The Poetics of Space
Venue : Al Hamriyah Studios
Organization : Sharjah Art Foundation
Shinro Ohtake, Gozo Yoshimasu & Asami Kiyokawa
When writing Finnegans Wake, James Joyce was greatly influenced by the Book of Kells. The visual beauty of the illuminated manuscript and its swirling Celtic motifs drew him into its realm. To Joyce, a book was a cosmos—an expansive space in its own right.
The title of this exhibition is taken from Gaston Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space, a book that he peppered with plentiful quotations to demonstrate the sort of poetic images inspired by the many different spaces around us, including the house, the universe, shells, nests, and miniatures. Each chapter depicts a space—spaces that join the poetic image inspired by the space with the conscious act of creating that image, spaces that bring out the phenomenology of creative imagination.
The binding and the graphic design of a book are on different planes. Instead of solely examining books from the perspective of graphic design, this exhibition considers the book to be a comprehensive and coherent intellectual object that includes binding, materials, content, illustrations, and font design. And it assumes that on picking up and opening the book, the reader will sense and consciously experience it as a space.
In Meiji Period Japan (1868-1912), the onset of modernization in the 1890s brought a shift from the traditional watoji binding for books to Western styles of bookbinding. Traditional scrolls and accordion bindings (as used for sutras) had the advantage that the reader gained a greater sense of the passage of time as he or she read the content. Leaving the scroll or book unrolled or unfolded as you read it gave an instant overview of your progress. With watoji books, the binding threads remain visible. The layers of washi paper bound together are soft, giving a sense of lightness and openness that is very different from the impression given by a book using a Western binding with a hard cover that conceals and protects the book’s spine, front, and back. Many of the Meiji Period attempts to imitate Western bindings are better seen as independent, unique creations.
The bindings of books in Japan came to reflect the period in which they were produced. In the subsequent Taisho period (1912-26), the mass publication of generic “one-yen books” appeared to threaten the individuality of books, but they triggered a reaction that led to many attempts at distinctive book design. Postwar, and particularly from the 1960s onwards, graphic designers produced unique designs, and many creative thinkers and artists made their own bindings, resulting in a great deal of variation, ranging from mass-produced to handmade book designs and bindings, a situation that continues to the present day. The Japanese predilection for small things and the value placed upon a microcosm inspired free and uninhibited creativity to produce books as objects that the owner could place on a desk or carry around.
The exhibition comprises six broad sections, divided according to the individual nature and characteristics of the books.
* Special materials used in the 1930s and 1940s, including bizarre books created by transforming unique materials such as umbrella-paper, bagworm moths, and edible seaweed.
* Photobooks containing photography by Ikko Narahara of Piazza San Marco in Venice, with the books becoming an installation that recreates an architectural space.
* Books as satisfying objects, presenting varied ideas for designs in 2D and 3D.
* Books becoming art and artists creating works with a book as their theme:
Shinro Ohtake, an artist who has also been a graphic designer and book designer.
Asami Kiyokawa, an artist and photographer who creates objects by adding embroidery to books.
Gozo Yoshimasu, a poet who returns to books the primal elements conveyed by his words.
* Two deconstructive designs by iconic Japanese designer Hiromu Hara
Exploring the breadth of Hara’s work, including pre-and postwar magazine designs and washi paper sample books, and highlighting his deconstructivist approach.
* When photobooks become the exhibition space
One of the reasons that Japanese photobooks are highly regarded is that the photobook itself possesses worldview and spatiality like that of an exhibition. Here the insides of photobooks are opened up as spaces, creating exhibits with no further additions.
The exhibition design allows visitors to pick up and open as many books as possible, or presents the books faso that they can be viewed spatially as three dimensional. The exhibition attempts to enable viewers to experience and sense the spaces inherent to these books, without any need to read Japanese.
"The Poetics of Space: The imaginative spaces created by book design in Japan" Yuko Hasegawa