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This is just beautiful.

Yasuaki Onishi’s installation is titled “reverse of volume rg” and it will be on display at Rice Gallery until 24th June. Sadly, given the fact that the rupee is at an all-time low against the dollar, it will not be possible for me to pop by and see it for myself so I’ll just have to live with what the internet lets me see of it.

Watching Onishi make the work here, it looks strangely simple. Stack up packing boxes so that they look like a screen shot of an inexpertly-played game of Tetris. Drape translucent plastic over the boxes. String up what looks like fishing line so that it looks a bit like a series of washing lines. Then dab hot glue on those lines. Watch them blob, stretch, thin and drop on the plastic. It’s like Jackson Pollack’s blobs becoming 3D, black and turning into a suspension system.  Do the hot glue bit a few thousand times and once the glue hardens, the plastic hangs in shape even when you take the packing boxes out because of the hardened drips. Et voila! Mountains that defy gravity by not being rooted and hovering instead.

It’s so simple and so, so clever because Onishi packs so much into glue and a few sheets of crumpled plastic. Through the delicate quality of the work, he reminds the viewer of the fragility of the environment. From one angle, “reverse of volume rg” looks like a mountain made of light and shadow, but from another, it feels like you’re inside a magical cave. Like nature, it shape-shifts, and yet it’s created out of inorganic materials. For all its beauty, it doesn’t have nature’s colours and is instead in black and white, like a vintage photograph of something. Onishi’s Japanese heritage of calligraphy gets a little hat-tip when you see the inky black strands of hot glue and how they make these squiggly forms on the plastic. I was watching the glue gun dab hot glue on the transparent wire, and remembering the lightness and control that calligraphy demands from a practitioner.

Since India’s relationship with Vimeo is a bit unpredictable (who knows when the website will again be “banned”?), I’ve snicked a few screengrabs from the making-of film that I’d linked to earlier. If your internet allows it, do see the film. Onishi’s process is fascinating.

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