The website for Sometimes the river is the bridge at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) is now live. In these times where we stick together by staying apart, I invite you to be among the very first visitors. The site presents all the artworks in the exhibition and focuses on our research into sustainable materials as well as the studio’s steps to think and operate more sustainably.
A really big challenge was to get a number of artworks from Berlin to Japan while keeping the carbon footprint down. First the team had to come up with an alternative ground transport route and to persuade insurers that this route was, in fact, a viable and safe solution. Then we sent the artworks on an unusual journey. They travelled first by truck from Berlin to Hamburg. And then by train to Taicang, China, via Malaszewicze, Poland, and Zabaykalsk, Russia (see the route on the microsite). Once they arrived at the port of Taicang, they were loaded onto a ship to Japan.
I’ve done various drawing machines in the past and, for this journey, we developed new ones that were fitted to each transport crate: a ballpoint pen was held by a mechanical arm so that it moved across the surface of a piece of paper in response to the movements of the crate. The drawing machines became seismographs, recording the rattling and rolling movements of the train and the ship along the way. The outcomes are visual records of the terrain over which the artworks passed. And so the journey became a part of the exhibition: Memories from the critical zone (Germany–Poland–Russia–China–Japan, nos. 1–12). Photo: Kazuo Fukunaga

In these unsettling times, we continue to push the studio’s projects as best we can. Most team members have set up home office and, like others, we’re exploring new forms of digital togetherness.

On Friday last week, Caroline, Dayoung, Christian, Jöran, and Kerstin – from the studio’s exhibition and installation team – finished long-distance installing my solo show Sometimes the river is the bridge at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT). It’s an important and comprehensive exhibition, conceived with my friend Yuko Hasegawa, an esteemed curator. To install the show, knowledge was transferred from hands and bodies and minds via screen to the physical space at MOT and to the incredibly dedicated museum team. It is reassuring and exciting to know that we can continue to adapt and pull off an exhibition installation like this on time and with great precision without being physically present. The exhibition is currently set to, hopefully, open in a few weeks’ time.

From the very beginning of conceptually developing Sometimes the river is the bridge, informed by talks with Yuko about ecology and climate, we aimed for the exhibition to become a pilot for making exhibitions as sustainably as possible, and the team has put into practice many new decisions to reduce our climate impact. Now we really know what is possible, even from a distance, thanks to the amazing team in Japan who focused on everything down to the smallest details.