Light is always accompanied by shadow. No matter how abstract the object standing before your eyes, if it casts a shadow, it immediately assumes concrete form. The reason is simple. No matter how abstract a thing may be, the shadow cast by it is invariably a by-product of the concrete natural phenomenon we call light.
Each tree in this square is surrounded by a red ring as if being embraced by it. The whole scene jumps into view like some movie set. Those who come and go slowly blend into the twilight, much like the fade-outs on a TV screen. It’s as if the setting sun were entrusting its glow to the rings. You can’t help being a bit shaken by the mysterious red as it casts an enticing sidelong glance at you. You can feel the charm of this place if you walk through it at a leisurely pace. The synergism produced by the abstract red color and rings, and by the long shadows cast by the setting sun, easily turns the cityscape into a story.
The rings, looking like “urban hemoglobin,” are reminiscent of red blood cells. It’s maybe the large quantity of oxygen emitted by the trees that has given the rings their deep red. Of course, this unbounded fantasy hinges on our own powers of imagination. Even small things can enable us to exercise such powers and enjoy fascinating scenes.
It is human nature to tend to forget complicated stories associated with places of scenic and historical interest. By contrast, if structures in public places reflect our interpretation of the age in which we live, they never vanish from our memory. Ironically, the more abstract they are, the more readily they linger in our minds.
The red rings stand out in this open space. But in an unexpectedly large number of cases abstract forms allowed to lie ambiguously in our consciousness. Unless they violate some unwritten rule, we’re likely to lose sight of them in our everyday lives.
Recently, cities have been deluged with stereotypical planning in which planners simply toss in abstract figures alien to their surroundings. But here, in the port city of Yokohama, which adheres to a town-building charter known as “Art & Design,” you can enjoy to your heart’s content the winsome, alluring cityscape that artists, architects and designers have pieced together by giving full play to their free and unrestrained egos. It is no exaggeration to say that they are thereby expressing their sense of irony about the meaningless pursuit of diversity and individuation that is presently witnessed among regional communities.
Fictitious elements capable of sustained growth are inherent in abstraction. If these elements are discarded or shelved, the visible scenery loses depth. Isn’t it a good idea to be a bit partial to scenes embodying abstraction?
Text by Hiroshi Innami 1994/12