17.10_Talk_AA_London_James Westcott_Project Japan & When Marina Abramovich Dies


When Marina Abramovic Dies


Dip 15 hosted James Westcott, English writer and editor to present us his bibliographic book, When Marina Abramovic Dies, on Marina Abramovic’s life and his collaboration for OMA publication Project Japan: Metabolism Talks.

He started explaining his first approach with the artists:  “my first work for Marina was to write a transcript of her performance, House with the Ocean View , where she lived in a gallery and fasted for 12 days. I was appointed to write a dry and really accurate script of every movement she was making, a sort of bully and at the same time zen work”.


House with the Ocean View


After a brief bibliographical introduction on Marina’s family and educational background, he argued on the complexity of writing a bibliography of a currently living artist: “Marina trusted me to give me independence but also she fully cooperated with me for writing her bibliography which took 2 years to complete. Her complaints were on the section dedicated to her work with Ulay which she considered too long and on the cover image, chosen by the publisher, where she is not in control of her appearance”.

Furthermore, Westcott stressed on Marinas’s artistic approach and character: “ Marina seduces everyone she encounters by her physical presence, dragging everyone in a status of adulation”.

“Marina’s performance art is based on the aesthetic of the absurd, her obsession of details pushes art beyond barriers. Her performances required thorough planning and structure, they are not at all random as you may think”.

“I became aware of Marina’s work with The LoversThe Great Wall of China Walk, a three months walk on the Chinese Great Wall which required 13 years of preparations and by the time they managed to enact the performance they relationship was over”.


The Lovers: The Great Wall of China Walk


Talking on more recent performances, after Ulays period, when her work becomes publicly recognized: “Marina Abramovic turns energy by doing nothing, a demonstration of her internal strength” – referring to the Art is Present performance.


The Artist is Present © 2010 Scott Rudd


“She became institutionalized as she wanted to be mainstream opposite of Ulay’s intentions, a contrary effect of most famous couple where she was the one to have the spotlight”.

James’s contribution demonstrated us the significance and the outbreak of Marina’s performance art as well as the difficulties of writing and editing the material with her approval.



Project Japan: Metabolism Talks



Westcott then introduced us his collaboration for Project Japan: Metabolism Talks: An oral history by Rem Koolhaas and Hans Ulrich Obrist documenting the first non-Western avant-garde movement in architecture and the last moment that architecture was a public rather than a private affair.

“ Project Japan not only represents the Metabolist movement but also a building of a nation, it includes interviews with the survivors architects and the historical context in dedicated chapters”.

“When I stood in the ruins of the city after losing my father and sister to the bomb there, I was suddenly overcome by this sense of personal mission. In a world where there was nothing left at all, I felt the call of all things man-made. The burned out shell of a streetcar, an overturned truck, a half-melted bicycle… I felt like they were calling out to me, saying, “Hear us, O traveler!” (…) Experiences like that redirected my perception of the mutability of life from a sense of vanity and desolation to the sense that change drives new growth. I vowed to pursue the kind of change that fit the needs of postwar Japan through industrial design” -Kenji Ekuan, Project Japan, Metabolist Talks 

After a general description of the movement, founded in 1960, and its manifesto Westcott presented a selection of architects interviewed for the book: Kenzo Tange, Kiyonori Kikutake, Kisho Kurokawa  and Atsushi Shimokobe.

Kenzo Tange, was part of the generation before Metabolist Movement, his architecture interprets Japanese tradition in Modernist style.  In 1946 he opened the Tange Laboratory at Tokyo University and designed Tokyo Bay Masterplan in 1961.


Tokyo Bay Masterplan 1961



Sky House,1958


Kiyonori Kikutake’s Sky House,1958, proposed an elevated house detached from the surface of Japan a way to prevent natural hazard as earthquake and tsunami risk. It shows his paternalistic desire of creating a new community for connecting people. Sky House can be considered a micro-cosmo of Metabolist movement, where hanging capsules were added from the core structure and the house evolved over time.

Kisho Kurokawa  was the most popular and true believer in the Metabolist movement. His publication Homo Movens, is the manifesto for the movement. One of his greatest work was the Nakagin Capsule Tower, which was the first capsule architecture design in 1972. He was involved in the design of absurd projects which got serious attention from the government like the project to construct a Japanese Archipelago sponsored by the Prime Minister.

the Nakagin Capsule Tower, 1972


Atsushi Shimokobe was the governmental figure of Metabolist movement, he founded the Institute of Social Engineering and created diagrams of Japan similar to computer programme with the intention of redesigning the whole nation.

The movement thanks to these architects managed to get governmental support for the development of their projects and architectural propositions. The first avant-garde to have deep resonance beyond architecture.