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A book bridging art and architecture

Posted by
on February 11, 2014 at 01:34 PM

Vishwa Shroff is an artist trained in Baroda and Birmingham and Katsushi Goto is an architect trained in Tokyo and London. At their shared studio in Tokyo where they now live and work, Vishwa makes her quixotic artworks while Goto is busy with architectural design and drawings. Sometimes, their work converges, feeding off each other’s ideas and inputs and craziness to result in delightful, intelligent and quirky artworks. Their latest collaboration is on their fourth Printmaker’s Book called ‘Room’; an experiment with the way stories are told!

© Courtesy of the designers

Room was the artist-architect duo’s participation in ‘Monumental Ideas in Miniature Books (MINB), Part II’, a project by Hui-Chu Ying, Professor of Art, The Myers School of Art, University of Akron, USA. The project limited the book size to 4 x 5 x 1 inches, a huge challenge. It prompted the artists to put in a magnifying card as a book-mark so that viewers can see all the visual details in the book with clarity. 

Printmaker’s Books are original artworks, produced in editions, of ‘books’ which may or may not have written text, but certainly have copious illustrations/drawings as prints, often created on paper hand-made by the printmaker and then bound as a book (also by the printmaker). Hence they are called Printmaker’s Books. 

“Our concern has been to experiment with the way in which stories are told,” explains Vishwa. Therefore, Room was not at all like the regular Printmaker’s Books that one has seen till date – it did not follow the standard text-on-one-page-and-print-on-the-opposite format. Instead, there was no text at all, and the book had a sculptural quality about it with elaborate cut-outs that helped ‘carve’ the book in terms of its depth/thickness. 

Room began with the image of a staircase. “The concept of Room is two-fold, which started with us wanting to create a staircase running down the book. So, if there is a staircase, there must be a room, and if there is a room, someone must live in it.  The book then comprises the physical space and the narrative juxtaposing upon each other,” they explain.

The ‘someone’ who lives in that space is a girl. The narrative is that of this girl growing up, commencing with her as an infant just home from the hospital to growing up to become 18 years of age, when she will leave for university, leaving the room and her childhood behind her. But the girl herself is not part of the artwork! Instead, the girl and her growing up are symbolized by the objects and the way they are placed in the room. “While creating the character of the girl, we asked ourselves: Can we portray a person, her characteristics, her activities and age with only the objects she may use? Is it possible to tell a story with the main protagonist missing?  The challenge then was to remember enough from our childhoods, objects we may have used or to find objects that we assume children use as they grow up, imposing upon them presupposed activities and emotions of what, by now had become ‘our’ girl. Our girl grows up with every page as you go down from the attic into the room. When the room ends, the girl too has moved on,” narrates the artist. The staircase and a teddy bear are the only constants.

Obviously such a printmaker’s book cannot physically work like a regular book, though it looks like one. There is no text, in the first place. When you open the book, you see the space from a bird’s eye point of view, going down from roof to plinth, keeping its point-perspective as seen from the sky. The whole depth of the book is carved out painstakingly to accommodate the special requirements of each page but in a way such that the rest of the narrative following is not disturbed. It clearly proves that Katsushi Goto, in addition to being an architect-artist, is also an extremely skilled architectural model-maker. Structure, therefore, has an important role to play in his conceptualization.

How did the artists think of the space? “The physical space came from observing how children have the ability to create a fantasy space. Sometime under the dining table, or a sheet tied up between two chairs or maybe that desire for a bunk bed, which then becomes their space to play within, impenetrable by the adult as it exists only within the child’s imagination. It is this whimsical aspiration that we attempted giving a form to.” Room was presented at the Raaga Numerique Gallery in Baroda.

Designer : Shroff - Goto
Photography :courtesy the designers

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