Support Hyperallergic’s independent arts journalism.
The photographs of Kito Fujio will make you wish you had grown up in Japan, which is evidently home to some of the world’s most enviable playgrounds. Since 2014, Fujio has been traveling around his country, documenting its old playground equipment that takes on massive, delightful forms, from slides shaped as giant animals to jungle gyms that resemble spiny monsters half-buried in the earth. These clever designs are unique but also ubiquitous: Fujio has published a series of five photo books on the subject, with the latest one released earlier this year.
All captured at night, the equipment appears as eerie structures, isolated and dramatically illuminated. Fujio lit each one as if in a studio, even setting up lights inside cavernous playhouses so they seem to beam with unseen life. No children are present, making for particularly melancholic scenes of sites designed for carefree recreation. In one image, a massive robot with shining eyes stretches its arms — one of which doubles as a slide — as if eagerly waiting for kids to pay it a visit.
The sense of abandonment that permeates each image is fitting: these are old, deteriorating playthings whose first visitors may now have offspring of their own. And many of them are slowly disappearing to make way for new architectural projects.
“I used to take pictures of Japanese rooftop amusement parks in the past, but in Japan, the city changes quickly,” Fujio told Hyperallergic. “The rooftop amusement park disappeared with the repair of old department stores.”
Playgrounds in Tokyo are particularly at risk, as urban planning for the forthcoming 2020 Olympics is reshaping much of the capital city. A magnificent red octopus Fujio documented in the western suburb of Chofu, for instance — whose tentacles curled to create pockets perfect for hiding — was destroyed last year. (Octopi, it turns out, are especially common sights in parks, apparently mass produced by the same company since the 1960s). Mostly made of cement, they’ve at least survived the passage of time well, only requiring the occasional layer of paint to look fresh again.
The individuals who came up with these innovative spaces are uncredited, but as Spoon & Tamago points out, one famous Japanese artist who created sculptural concrete forms as playground equipment was Isamu Noguchi. His first built playground at Yokohama featured massive concrete mounds with dips for children to hide inside; one of the most outstanding features of his Moerenuma Park in Sapporo is the conical concrete slide he designed. Noguchi actually conceived of a number of playgrounds, but many, unfortunately, were never realized, from this vision for New York City to this one for Honolulu. Some of the more abstract equipment that Fujio has photographed actually brings to mind the organic forms of Noguchi’s work, featuring spirals and gently undulating lines. But whether elegant or comical, all embody the same spirit of the artist’s practice, representing sculpture as a site for everyday use.
Kito Fujio’s photo books documenting Japanese playgrounds are available through his website.
While staying as a house guest, a naked Le Corbusier defiled Gray’s minimalist, color-blocked walls that were only restored in 2015.
Keep your friends close and your bad art friends closer.
Hear from Holly Jean Buck, Carolina Caycedo and David de Rozas, Simon Denny, Elizabeth Hoover, Renee Kemp-Rotan, Joseph Kunkel, and more at this free public event.
In his new book, Tyler Green argues that landscape was Emerson’s method of glorifying territories shaped and bordered by white men.
“The 52-hertz Whale,” which sings a song at a frequency no other whale uses, is a social media phenomenon. But this film shows that the phenomenon says more about us than whales.
EFA Open Studios offers a portal into the creative habitats of over 65 artists working in Manhattan’s longest-running studio program, including Dannielle Tegeder, Wafaa Bilal, Cui Fei, and Anina Major.
The unvarnished photographs celebrate the lives, beauty, and resilience of an oppressed group at Chile’s social peripheries in the 1980s, and the series was recently acquired by MOCA in Los Angeles.
51 international publishers and galleries showcase their latest editions in prints and artists’ books at this free public fair, which is fully online this year.
The University of Virginia researchers wrote that the data “provides compelling evidence that these symbols are associated with hate.”
We are waiting for spectacle and when the quotidian, yet incongruous actions occur I wonder whether there is any real payoff coming.
Tanega’s approach to mark-making comes across as stream of consciousness, as if she’s engaged in a conversation with herself.