1972 (2010 - present)

In 2010, the Nakagin Capsule Tower in Tokyo, Japan became the primary focus of my work as an artist.  Completed in the year 1972 by the architect Kisho Kurokawa (1934 – 2007), it stands today as one of the few proposals realized by an avant-garde architectural movement called Metabolism, which flourished in the 1960s.  As a building attached with 140 removable apartment units, the Nakagin Capsule Tower embodies the future of urban living as envisioned by Kurokawa at that moment in postwar Japan.  Furthermore, the building is a reminder of a future that was never realized in society at large and exists as an architectural anachronism within the city.  Despite Kurokawa’s plan to mass-produce the capsules, this structure became one of a kind in the world.  Today, the building faces the threat of demolition to make way for a conventional apartment complex.  In my photographic series titled “1972”, I employ photography to document the state of individual capsules as a response to their potential disappearance.  My project examines what became of a building that first opened as a radical prototype for a new mode of living in the post-industrial society and how this vision of the future appears in retrospect. 

During my work on the Nakagin Capsule Tower, I have performed extensive investigations into the history of the building’s design and Kurokawa’s numerous statements on “the capsule age” he anticipated as being imminent in the 1970s.  This research of archival materials in turn informs my approach to navigating the architectural space with my film camera.  The interior of every unit was nearly identical at first since capsule architecture is based on a standardized design that enables mass-production on an assembly line.  This design principle that underpins the capsules inspired the conceptual operation of my photography: the succession of a consistent frontal shot across the entire series.  This visual strategy of repetition refers to the origin of the capsules as units based on a standardized design intended for mass-production.  The approach also creates a framework to compare the differing conditions of the capsules today.  Some of the units retain the futuristic furnishings that date back to the original layout.  Many other capsules display the variety of modifications that have replaced those futuristic furnishings.  Within the building, there are even capsules that are no longer habitable.  The various states of the units point to the passage of time since the building first opened in 1972 as a showcase for Kurokawa’s vision.  The photographs also reveal that the building has not followed the trajectory as foreseen by the architect when it was completed.  Yet, the fact that these small rooms are still being occupied to this day demonstrate the residents’ ability to find new and unexpected applications within the limited area of 10 square meters.  Despite being constructed on the logic of standardization, my photographs represent the individuality present in each capsule, accumulated through life that was experienced within each unit over the course of five decades. 

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