Tadashi Kawamata. Nests in Milan
Building Gallery, Milan
March 31 – July 23, 2022
From March 31, 2022 to July 23, 2022 BUILDING will be presenting an exhibition of the work of the Japanese artist Tadashi Kawamata entitled Nests in Milan, curated by Antonella Soldaini. Internationally renowned for his multidisciplinary projects, Tadashi Kawamata (Hokkaido, 1953) will be showing a series of installations made of wood, designed specifically for the occasion. Four separate projects will be hosted both inside BUILDING and on its facade, and in external venues in the vicinity: Grand Hotel et de Milan, the Fondazione Cariplo Conference Center and Cortile della Magnolia, Palazzo di Brera.
In addition to these, there will be a fifth installation created at the ADI Design Museum, which is part of a broader initiative: in agreement with BUILDING, Kawamata has been invited by the museum to produce a site specific piece this fall, with the aim of giving a second lease of life to the wood used in the installations presented in Nests in Milan. This will spark a virtuous circle that for the artist is not just about showing respect for nature but also going along with a process of transformation that enables symbiosis between all the phenomena in the universe, understood to be interdependent.
Kawamata made a name for himself on the Japanese art scene and internationally when still very young. At the age of only 28, after graduating from the University of Fine Arts in Tokyo, he was invited to take part in the Japanese pavilion at the 1982 Venice Biennale. Since then he has created site specific projects all over the world. His work, made mainly using wood, reflects on social settings and human relationships. Unresolved urban areas are the source material for his work: he is drawn to construction sites, demolition projects and the undeveloped corners of today’s cities, and he “recycles” materials found in situ to create his projects. In Kassel, for documenta 8 in 1987, he chose a dilapidated church bombed during the Second World War and overlooked when the city was being rebuilt, turning it into the focus of people’s attention once more.
Pushing through the limits of closed, defined settings, the installations that Kawamata has designed specifically for Milan – which draw on reflections about the connections his works forge with the social context and human relationships – have less of a focus on single buildings, and more the idea of extending his intervention so as to encompass an area of the city’s urban fabric. The buildings in question are of particular civic and cultural value in the history of Milan, and Kawamata’s installations will highlight them by means of a delicate yet spectacular process of transformation. Gradually appropriating both interior and exterior spaces – including facades, balconies and roofs – with a series of constructions made of planks of wood interwoven to form a complex grid which looks light and airy but is robustly structured, Kawamata elicits new interpretations of the appearance and meaning of each site.
All four projects gravitate around a single, highly symbolic theme, that of the nest. Kawamata first began working with this idea in 1998, shifting from the often abstract wooden constructions of his previous period to structures which came to resemble shacks, and then nests. His nests have been installed in a very diverse range of settings: on a street light in Bonn (2007), on the facade of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (2010) and on the facade of Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2013). The primary function of a nest is of course to act as a roost for baby birds, and this recalls the universal need, common to both animals and humans, to construct somewhere they can take shelter. The structure conveys a positive, reassuring sensation, reinforced by the fact of being a simple construction in a natural element like wood – compared to the much more complex architectural construction it is placed on, a stratification of social and cultural elements.
Kawamata‘s nests evoke primary values and needs; they invite us to alter our view of the architectural landscape around us and rethink our relationship with the spaces we inhabit on daily basis. Stripped of any kind of ideological superstructure and reduced to their essential meaning, but without becoming sociological experiments, Kawamata’s creations – which look mid-way between random assembly and specific design – do in fact resonate strongly with the language of art. Their delicate, elegant appearance references a sophisticated conceptual approach that originates from a vision of reality in continuous flux, transitory, ever-changing and affected by the passing of time.
This is an attitude that springs primarily from Japanese culture, of which Kawamata represents one of the most interesting exponents. It is no coincidence that the artist’s works will be dismantled once the exhibition is over, and the wood used to construct them will be deployed to create a new work of art, which will take up residence in front of the entrance of the ADI Design Museum this fall. This project thus engages with the notion of time, which is what determines the splendor or decline of a monument or site, and is a key element in his practice.
Kawamata‘s projects create bridges between the past and the present, revealing the affective, invisible component of things, as well as their tangible reality. These remembrances are also aided by the fact of involving assistants, students, artisans, volunteers and ordinary people in the various stages of constructing each project, prompting reflections on the life of the community that animates and constructs it. On the occasion of the exhibition a series of workshops will be held, in an educational collaboration with the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. The catalogue, published by BUILDING, includes texts by Antonella Soldaini, the curator of the exhibition, Emilia Giorgi, critic and curator of visual arts and architecture, Chiara Rita Contin, psychologist and teacher of Italian literature and contemporary history, and a new interview with the artist by the curator on the occasion of the exhibition.