The ruin, despite its state of decay, somehow outlives us. And the cultural gaze that we turn on ruins is a way of loosening ourselves from the grip of punctual chronologies, setting ourselves adrift in time.
– Brian Dillon, Introduction, Ruins (Whitechapel Press)
Beyond the Veil is a temporary, site-specific art installation using broad swathes of translucent tulle to veil a series of abandoned houses in Omachi, Japan. The veils trace the contours of each house, using the mass and scale of the buildings as a formalist shape; a found sculpture. A literal manifestation of ‘Ghost Homes,’ the installation responds to vanishing populations and abandoned buildings in the rural, alpine city.
See our earlier blog post about Ghost Homes for context.
Drawing in equal measure from iconography, rites of passage, dazzle camouflage, and bedsheet ghosts, Beyond the Veil reduces the structures into their simplest form, imprint, and volume – a shade of former function, a spectre of domesticity – in an attempt to release their ghosts.
Just as furniture is draped to protect it from dust or a sheet is pulled over a lifeless body, we intend the installations as equal parts protection and provocation, asking viewers to re-see forgotten spaces, to reconsider their dwindling possibilities, and acknowledge the presence of ghost homes, haunting Omachi.
During the day, the houses have a subtle but iconic presence, looming between occupied buildings. Depending on the quality of natural daylight, the veils diffuse light differently – glowing white in the sunshine, golden at sunset, iridescent blue in the shadows, and shimmering, heavily, in the rain.
At night, the veil illuminates briefly after sunset. Speaking to the relationship between light + spirit in Japanese culture, these illuminated shapes highlight the houses’ transitional nature between this world and the next, marking the spiritual presence of the Ghost Homes.
As the weeks pass, the tulle will tatter and tear, becoming dirty and stained. The veiled houses will become an ecosystem, playing surrogate home to insects and flora – the literal after-life of the buildings. At the end of the project when the veils are removed, the houses will continue to stand, naked and unoccupied, bedsheets torn away but ghosts remaining.
Beyond the Veil is part of Omachi’s first Triennial of Contemporary Art: Japan Alps Art Festival, running until July 30, 2017.