Anti-Gravitation Structure,
Panel Number 4, 2007

 

Anti-Gravitation Structure,
Panel Number 1, 2007

 

Installation View at 21st Centruy Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa,  2008

 
 

Anti-Gravitation Structures

 

Everything on this planet is drawn towards the earth, regardless of whether they are living creatures or inanimate objects. In the course evolution, aquatic organisms crawled onto land and their fins evolved into legs. These creatures walked on four legs because that is the best way to support the body's weight against gravity. However humans stood up and began to walk on two legs.  The advantage of being bipedal is that it frees up both hands at all times.  The human skeleton evolved vertically, defying the force of gravity, forming the body that we now know. The anti-gravitational structure of the human skeleton was completed. 

With the advance of civilization, mankind took an interest in challenging gravity with architecture as well, constructing taller and taller buildings such as the Tower of Babel and pyramids for example. The oldest known wooden structure in the world is the five-story pagoda at Horyu-ji, built more than 1,300 years ago. A pagoda is a facility that contains the cremated remains of the Buddha, which are usually kept in underground stone chamber.  The sole purpose of the tower is to resist gravity and stand tall towards the heavens; it serves no other function. So the ability to overcome gravity came to symbolize power.

The second-oldest pagoda is the east pagoda of Taima-dera in Nara. It is believed to have been built during the Tempyo Period (710-794). The structure was completely dismantled and repaired in the 35th year of Meiji (1902).  Any structural materials that were found to be unsound, including the original materials from when the building was first constructed, were replaced with new materials. Miraculously, those old structural materials have recently resurfaced. My heart went out to this wood, which showed sign of supporting the weight of more than a thousand years of time.

Gazing at these structural relics every day inspired me to photograph the east pagoda of Taima-dera. The pagoda was constructed using masugumi, a technique in which structural elements interlock, dispersing the weight. These complex joints of the Nara period are simple yet sturdy, supporting the building against the force of gravity. It brings to mind a statue of Atlas supporting the heavens, and I found that beautiful.

 

- Hiroshi Sugimoto