Ma Yansong, principal partner of MAD Architects, have revealed his latest artwork "Flow" at the recently opened 8th Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale. Taking place this summer in Japan, the installation reinvents part of the “Tunnel of Light” artwork that was completed back in 2018. Through a series of immersive platforms, the architects abstracted and captured the spirit of the Kiyotsu River, providing visitors with an immersive and dynamic spatial experience. The Triennale hopes to improve the local economy through art, and promote a more harmonious relationship between human and nature.
Tunnel of Light is located at Kiyotsu Gorge, known as one of the three great gorges of Japan. The 750-meters long tunnel links three viewing platforms, offering visitors unobstructed views of the surrounding scenery. Instead of seeing it as just a passageway, MAD found that it fuses “natural elements with sensibilities of bodies and minds, escaped from the everyday hubbub to create a journey of art". MAD took inspiration from Ancient Chinese philosophers, and how they understood the formation and interactions of the natural world in terms of the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire, and earth, re-envisioning the entrance and five key points within the tunnel.
The architects rebuilt the entrance of Kiyotsu Gorge tunnel. The new building now features two floors, ticket offices, a café, and a souvenir shop which sells fine handmade crafts made by the villagers. The interior design of the space emits a warm and open atmosphere, creating a place to rest before people set out on their journey.
As a prequel to the tunnel, a uniquely-designed foot space makes up the upper floor. Above, the top of the conical roof forms an unusual skylight, framed by prismatic mirrors that capture the running river in the distance as an inverted reflection. The space is filled with aromatic mists coming from the bath, creating an ambiguous atmosphere. After entering, visitors arrive at the first observation deck. The architects preserved the historic state of the tunnel, giving visitors a glimpse of the original scenery. At the second platform, visitors encounter a “bubble” bathroom, reminiscent of a spacecraft. This bubble has a mirror surface, reflecting both the grey interior and the natural scenery outside. The third platform is covered with geometric, droplet-like mirrors that emit a warm tangerine light.
The fourth platform takes visitors into a light cave, designed as a shallow pond that stretches all the way to the end of the platform. The reflective water surface brings the outside scenery into the tunnel, with water brimming over the edge of the platform and seamlessly joining the actual landscape to form a perfect circle.
The ‘margin between the real and unreal’ is a Japanese aesthetic concept, but perhaps something similar exists in China, where distinction between front and back, inner and outer, are considered arbitrary. Inner is outer, and outer is inner. Even reality and fiction can trade places, making it difficult to accurately define what is real. In other words, this principle extends to all phenomena. -- Fram Kitagawa
"Flow" is complmeneted with a newly released book with the same name, Tunnel of Light, in three languages: Japanese, English and Mandarin.
Founded by Mr. Kitawaga, known as the father of land art festival, the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale is one of the world's largest art festivals, serving as a pioneer of regional art festivals across Japan. The event, which includes local and international participants, has provided an alternative way to explore satoyama, gaining a lot of attention from within and outside Japan as a leading practice of community building art. Kitawaga studied the Echigo-Tsumari area since 1996, examining its cultural and landscape, and how it's shaped by mountains, rivers, and heavy winter snow. However, the local life and economy declined as a result of modernization and urbanization, when the traditional agriculture and social production mode changed, causing the young generation to move to the cities.