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Shusaku Arakawa

Shusaku Arakawa
Born (1936-07-06)July 6, 1936
Nagoya, Japan
Died May 18, 2010(2010-05-18) (aged 73)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Artist/Architect

Shusaku Arakawa (荒川 修作 Arakawa Shūsaku, July 6, 1936 – May 18, 2010)[1] was a Japanese artist and architect. He had a personal and artistic partnership with writer and artist Madeline Gins that spanned more than four decades.


  • Early life 1
  • The Mechanism of Meaning 2
  • Reversible Destiny Foundation 3
  • Architectural works by Arakawa and Gins 4
  • Books by Arakawa and Gins 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Early life

Shusaku Arakawa (荒川 修作 Arakawa Shūsaku, July 6, 1936 – May 18, 2010)[1] who spoke of himself as an “eternal outsider” and “abstractionist of the distant future,” first studied mathematics and medicine at the Neo-Dada movement. Arakawa’s early works were first displayed in the infamous Yomiuri Independent Exhibition, a watershed event for postwar Japanese avant-garde art.

Arakawa arrived in New York in 1961 with fourteen dollars in his pocket and a telephone number for Marcel Duchamp, whom he phoned from the airport and over time formed a close friendship. He started using diagrams within his paintings as philosophical propositions. Jean-Francois Lyotard has said of Arakawa’s work that it “makes us think through the eyes,” and Hans-Georg Gadamer has described it as transforming “the usual constancies of orientation into a strange, enticing game—a game of continually thinking out.” Quoting Paul Celan, Gadamer also wrote of the work: "There are songs to sing beyond the human." Arthur Danto has found Arakawa to be “the most philosophical of contemporary artists." For his part, Arakawa has declared: “Painting is only an exercise, never more than that.”

The Mechanism of Meaning

Beginning in 1963, he collaborated with fellow artist, architect and poet Madeline Gins on the research project The Mechanism of Meaning which was then completed by 1973. This research project and the architectural projects that stem from it, both built and unbuilt ones, formed the basis of the 1997 Arakawa + Gins: Reversible Destiny exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo. (The accompanying comprehensive book of the same title remains the most comprehensive collection of their work, incorporating the whole of the Arakawa/Gins book, The Mechanism of Meaning.)

The panels appear as a constellation of views concerning the nature of meaning that made be characterized in broad stroke as "holistic" or as entailments of a holistic view concerning meaning. To date, two editions of The Mechanism of Meaning have been made and many of the panels incorporate collaged elements.

Reversible Destiny Foundation

Arakawa and Madeline Gins are co-founders of the Reversible Destiny Foundation, an organization dedicated to the use of architecture to extend the human lifespan. They have co-authored books, including Reversible Destiny, which is the catalogue of their Guggenheim exhibition, Architectural Body (University of Alabama Press, 2002) and Making Dying Illegal (New York: Roof Books, 2006), and have designed and built residences and parks, including the Reversible Destiny Lofts, Bioscleave House, and the Site of Reversible Destiny – Yoro.

Architectural works by Arakawa and Gins

Books by Arakawa and Gins

  • Word Rain (Gins, 1969)
  • The Mechanism of Meaning (Arakawa & Gins, 1971)
  • Intend (Gins, 1973)
  • What the President Will Say and Do (Gins, 1984)
  • To Not to Die (Gins, 1987)
  • Architecture: Sites of Reversible Destiny (Arakawa & Gins, 1994)
  • Hellen Keller or Arakawa (Gins, 1994)
  • Reversible Destiny (Arakawa & Gins, 1997)
  • Architectural Body (Arakawa & Gins, 2002)
  • Making Dying Illegal (Arakawa & Gins, 2006)


  1. ^
  2. ^ The Guardian, Shusaku Arakawa obituary
  3. ^ Resource Library: Arakawa, Shusaku

External links

  • Architectural Body Research Foundation
  • gallery ART UNLIMITED
  • Reversible Destiny Lofts MITAKA - In Memory of Helen Keller -
  • Site of Reversible Destiny – Yoro
  • A House Not for Mere Mortals
  • Gallery at
  • Facts and reference at
  • Reference at
  • Website for AG3-Online: The Third International Arakawa and Gins: Architecture and Philosophy Conference, March 12-26, 2010.
  • Daniel Ross, "Passages to Immortality: Arakawa and Gins, Stiegler, and September 11", Reconstruction 11.2, 2011.
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