teshima art museum

Thursday 21 November 2013

I risked life and limb to get to this museum due to a gross miscalculation of time. Oopsies. But honestly, there is no appropriate limit to what one should risk where Teshima Art Museum is involved. Easily the highlight of my five week journey- acutally, one of the highlights of my life- the experience continues to reverberate, every time I think back.

Teshima Island is located in the Seto Island Inlet and was one of twelve islands participating in the Sentouchi Triennale. Teshima Art museum, designed by Ryue Nishzawa, is not quite a traditional museum, but more like a large architectural installation.

It was raining the day I visited and I was sufficiently frazzled by the bustling ticket office. It was packed out and there was a highly organised system which I struggled to decode. Once given the green light, the experience began via a short walk around the site. The misty sea views and greenery were a welcome palate cleanser, easing the tension of the ticket office in preparation for what was to come. Slowly, the concrete rose from the landscape.

As I stepped into the space, the experience felt immediately unearthly. Enveloped in an undulating concrete volume, my perception of depth was confused. The head height was difficult to read, near and far became almost indistinguishable. Sound quality immediately shifted. Silence was accompanied by the sharp echo of birds and not much more. Light entered via the two oculi, framing the sky like an alter. A piece of string hung beneath the oculus, shifting gently and reverently with the change of wind. Being in that space was overwhelming. It was as if I'd momentarily untied my tether to life and stepped into another place where nature could be appreciated through some other channel. That might sound a bit extreme, but for me, it really felt that extreme.

Upon entering, I was asked not to touch the artwork on the ground. At first I was confused. This is an empty space, is it not? Yet people were silently gathered under the oculus, looking down. Then I spotted it, a water droplet bubbled up from a tiny pore in the concrete floor and rather than being absorbed into the surface, it beaded and slowly traced along the floor. It joined another bead and then another and another, until a small mass of water collected and eventually flowed into a large, shallow puddle under the oculus. I sat on the floor, watching these silent and meandering droplets gather, changing their movement each time.

Sitting there, watching the droplets, listening to the birds and watching the sky deliver a fine stream of rain into the shallow puddle, was the most meditative and exquisitely beautiful celebration of nature I had ever encountered. I think that experience has left a permanent imprint on my memory, never to be forgotten and I suspect, never to be repeated.

[I would have liked to share my own photos but no photos were allowed. Plus I was busy having my mind blow. Images via DesignBoom. Photography by Iwan Baan]


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