MESSHU Photos Texts in Danish
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MESSHU - texts

Akiko Ikeuchi (J) & Ingrid Kæseler (DK)
OFFICINET, Bredgade 66, 1260 Copenhagen K
17. November - 17. December 2023
Opening hours Tuesday-Sunday 12-18 (12-6pm)
Curator: Ingrid Kæseler

Infinite mesh

by Nette Børkdal Ebbesen, Art historian.
Translated by Dan A. Marmorstein

Messhu – which means network in Japanese – can be found everywhere in the world and is constituted by both simple and inconceivably complex connections. Human beings are a part of the world, but according to the German sociologist and political scientist Hartmut Rosa, today's high-speed society has impaired people’s faculty for experiencing connectedness with the world. In his book, ‘Resonanz’, published in 2016, the conclusion is drawn that it is necessary to our existence that we experience a reciprocal world-contact, which can be described as: ‘... a thread of resonance that vibrates and connects us to the world’. This can transpire in many ways, since people can be connected to the world through sensating and taking action and through language and thinking.

The Messhu exhibition addresses itself to various networks that can lead to an experience of connectedness. The exhibition, in and of itself, stands as an example of a network which – running right through time and place – allows people to interchange a cultural form of knowledge about nature’s expression.

Ingrid Kæseler invites the viewer step into a landscape with symbolic trees and flowers, which refer to the plants of the current season. The jumping-off point for her work has its source in the Japanese Heian period (794-1185 A.D.), when women of noble birth could wear suits of clothing with specific color combinations, with names like ‘iris’, ‘willow’ and ‘plum’. These hues referred to the seasons’ changing flora and were worn as expressions of the wearer’s sympathetic insight into nature’s passage. This yielded an experience of everything’s ephemerality, which can be epitomized in the age-old Japanese term, mono no aware. Today, we no longer understand the color codes. However, by reading their translations into flower names, we can again call to mind images of the plants mentioned. In this way, our attention about that which is unique in nature is being sharpened, the nature that can otherwise all too habitually be regarded as nothing more than the backdrop for life. As visual artist Amalie Smith formulates in her book, ’Et hjerte i alt’ [A heart in everything], published in 2017: ‘Thinking doesn’t separate people from the world, but is the world that is thinking in human form. The bond between people and the world writhes and squirms around one single surface’.

Akiko Ikeuchi's ethereal silk thread sculptures are stretched out in the room in such a way that the principal threads point outward, towards the four corners of the world and the earth’s geomagnetic fields. The threads’ network is bound together by a thousand interconnected knots and is susceptible to influence by the seasons, by the light, by the humidity, and by the movements inside the room – and accordingly also by the exhibition’s guests – which brings the notion of resonance to mind once again. Finally, the complex and boundless structure can lead our thoughts to the philosopher and literary scholar Timothy Morton, who has intensively been devoting his attention to people’s possibility to grasp what ‘nature’ is. What significance does our understanding of the concept of nature bring to bear on the experience of being connected with the biosphere? And how does this affect the way in which we act in the world? In Morton’s article ‘The Ecological Thought’, published in 2010, he replaces the designation, ‘nature’, with the metaphor, ‘the mesh’. The mesh includes – everything – on the planet. There is nothing else, and everything is infinitely connected.

The Messhu exhibition’s works have – through time and place – stretched out conceptual threads that render visual experiences of resonance with nature’s network - messhu.

Mono no aware

by Gunhild Borggreen, Associate professor with speciality in Japanese contemporary art and visual culture, Copenhagen University.
Translated by Dan A. Marmorstein

The idiomatic Japanese-language aesthetic term mono no aware can be translated into something running along the lines of a sense of transient sadness that people feel about the impermanence of things. In addition to the particle no, which means ‘of’, this idiomatic term consists of the word aware, which denotes a sensuous sensitivity or attentive awareness paid to objects or phenomena that concurrently engenders measured surprise: a kind of “ah!”. A poetic exclamation point, a sensuous sigh. Sorrow or misery, even. The word mono, in an altogether concrete sense, signifies “thing”: something that is tangible or visible in the world, as opposed to decidedly more spiritual or religious reflections on the world’s impermanence. In the aggregate, the idiomatic term mono no aware constitutes an attempt to encircle an especially poignant form of pathos that is attached to concrete things and their transitoriness. Mono no aware signifies an experience of beauty in the world, blended with an acknowledgment about this beauty’s fleeting nature.

Mono no aware is an aesthetic concept that has its source in a specific historical period in Japanese literature and aesthetics, namely the aristocratic Court milieu around the emperor during the Heian period (794-1185 AD). In order to have any “understanding” of this concept, it was necessary that one had been born into a certain class or that one had been refined with an education in classical literature. Mono no aware was closely entwined with a particular aesthetic code that was reserved exclusively for this narrow elite circle at the Court. Moreover, Mono no aware denotes some of the emotional ambiences that form aspects of Genji Monogatari, The Tale of Genji, the extensive epic novel that was written by noblewoman, poet and lady-in-waiting, Murasaki Shikibu, in the early 11th century. Mono no aware is an underplayed sensibility that excludes strong feelings of anger or vehement expressions of romantic passion. Mono no aware is not the lover’s arrival in the evening, but his departure in the dewy morning. Mono no aware is moonlight in the garden while the lover strums on his string instrument for the woman that he has betrayed.

For a cultural scholar like Motoori Norinaga, who was writing poetic literary criticism about classical Japanese literature at the closing of the 18th century, mono no aware stands as the genuine reason for reading classical poetry or prose in the first place. One does so in order to understand what feelings prevailed in the hearts of the characters in Genji Monogatari as they experienced mono no aware. The act of reading classical literature essentially constitutes an attempt to understand mono no aware to the same extent that the characters in the very same novels and poems aspired to feel aware in the face of mono. Poems have their source in mono no aware; not the other way around. One cannot explain or illustrate mono no aware through poetry.

Way back when, and still today, mono no aware was an exclusive and impalpable concept. At certain times, a national and essentialist dimension has been ascribed to this idiomatic term, as if only Japanese people are capable of understanding and recognizing mono no aware. However, the concept can also be inverted. One can interpret mono no aware not as people’s sense of sadness in the face of things’ flightiness, but conversely as the things’ melancholy in relation to mankind. Thus displacing the subject of the idiomatic term from the individual person to the thing, and consequently transforming the aesthetic experience away from the inconsequential and bashful human being to the great every-thing that is in constant flux.

A certain sensibility for colors

by Mette Holm. Translator and Japan connoisseur.
Translated by Dan A. Marmorstein

Women of noble birth who were living in Japan’s Heian Period (794-1185 A.D.) were dressed in weighty costumes, which consisted of many layers, whereby they were able to demonstrate – with the color combinations –that they had a feeling for both aesthetics and poetry. The female attire is called jūnihitoe (twelve-layer kimono) and consisted, at the outset of this period, of as many as twelve layers of silk kimono-like robes, in different colors. As things developed, in the course of time, the number of these layers diminished to eight, or five, the color combinations of which were determined according to the season, the special occasion and the noblewoman’s rank. These refined and cultured color combinations are termed kasané no irome.

Thanks to various court ladies’ writings and diaries dating from the time, a selection of these color combinations has been preserved, even if none of the kimonos has been preserved. The descriptions in the literature and picture scrolls nonetheless provide a good point of departure for the reconstruction of the jūnihitoe kimono, which consisted of a pair of long red/bluish-red hakama trousers; an innermost robe, worn as an under kimono, and several layers of uniformly-colored thin silk kimonos; an over-kimono and a shorter outer kimono, both of these made of thick, patterned brocade.

The names used in connection with kasané no irome were an important part of Heian culture, where there was concerted effort to unify mankind with the seasons, nature and the moment itself. The color combinations could also be reserved for certain ceremonies, and donning a wrong color combination was embarrassing and could be devastating for a lady-in-waiting’s reputation.

In our present day, it is only seldom that this classic formal court attire is worn, and this occurs chiefly on special occasions like coronations and weddings.

Kasane no iromé were often named after plants, with a relation to the season. For example, cherry blossoms in the springtime and fall foliage and chrysanthemums in the autumn. Here and now, in the month of November, for example, one could wear the following combinations:

MAPLE FALL FOLIAGE (kaede momiji) Bluish-red (suo) under-kimono in five layers: Red (kurenai), light withered yellow (asaki kuchiba), yellow (ki), light green (asaki ao) and light green (asaki ao).

SUMAC FALL FOLIAGE (haji momiji) Red (kurenai) under-kimono in five layers: bluish-red (suo), red (kurenai), light withered yellow (asaki kuchiba), paler withered yellow (usui asaki kuchiba) and yellow (ki).

VENERABLE EIGHT LAYERED ROBE CHRYSANTHEMUM (kiku no onzoyatsu) Green (ao) under-kimono in eight-layers: White (shiro), white (shiro), white (shiro), light bluish red (asaki suo), light bluish red (asaki suo), bluish red (suo), bluish red (suo), maroon (fukaki suo), with a yellow (ki) over-kimono and a bluish red (suo) outer-kimono, both made of thick brocade.

Several layers could be colored with the same color, since the hue changes when several silk kimonos are layered on top of each other. All things considered, the color scheme was extraordinarily cultured and refined, and colors could be light or dark in various ways. Accordingly, many of the colors had floral names that were associated with the season. And then there is the Japanese color ao, which can signify both blue and green, although one could emphasize that what we have before us is actually green by calling the color ‘green green’ (midori-ao).

Today, this sensibility about colors and seasons can be seen in the modern use of the kimono, and among other contexts, in connection with the tea ceremony. Here, there are indeed special rules for what colors and what motifs one can wear and when one can wear these. And it’s crucial to wear the motifs at just the right time, so that you don’t show up wearing a kimono with cherry blossoms while the trees are in full bloom, but rather just before this happens, so that you will be offering a presentiment of what is to come. This is, quite precisely, a sign of this mono no aware, the sense for the impermanence of things, which manifests itself in our modern time.

Ingrid Kæseler: Connections to the world

by Christiane Finsen. Curator, Esbjerg Art Museum.
Translated by Dan A. Marmorstein

‘Messhu’ is the Japanese word for net, web or tissue. This term embraces Ingrid Kæseler's praxis in so many ways. At the same time, Messhu is the title of the current exhibition project, where Kæseler, together with her Japanese colleague Akiko Ikeuchi, is coupling its meaning to the conception of ‘the mesh’ - an absolute connectedness, an infinite network that conjoins everything and everyone across time and space.

Arguably, Kæseler's point of departure is color and line, but her artistic investigations are always revolving around unveiling the mere essence and potentials of these painterly phenomena. Accordingly, she is not preoccupied with them as defining character traits about something, but rather with what they are, essentially, and with what they are doing, in and of themselves. Hence, her focus hovers around the materiality of the color and the extension of the line, the thread, or the band – around the phenomena's distinctively own dynamic and performative qualities.

Whether we are focusing on the individual works or on her large-scale commissioned projects, Kæseler’s painting installations are always addressed, altogether directly, to the space they are part of. But at the same time, they are expanding these spaces, by continuously forming new provisional spatialities. This happens, for example, when she – in a variety of ways – detaches the line and the color from the surface and allows bands of colors, painted directly onto the room’s walls, to continue out onto the floor and down from the ceiling, as dyed gauze banners or semi-transparent walls of fabric. Without the artist’s intervention, the color is allowed, so to speak, to act in itself and also as itself when it seeps down along the gauze and consequently condenses in some spots, while almost vanishing in other places. Inevitably, Kæseler’s comprehensive spatial interventions activate our bodies and define the way we move around in the space. However, her art works not only foster a symbiotic and reciprocally formative relation between space and viewer; they also incite us to sense ourselves – to sense just how we are connected to our surroundings and how our own movements continuously contribute to shaping the context in which we find ourselves. In a subtle way, time also becomes an important part of her works, inasmuch as the works are not only present as physical expressions, here and now. Moreover, they are functioning partly as traces left behind from a process that has taken place, and partly as variations on future possibilities.

In her current artworks, Kæseler creates new connections between time and space and simultaneously widens the color’s relation to our own body, by reaching back to time-honored Japanese handcraft traditions and reinterpreting the kimonos that Japanese women were wearing more than a thousand years ago. Taking her mark in historical recipes for the plant-dyeing of silk, she has reconstructed some of the color nuances that have traditionally been linked to the change of seasons. In successive layers of exclusive fabrics, the women were accordingly dressed, in a symbolic respect, in iris, chrysanthemum, azalea, full moon acer, yellow maple, or other kinds of flowers and plants. Since the colors do not in any way resemble the plants’ actual colors, this was just as much an abstract, culturally coded manifestation, where the color in itself functioned as a sign – as a sign that the woman could use to signal her connectedness with the surrounding world and with nature’s current state of being.

For the Messhu exhibition, Ingrid Kæseler has created a conceptual landscape of trees and flowers in nylon gauze, dyed in the manner of the Japanese kimonos. In the work series, Botanic Performance, which consists of open constructions that simultaneously trigger reminiscences of stylized ikebana cabinets as well as of rack cabinets filled with interbraided cables, Kæseler has arranged rows of stringently composed color sequences. The serial accumulation and repetition is interrupted by incisions and holes, which serve to unveil the individual color surfaces and give rise to a partial transparency. In this way, she is laying bare the individual layers and, at the same time, letting us sense how the partially broken meshes of colors alter their expression all according to our movement and our position in relation to them. The result is both a bodily dialogue with the artworks and a wireless connection to the space and the world of which we are a part.

Akiko Ikeuchi: Seeing the world through space between silk threads

by Ingrid Kæseler
Translated by Dan A. Marmorstein

Akiko Ikeuchi transforms silk thread into ethereal installations suspended in space. Through networks constituted by thousands of knots, she manages to form thread installation works, where everything is interconnected in one unity.

Through the delicate thread works, her practice explores our relationship with space. The space between the threads takes on major importance as the work engenders a relationship between the surroundings and the material. When the work happens to be suspended in the air, you are also going to be looking at the air while the work changes its character, depending on your point of view.

Akiko Ikeuchi mainly works with silk thread that is tied and cut in an accumulation in such a way that it appears weightless and intangible. In this process of repetition, she maps time, place and memory, forming works where everything is in balance. The contact between the silk threads and the surrounding architecture is an important factor. The threads connect with the architecture, and thereby with the society and the external world. The supporting threads of the works follow the compass’s directions, and lines 'penetrating' the walls serve to render invisible things visible. The silk thread is twisted in the manner of a spiral and it changes direction in every single knot, establishing and unleashing spiral energies within the work and the exhibition room. The installation works have centers from where they spread to their surroundings, extending into the environment, where they establish a delicate balance that becomes tangible in the thread works. They are influenced by any movement whatsoever, even by vibrations from far away and by the breath of people present within the exhibition space. Slight changes in humidity make them expand or contract, contributing to the dynamic behavior of the works. Through a fusion of silk, air and light, the works shift in perspective: from visible to invisible, from material to ephemeral.


Ingrid Kæseler - Akiko Ikeuchi (2023) MESHHU, Published by Lenaukæseler, ISBN 978-87-975001-0-1

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