Early anthropological studies considered landscape a container of social and cultural actions, as a representative of nature, as opposed to civilisation. Landscape was later on defined as a field of co-existence between the aesthetic appearance of territorial, vegetal and archaeologic forms, and their interferences with human built forms. Lately landscape was understood as the perception of the human upon his surrounding context, as a cognitive and symbolic construction of space. Tim Ingold proposes landscape as an archive of foregoing generations dwelling in space, by which the human defines his identity. The notion of landscape crystallises as ecological in its essence – a balance between the individual and his environment.
The immersive wall-sized panels of Tadashi Kawamta exhibited at the Kamel Mennour gallery 6 rue du Pont de Lodi can be also seen as landscape-archives: dispositives to read the layered history of interactions between the human and his environment. In the Kamel Mennour gallery 28 avenue Matignon, Tadashi Kawamata shows small conceptual 'drawings' – a selection from over 300 works of the last 10 years previously unexhibited. These mixed media collages transmit a quintessence of the artist's thinking on place – space marked by the human presence.
In a conversation regarding this exhibition, Tadashi Kawamata shares that these two types of works are autonomous models that don't function as preliminary sketches to future installations, but rather what he calls 'visions'. They record a bird's eye view of prototypes of build and natural elements – universal typologies which induce a non-scale experience. Miniature or colossal, they fuse in a time-space without reference. As the artist explains, for him this is a means to maintain 'the critical distance': to observe and understand a global perspective, by also giving importance to details.
The meditative nature of the large panels transmits landscape's persistence (through both living beings and built structures) but also landscape's transitory elements such as winds, earthquakes and moving waters. The panels unfold vast panoramas of destruction, caused by a collision between human and natural agencies. These abstract landscapes of remains evoke at the same time an ancestral sedimentation of lived and consumed existences – the accumulation that collective identity represents. They can be also seen as desolated environments immersed into chaos - the consequence of unforeseen catastrophes – that extinguished an entire civilisation in seconds – reminding of the bombed cities we are so often tragically confronted with in our times of wars.
But Tadashi Kawamata sees them also as recurring moments that make space for renovation and creation – in the spirit of Paul Virilio's 'Museum of Accidents'. For him a history of mistakes, misunderstandings and failures could be written, that belongs to a cycle of disappearance and renewal that never finishes and attracts an energy of innovation.
We learn from these panels that there is a permanent tension between landscape's potent force and our both vulnerable and destructive civilisation. Tadashi Kawamata mentions also that the human need for permanency in despite the forces of nature has ecologically fatal consequences and that architecture is the most durable agent of pollution of landscape.
Watching these cinematic situations we are met by landscape's capacity to transform in the bidimensional field of the 'tableau' – a performative presence that generates transmutation and that narrates about belonging to historic eras that finish or will come.