Miniature Monuments

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It is hard to overstate the extent to which neon has shaped Hong Kong’s landscape, its streets awash in hues of red, yellow, green and blue, not to mention the way the city is perceived abroad. Bolstered by memories of Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, both of which were inspired by Hong Kong, Japanese artist Takahiro Iwasaki set out to recreate the city’s neon lights despite never having set foot in the city. Scouring the internet for images, he used brightly-colored string to create tiny versions of neon signs like those of Yue Hwa Chinese Products and Luk Fuk Jewellery.

The work is the latest installment in Out of Disorder, an ongoing series of miniature sculptures made from everyday objects: a city carved into a roll of duct tape, electricity towers that rise from toothbrush bristles, construction cranes perched atop books. “It started when I was studying in the UK,” says Iwasaki. “I was as poor as a church mouse and I had no money to buy materials.” So he began making sculptures with whatever he could find: empty boxes, twigs, socks. “I had to go barefoot,” he recalls.

Each sculpture takes about two days to complete. Iwasaki’s work has been praised not only for its craftsmanship but its sense of the uncanny: the disorienting sensation of seeing monumental objects reduced in size and made from such quotidian materials. The effect is enhanced all the more by Iwasaki’s choice of utilitarian subjects that blend into the background of urban life. “We take them for granted, but if you change the point of view, it becomes something poetic,” he says.

But it’s not just the scale and material that feeds into Out of Disorder’s eeriness; there’s a melancholy quality to many of the structures. “What electricity towers, Ferris wheels and construction cranes have in common is that they are made with steel frames,” says Iwasaki. Born in Hiroshima, the artist grew up seeing the exposed steel frame of the Genbaku Dome, one of the few structures to survive the nuclear blast of 1945. To him, steel frames evoke a sense of ruin.

Neon, too. “Neon signs use up a lot of electricity to advertise sex, jewellery, food, things that fuel pleasure,” he says. In the aftermath of Japan’s devastating 3.11 earthquake, the power switched off. “There’s a Ferris wheel that is normally a shining landmark in the city and it was stopped, dark, this mass of electricity. It gave me an uneasy feeling when I saw the silhouette of that eerie steel floating in the distance. When I saw the neon signscape full of electricity it triggered the same feeling.”

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This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Tuesday July 16 2013at 01:07 am , filed under Art and Design, Asia Pacific, Heritage and Preservation, Public Space, Society and Culture and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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