Lecture at Städelschule

“It took me quite some time to understand that we are only ever seeing one side of the moon. And even longer why.”

“Compared to human history, we have known the other side as if we’d just opened our eyes for the first time. Being born after the first images of the “far side” had been taken, it made me wonder what it must have been for the people who realised that they would never be certain to know what the other side looked like. Or even if there was an other side. I couldn’t help thinking that when the first real images were sent to earth, the other side of the moon shrank. All magical possibilities were reduced to facts.”

“Having lived in Japan for a third of my life, I am beginning to see the vastness of the unknown side. In fact, I am beginning to see my own native culture in that way. However, unlike my own native culture, the unknown here seems to be embraced as a space for possibilities. Clear definitions are accepted to be just one of many possible ways of perceiving the world around us.”

At the end of the 7th century, the empress of Japan did something striking. She had a shrine deconstructed only to have an exact copy reconstructed right next to it. What would become one of the world’s most influential rituals had begun.

Today, some 1300 years later, this ritual is still repeated, alternating on two adjacent sites, every 20 years. The currently occupied site, strangely imprisoned in the now, is set free by the absence on the other where the traces of the past indicate the future. In a permanent state of transition, the shrine is both old and new…

Moving between rituals and language, art and geography, fashion and food, the lecture looks at absence as a defining concept for a culture of permanent transition and discusses some of FBA’s attempts at exploring what this could entail for architecture and urbanism.


The Other Side of the Moon






Lecture at Städelschule