Monday, October 21, 2013

Like tears in the rain

It’s something of a mission to get to the island of Teshima (#understatement) on the Inland sea of Japan. For us it meant four trains, two ferries, one bus and a lot of walking but at the end of queuing, panicking over directions, wondering how to get tickets and running between terminals/stations /(put your own transport hub here), it was one of our best art/architecture experiences ever.

The Teshima Art Museum was designed by the architect Ryue Nishizawa (half of the SANAA team) specifically for work by the artist Rei Naito. From the road the building looks like a space age object dropped at the top of terraced rice paddies but once you get through the timed entry and instruction phase the experience opens out with a meandering walk through trees before you enter the building. The number of visitors is limited and the rules are strict: no shoes (of course), no talking, no touching, no pens, no photos. The effect is to slow you down and quietly focus. 

Drops of water skid across the floor organising themselves into puddles and then slide into one of two large pools at either end of the space. Some of the pools are formed by water bubbling out of small balls and discs while others are created by water welling up from tiny holes drilled in the floor. It is so simple and spare yet mesmerising and oddly humorous. The effect is created by the precise rules water follows but it's not at all science-projecty like, say, Olafur Eliasson or researchy like …. um… just about everyone. And overlooking all this water action are beautiful framed vistas of sky, trees, hills.

People seemed to stay for around half an hour and that in all but complete silence. Some were obviously there for the day even though sitting on the floor was chilly and rather damp. It was an touching evocation of the dreamy wonder of watching water run down the window on a rainy day as a child. A great gift from Nishizawa and Naito.

Images: Top, the exterior and walk up to the Teshima Art Museum. Bottom, for once a 'no photography' rule felt the right way to go so two interiors via Design Boom – you can see more pictures of the Teshima Museum on their site here).