Toshi began to take form. A Japanese historian writes:
"the philanthropic garden city visions advocated by Shibusawa Eiichi had been transformed into a profiteering business venture by Keita Gotoh ... Gotoh had a conviction that the railway business was not about 'connecting points' but rather about the real estate opportunities that develop along a railway's corridor"
-- 'The Transit Metropolis' Robert Cervero

[東京都 p13] The Empire of Signs (1970)

"[Roland Barthes] travelled to Japan in 1966 where he wrote Empire of Signs (published in 1970), a meditation on Japanese culture’s contentment in the absence of a search for a transcendental signified. He notes that in Japan there is no emphasis on a great focus point by which to judge all other standards, describing the centre of Tokyo, the Emperor’s Palace, as not a great overbearing entity, but a silent and non-descript presence, avoided and unconsidered. As such, Barthes reflects on the ability of signs in Japan to exist for their own merit, retaining only the significance naturally imbued by their signifiers."
-- wikipedia

"... conforming to Western philosophy, which regards each center as the seat of all truth, our town centers are always full. They are places where the values of civilization are collected and condensed : values of spirituality (with churches), power (with offices), money (with banks), goods (with department stores) and words (with the 'agora': cafes and walks). Going downtown means encountering social 'truth', taking part in the sublime richness of 'reality'. The city I'm referring to (Tokyo) presents this amazing paradox : it does have a center, but this center is empty. The whole city revolves around a place that is both forbidden and indifferent, an abode masked by vegetation, protected by moats, inhabited by an Emporer whom no one ever sees : literally, no one knows who does ever see him ... Its center is no more than an evaporated ideal whose existence is not meant to radiate any kind of power, but to offer its own empty center to all urban movement as a form of support, by forcing perpetual traffic detours. Thus, it appears as an image that unfurls again and again in endless circles, around an empty core ...

Barthes himself has often pointed out that while the center of a European city is historically linked with a market or cathedral where citizens converge, nothing so clear-cut ever occurs in a Japanese city. "Tokyo, thus, is an 'amoeba city' with its amorphous sprawl and the constant changes it undergoes, like the pulsating body of the organism. And as with an amoeba, Tokyo demonstrates a physical integrity and the capacity for regeneration when damaged." This is a fascinating idea that is clearly linked with that of the 'mollusc society' described by the anthropologist Chie Natane in reference to the 'decentralized' psychological behaviour of the Japanese as compared to the 'vertebrate' behaviour of westerners.

This city cannot be known except through some sort of ethnographic activity: you need to find your bearings . . . by walking its streets, by looking around you, through habit and experience: each discovery is both intense and fragile, it cannot be repeated, and only its trace can be left in our memory: in this sense, visiting a place for the first time is like starting to write about it: as the address has not been written down, it has to found its own writing”. "The murmuring mass of an unknown language constitutes a delicious protection, envelops the foreigner (provided the country is not hostile to him) in an auditory film which halts at his ears all the alienations of the mother tongue: the regional and social origins of whoever is speaking, his degree of culture, of intelligence, of taste, the image by which he constitutes himself as a person and which he asks you to recognize. Hence, in foreign countries, what a respite! Here I am protected against stupidity, vulgarity, vanity, worldliness, nationality, normality. The unknown language, of which I nonetheless grasp the respiration, the emotive aeration, in a word the pure significance, forms around me, as I move, a faint vertigo, sweeping me into its artificial emptiness, which is consummated only for me: I live in the interstice, delivered from any fulfilled meaning."
-- 'The Empire of Signs' Roland Barthes

"Barthes also seems to be in accord with the Kyoto school philosophy of Nishida Kitaro and his followers, who emphasize that Japanese culture is based on absolute nothingness (zettai mu) rather than being (yu), and on an intuitive grasp of the 'formless and voiceless' rather than concrete things. Although Barthes does not deal specifically with the topic of familism, he apparently feels that the base of the family system is a perpetually creative void. His understanding of the relation between palace and polity, emperor and commoner reflected in his interpretation of the Tokyo ideographic map as a prime example of decentric discourse makes an important though indirect statement on the family ...

It is also important to note ow Barthes asserts that a main feature of his semiotic postmodern discouse is its conjunction with his demythologized view of Zen enlightenment and creative expression. For Barthes, writing and images are not 'explanations' and 'illustrations' but floating signs, empty of center, bringing on 'the onset of a kind of visual uncertainty, analogous perhaps to that loss of meaning Zen calls a satori", which is expressed in a variety of artistic forms, including calligraphy, poetry, tea ceremony and swordsmanship. The implication is that Zen has anticipated and guided the way to the decentric postmodern perspective, and in that sense Barthes has discovered an Oriental essence in spite of disavowing just that effort"
-- 'Japan in traditional and postmodern perspectives' Charles Wei-hsün Fu