Architect Naohiko Shimoda’s interpretation of a kamidana—a small altar or “god shelf” that’s part of a tradition to bring Shinto shrines into private spaces—strays from the simple ledges most often found in Japanese homes. Designed with an intricate foundation and slatted roof, the wooden structure lines an inner corner and is installed high on the wall following the custom. The precise and detailed construction is built on a 1:1 scale, allowing it to “be regarded as architecture with unique proportions and beauty.”
The size of many Japanese houses today limits the placement of the miniature shrines, Shimoda says, which spurred the original 2018 design that’s similar in style but wraps around an outer corner. “Unlike other architectures, the kamidana is usually represented only in the front half of the building. It makes people imagine ‘something behind’ that was not represented and (setting it up) in a corner make it even more effective,” he says.
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A new installation by artist Chila Kumari Singh Burman masks the stately columns and ornate flourishes of Tate Britain’s facade, enveloping the London museum in a blanket of LED lights. In “Remembering a Brave New World,” technicolor symbols, pop culture references, and religious iconography transform the neoclassical structure into an illuminated space for celebration. The public artwork was revealed on December 14 to coincide with the start of Diwali, the five-day Indian festival of lights, and casts a kaleidoscopic glow on the surrounding area.
The eclectic collection draws on Punjabi Liverpudlian artist’s own life and family history, which manifests in pieces like the multi-colored ice cream truck. After moving to England, her father purchased one of the vehicles, an experience that imprinted her childhood.
Other elements focus on the United Kingdom’s history of imperialism: the Britannia figure at the building’s apex, for example, is camouflaged with Kali, the Hindu goddess of liberation and power, while the lower region features Rani of Jhansi, the warrior and leader of the Indian resistance against the British in 1857. “It’s important to critique buildings like this because they’re very Eurocentric,” Burman said in an interview with Dezeen. “So, I just thought: why not do something that captures what we’re all going through right now? I felt like it needed a blast of joy and light. And Diwali is about good over evil, about hope, unity and the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Glowing Hindu deities sprawl across the windows and arches, as well, including Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and purity, and Ganesh, the god of prosperity. The religious figures juxtapose the more playful elements, like a life-sized tiger, peacock, and pair of lips.
“Remembering a Brave New World” is the fourth annual winter commission by Tate Britain. The public artwork will be on display through the end of January, even while the inner halls of the museum are closed to visitors due to the ongoing pandemic. Follow Burman’s projects that explore questions of power and identity on Instagram.
Update: A previous iteration of this article incorrectly identified the lights as neon, not LED.
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Through a Blur of Migratory Birds, Photographer Sankar Sridhar Captures the Rituals of the Yamuna River
When Dehli-based photographer Sankar Sridhar visits the Yamuna River in winter, he observes hundreds of gulls, terns, and other birds as they flock to the Ganges tributary that flows through the Indian city. Despite the river’s inability to maintain a thriving ecosystem in that stretch, the avians are spurred by site fidelity as they migrate each year, a ritualistic act Sridhar recently captured in a series titled Long Live the River.
Because the tributary attracts such an influx of avians, it’s also a site of religiosity and legend. People travel to the water to feed the birds, an act thought to bring good karma, and disperse offerings for their loved ones who’ve died. “My approach to documenting life along a small stretch of this river was driven by the deep connection of rivers and life and divinity in Hindu texts, mythology, and legend. The fact that the Yamuna is considered the only river with the power to grant immortality to humans seemed an irony that could not be overlooked,” the photographer says.
Fifteen drains of untreated wastewater from household, municipal, and industrial sources flow into the tributary, saturating it with chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, and garbage that eliminate aquatic life. However, Sridhar notes that in 2017, officials recorded 24 bird species residing in the river’s wetlands. “This finding came as a surprise, given the greatly degraded water quality of the Yamuna,” he says.
Using a low shutter speed, Sridhar captures the annual rituals through clouds of Dehli’s thick smog, blurring the flying creatures as they swoop over the water. The obscured visitors mar clear shots of boats and the horizons as they appear to linger above the water in shadowy flocks. “I aimed to impart a surreal touch to the images by using the boats as the fabled transport into the afterlife while flight-paths of the birds as metaphors —as much for the souls of the dead as the mad chaos in our world that blinds us to the damage we do to the environment,” he says. “Throughout, though, the river remains a giver of life, despite having the life sucked out of her.”
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An ancient-book collector is offering a rare glimpse into a Sino-Tibetan book that’s believed to have been printed as early as 1410 in Beijing. A self-described bibliophile known as Incunabula, the collector shared a thread containing dozens of images showing inside spreads full of red ink drawings and Ranjana script, a writing system developed in the 11th century. The Gutenberg Bible, which was printed with movable metal type, dates back to 1454, nearly 45 years after this woodblock-produced text.
Within its accordion-fold pages, the ancient book contains impeccably detailed “Sanskrit dhāranīs and illustrations of protective mantra-diagrams and deities” and a collection of Tibetan Buddhist recitation texts. It has more durable, black covers that are covered in gold-paint drawings featuring “20 icons of the Tathāgatas,” which roughly translates to “one who has gone.” All text is printed twice on each side of the paper to allow for right-to-left and left-to-right readings in both the Indo-Tibetan and Chinese styles, respectively.
“During the early Ming, close relations were established between Tibetan monks and the imperial court in Beijing. Although not directly part of the Buddhist canon, this work relates closely to the manner of woodblock carving employed for the production of the Sino-Tibetan Kangyur,” the collector writes.
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Iran-based artist Fatemeh Hosein Aghaei takes mesmerizing photographs that showcase the intricate patterns inside the country’s ancient buildings. The artist mostly features mosques in the Iranian city of Isfahan, which is located about 250 miles south of Tehran and is known for its Perso–Islamic designed structures, boulevards, covered bridges, palaces, tile-filled mosques, and minarets. In her photographs, Hosein Aghaei often looks upward to frame the building’s domes and arches complete with complex colorful designs, sometimes even adding glimpses of the city’s blue skies. The artist tells Colossal that she wants her work to capture and share the beauty of Iran’s historic architecture. Keep up with Hosein Aghaei’s captivating images on Instagram.
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Normally a cemetery wouldn’t be on our list of recommended sites to see, but the Makomanai Cemetery is one of the most awe-inspiring places we’ve ever been. Located in the outskirts of Sapporo, a large stone Buddha occupies the sprawling landscape. All 1,500 tons of it has sat alone there for 15 years. But when the cemetery decided they wanted to do something to increase visitor’s appreciations for the Buddha, they enlisted architect Tadao Ando, who had a grand and bold idea: hide the statue.
“Our idea was to cover the Buddha below the head with a hill of lavender plants,” said Ando. Indeed, as you approach “Hill of Buddha” the subject is largely concealed by a hill planted with 150,000 lavenders. Only the top of the statue’s head pokes out from the rotunda, creating a visual connection between the lavender plants and the ringlets of hair on the Buddha statue’s head.
Upon entering, visitors are forced to turn left or right and walk around a rectangular lake of water before entering the 131-ft (40-meter) long approach tunnel. The journey is a constant reminder of the weather, the breeze and the light, and is works in tandem to heighten anticipation of the statue, which is only visible once you reach the end of the tunnel.
Any time of the year, visitors will have a different experience. The 150,000 lavenders “turn fresh green in spring, pale purple in summer and silky white with snow in winter.” It really is a miraculous work of environmental art. (Syndicated from Spoon & Tamago)
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