curators : Daniel McClean   Nathalie Viot   Karina Daskalov   Mitsuaki Shigemori


September 2000 - November 2001
(a period of 2 - 4 weeks for each project)

Shigemori Residence, Kyoto, Japan



The site of Shima is the Shigemori Residence, Kyoto, a traditional town house dating from the middle Edo period (1789) with an adjoining garden and tea ceremony pavilion. Both garden and pavilion were conceived by Mirei Shigemori, seminal 20th century Japanese garden architect and theorist, who acquired the house for his family in 1943 from the local Shinto order.

The main garden is composed of four rock configurations symbolising the Elysian islands Hojo, Eiju, Horai and Koryo, which are placed on raked sand. The garden is overlooked by a veranda and a sparse main room with shoji screens, tatami mats and a ceremonial niche. In contrast to most of the ninety religious and profane gardens designed by Shigemori, this garden co-exists with a house which is domestic in scale and connected to the rhythms of everyday life.


'Shima means the silent mountain floating on the white crested waves'.  Mirei Shigemori

The title of the project signifies 'island' in Japanese and refers to the compositional and conceptual essence of the Japanese garden, namely the pond garden (with islands for divinities) and the islands of rock and moss enclosed by seas of raked sand.

Shima is a series of artists' projects occurring within different sections of the house and garden, produced through the visits of the artists and curators and their resulting dialogue. They include models, screens and  ephemeral objects. Analogous to the rock configurations in the garden, each intervention forms a distinctive 'shima' within the site. 

The projects mediate the complex spatial and conceptual relationships embodied in the site and by implication within the Japanese garden/house. They reflect the co-existence of the garden and building as interlocking entities and the garden's unique function as a locus of contemplation - the framing of the garden as a tableau from inside the room and its contemplation from a fixed, seated position.

In contrast they also reflect the garden as a site of passage: the unfolding of the garden as a succession of temporalised frames through movement along the veranda. Like the traditional scroll with its blank spaces, the veranda embodies in-between moments (ma), intervals in space and time, which allow for the previous impression or frame to fade away. The garden is also reflected as a site of ritual, its inset stones forming a path (roji) to be traversed during the tea ceremony.

Finally, the projects gravitate around the notion of microcosmos: the modus operandi underlying the Japanese garden is to generate vast spatial illusions in highly constricted space through techniques of abstraction, miniaturisation and relativisation of scale, thus inscribing the infinite within the finite.

Shima is accompanied by an archive of Mirei Shigemori's writings in Japanese and English.

Mirei Shigemori Residence
34 Kamiojicho, Yoshida Sakyoku, Kyoto 606-8312, Japan
Fax +81 (0)75 761 8776  E-mail
Due to limited access by appointment only

English | Japanese

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