Exhibition limited edition painting

Asphaltblüten - Me and My Friends 16

When _April 2012
Where _20. April - 2. Juni
Link _Kunst macht Glücklich, Stephan Witschi Zürich

Fanzine Me and My Friends 16
Published by Nicole Bachmann

Text Aoife Rosenmeyer:
The customary survey of a city is from on high. The visitor or the proud host goes to the highest possible vantage point in order to grasp the urban landscape below them. From this perspective, the people that form the life of that city walk what Michel de Certeau calls ‘an urban “text”’, that ‘they write without being able to read it…It is as though the practices organising a bustling city were characterized by their blindness. The networks of these moving, intersecting writings compose a manifold story that has neither author nor spectator’1 . Anna Kanai’s survey, on the other hand, is a factor of scale closer, indeed one-to-one. Kanai has mapped the manhole covers of Yamatoshi, south of Tokyo, through a series of monotypes that testify to the astonishing array of decorative designs within this one region. Yet despite this more direct approach, blindness still applies to the objects on ground level because they are utilitarian objects of street furniture. Their authors remain anonymous; their primary purpose is not to be seen but to function.

Kanai has a privileged position on both sides of the looking glass between Japan and Switzerland. Her Japanese prints follow a similar series from Zurich, both of which elevate overlooked things from the street to our line of sight. Looking through her prism towards Japan we discover objects of great beauty, combining pattern, abstraction and figuration. Some are simple, minimal, others an explosion of motifs. In Edward Hall’s terminology, these designs are paradigmatic of a ‘high context’ society, for despite their relative complexity, a great deal of what they communicate is implicitly, rather than explicitly, coded2. Unfamiliarity with that culture accentuates this impression, but looking in the opposite direction, from the objects of our own city, we can begin to parse a history, and history of design, marked latterly by Modernism and the standardising pan-European goal of efficiency. And so Hall’s call for cultural literacy, as softly spoken by the manhole covers that pass beneath our feet and wheels every day, rings true.

1Michel de Certau, The Practice of Everyday Life, University of California Press, 1988, p.93
2 Edward T. Hall, Beyond Culture, Anchor Books, 1977.