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“When a stem breaks the water…”: Sounds of the Sogetsu Ikebana school


When a stem breaks the water perpendicularly, its angle is measured to be 0 degree, and the degree gets closer to 90 as it is slanted more, and the level surface is 90 degrees.
[from the Sogetsu ikebana handbook]

Silence is not acoustic. It is a change of mind, a turning around.
[John Cage]

Arranging flowers takes place in silence.

Arranging flowers in Sogetsu ikebana, founded in 1927 by Sofu Teshigahara and considered the most experimental of all schools of the traditional Japanese art of flower composition, is no different in this respect.

There might have been a visible - or rather, audible - difference in the 1960s, however. Then, while the ikebana students were gathered in their classrooms, diligently and noiselessly following the centuries-old guidelines for the proper alignment of stems with leaves and buds, other young Japanese just three floors below them were vigorously attempting to break every rule of composition: this time, musical.

The Sogetsu Ikebana building, a gem of modernist architecture designed by Kenzo Tange, was completed in 1957 and now, sadly, no longer exists. It was comprised of two complementary but very different sets of spaces. The three floors that rose above ground housed the school’s offices and classrooms, while underground lay a vast auditorium and concert hall. It was in the latter that events and concerts of the Sogetsu Art Center, the school’s sister institution founded by Sofu’s son, Hiroshi, took place.

The seemingly irreconcilable tension between these two spaces is the subject of this project by Katarzyna Krakowiak, who investigates the inconspicuous relationships between sound and architecture. The artist is fascinated by how the noiselessness of the school’s upper rooms, where noble women (ikebana was originally a leisure activity for the wealthy) spent hours contemplating the forms of roots and petals, must have been contaminated by echos of sound produced by the experimental musicians working below. The contrast between their exuberant noise-making and the aura of silence and reticence, handed down by generations of ikebana practitioners, triggers imagination. Krakowiak probes this tension in two visual models that she designed on the basis of archival photographs of the building, now destroyed.

In one model, she imagines the reverberations of sounds produced during concerts entering the upper rooms of the Ikebana school in the form of multicolored spheres. The shapes are dispersed from the stage, where the music was produced, and travel toward the back of the auditorium, bouncing against the walls, with a few penetrating the staircase. In the second model, Krakowiak takes us on a soundless journey through the modernist building’s empty spaces, following the path of the reverberations. Performing a Gordon Matta-Clark-like gesture in her digital visualization, she cuts a hole through all the floors, down to the ground, allowing the ikebana and the concert hall spaces to directly interact. Krakowiak treats the upper spaces of the classrooms and the lower auditorium as resonating chambers, visually simulating how these two very different sound environments could have affected each other. This mute visualization of sound dispersal was prompted by ikebana itself: its meticulously choreographed set of hand movements, where silence is a method, rather than a mere lack of sound.

Magdalena Moskalewicz

This project was commissioned by Magdalena Moskalewicz and post editorial team as an artist's response to the Sogetsu Art Center theme.

Author

Portret 3

Katarzyna Krakowiak

artist Katarzyna Krakowiak (1980) is a sculptor, who uses various media, especially sound, to explore the limits of architecture; she creates large-scale installations involving... Read more »
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“When a stem breaks the water…”: Sounds of the Sogetsu Ikebana school


When a stem breaks the water perpendicularly, its angle is measured to be 0 degree, and the degree gets closer to 90 as it is slanted more, and the level surface is 90 degrees.
[from the Sogetsu ikebana handbook]

Silence is not acoustic. It is a change of mind, a turning around.
[John Cage]

Arranging flowers takes place in silence.

Arranging flowers in Sogetsu ikebana, founded in 1927 by Sofu Teshigahara and considered the most experimental of all schools of the traditional Japanese art of flower composition, is no different in this respect.

There might have been a visible - or rather, audible - difference in the 1960s, however. Then, while the ikebana students were gathered in their classrooms, diligently and noiselessly following the centuries-old guidelines for the proper alignment of stems with leaves and buds, other young Japanese just three floors below them were vigorously attempting to break every rule of composition: this time, musical.

The Sogetsu Ikebana building, a gem of modernist architecture designed by Kenzo Tange, was completed in 1957 and now, sadly, no...

Show More


When a stem breaks the water perpendicularly, its angle is measured to be 0 degree, and the degree gets closer to 90 as it is slanted more, and the level surface is 90 degrees.
[from the Sogetsu ikebana handbook]

Silence is not acoustic. It is a change of mind, a turning around.
[John Cage]

Arranging flowers takes place in silence.

Arranging flowers in Sogetsu ikebana, founded in 1927 by Sofu Teshigahara and considered the most experimental of all schools of the traditional Japanese art of flower composition, is no different in this respect.

There might have been a visible - or rather, audible - difference in the 1960s, however. Then, while the ikebana students were gathered in their classrooms, diligently and noiselessly following the centuries-old guidelines for the proper alignment of stems with leaves and buds, other young Japanese just three floors below them were vigorously attempting to break every rule of composition: this time, musical.

The Sogetsu Ikebana building, a gem of modernist architecture designed by Kenzo Tange, was completed in 1957 and now, sadly, no longer exists. It was comprised of two complementary but very different sets of spaces. The three floors that rose above ground housed the school’s offices and classrooms, while underground lay a vast auditorium and concert hall. It was in the latter that events and concerts of the Sogetsu Art Center, the school’s sister institution founded by Sofu’s son, Hiroshi, took place.

The seemingly irreconcilable tension between these two spaces is the subject of this project by Katarzyna Krakowiak, who investigates the inconspicuous relationships between sound and architecture. The artist is fascinated by how the noiselessness of the school’s upper rooms, where noble women (ikebana was originally a leisure activity for the wealthy) spent hours contemplating the forms of roots and petals, must have been contaminated by echos of sound produced by the experimental musicians working below. The contrast between their exuberant noise-making and the aura of silence and reticence, handed down by generations of ikebana practitioners, triggers imagination. Krakowiak probes this tension in two visual models that she designed on the basis of archival photographs of the building, now destroyed.

In one model, she imagines the reverberations of sounds produced during concerts entering the upper rooms of the Ikebana school in the form of multicolored spheres. The shapes are dispersed from the stage, where the music was produced, and travel toward the back of the auditorium, bouncing against the walls, with a few penetrating the staircase. In the second model, Krakowiak takes us on a soundless journey through the modernist building’s empty spaces, following the path of the reverberations. Performing a Gordon Matta-Clark-like gesture in her digital visualization, she cuts a hole through all the floors, down to the ground, allowing the ikebana and the concert hall spaces to directly interact. Krakowiak treats the upper spaces of the classrooms and the lower auditorium as resonating chambers, visually simulating how these two very different sound environments could have affected each other. This mute visualization of sound dispersal was prompted by ikebana itself: its meticulously choreographed set of hand movements, where silence is a method, rather than a mere lack of sound.

Magdalena Moskalewicz

This project was commissioned by Magdalena Moskalewicz and post editorial team as an artist's response to the Sogetsu Art Center theme.

     

Acoustic Model of the Sogetsu Art Center Building

acoustic model / animation
The model visualizes the movement of sound through the building and the pace at which the structure is filled by sound.The colors of the balls represent the number of times sound bounces against the walls, as determined by the shape of the building.Thus the changing colors represent the way in which sound is directed through the interior, mapping the acoustics of the space.

© 2013 Katarzyna Krakowiak

Architectural Simulation of the Sogetsu Art Center

animation.
The animation traces the path of sound reverberating inside the concert hall of the Sogetsu Art Center. It shows how the staircase could have conveyed the sound upstairs, into the classrooms, thus playing the role of the building's "acoustic soul." This architectural model, based on archival photographs of the original building, is a simulation of the original space as imagined by the artist.

© 2013 Katarzyna Krakowiak
Schemat 01

Dusza Schodów [spirit of the staircase]: Architectual Drawing Scheme

digital image

The term "Dusza Schodów", roughly translatable as "spirit of the staircase", is an official architectural term existing in the Polish language to describe the empty space created in between consecutive flights of stairs. Krakowiak uses the phrase in a double meaning: as the architectural concept, and also as a metaphor for what in her project becomes the most important part of the building: the vast, vertical sound-carrying passage.

© 2013 Katarzyna Krakowiak
Floor plan from sac brochure

Floor Plan – from Sogetsu Art Center Brochure

This informational brochure, published in 1958 to present the new spaces and program of Sogetsu Art Center, was one of the main sources Krakowiak used for designing her video simulation of Kenzo Tange's building. As a non-Japanese speaker, the artist only depended on the visual language of architectural plans.

Courtesy Sogetsu Foundation and The Keio University Art Center (KUAC).
Floor plan book on kenzo tange

Façade and floor plan of the Sogetsu Art Center building

Ikebana secound

Diagram from a contemporary ikebana handbook

Krakowiak used this particular diagram, explaining one of ikebana's methods, as a source for the title of her project (“When a stem breaks the water...”)

Ikebana 4 2

Caption to the diagram from ikebana handbook

Krakowiak used this particular diagram and its caption, explaining one of ikebana's methods, as a source for the title of her project (“When a stem breaks the water...”)

Latest discussion on:
“When a stem breaks the water…”: Sounds of the Sogetsu Ikebana school

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Mk c map

Posted on 6 Sep

From a musical perspective, it's so often just taken for granted that sound is primarily an acoustic phenomenon to be heard and sensed by the ears. But I love these videos because by being silent, they make you realize that sound is also physical, in motion, and material. Katarzyna, have you checked out Emily Thompson's book, The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933? Your piece made me think of her text, where she writes a history of modernity in America by looking at the construction of symphony halls, the soundscape of the modern American city, technologies of electroacoustic sound reproduction, and how all this changed the way people listened, sensed, and came to terms with "modernity."

Awesome videos! I'm so happy that they're finally up on post!

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From a musical perspective, it's so often just taken for granted that sound is primarily an acoustic phenomenon to be heard and sensed by the ears. But I love these videos because by being silent, they make you realize that sound is also physical,...

Show more »

Posted on 26 Sep

I liked the idea of attempting to reconcile two contradictory spaces, and also the concept of the two somehow contributing to each other in their own ways despite the difference in their natures. I think that the echoes from the experimental musicians can somehow add an imaginative aspect to the silence of ikebana practice, while ikebana's discipline of refined vitality can give experimental music a new aspect.

Although the traditional image of ikebana's noiselessness may seem to be the polar opposite of the realm of experimental music, I think that the practice of ikebana itself has a certain energy that stems from it's short-lived nature, giving it a somewhat loud and daring aspect. Thus, despite ikebana's aural silence, the loudness of its transient beauty- derived from the fact that it has limited time to flaunt its beauty before wilting- allows it to give off energy that interacts well with the "exuberant noise making" of the space of experimental music.

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I liked the idea of attempting to reconcile two contradictory spaces, and also the concept of the two somehow contributing to each other in their own ways despite the difference in their natures. I think that the echoes from the experimental...

Show more »
This Artist Practice is part of: Sogetsu Art Center