Veronika Schäpers

In the Skyscraper

Veronika Schäpers

In the Skyscraper



Edition Size





bicchu-ganpi paper




Artist Book


14.57 × 5.91 in

$ 2,200.00


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The idea for this book is based on a radio report from July 29, 2010, that told about finding a mummified corpse in Tokyo’s Adachi ward. It was the body of Sogen Kato, said to be the oldest Tokyoite alive. In order to prepare a celebration at the “Day of the aged“ in mid September, public officers of the Tokyo authorities tried to visit him, but were rejected several times by his relatives living in the same house. Finally, the officers called the police who discovered the mummy in his bed on the ground floor of his house.

Three days later, the authorities found out that the oldest woman alive, Fusa Furuya, had disappeared as well. She was registered as living with her daughter, who paid her health insurance regularly, but Fusa had not been seen since 1986. A systematic search began, and the officers were told to not leave until they had seen the allegedly living person. Altogether, 400,000 cases of wrongly registered people and 400 cases of pension fraud were uncovered by the end of the year, which led to great disconcertment in Japan.

For this book, I looked into 30 cases between 2010 and 2011, in which relatives had hidden their parents, aunts or uncles in their house in order to receive their pension. It turned out that in many cases, the delinquents had never earned their own money and were still living in the house of their parents. The death of their parents exposed to them their own dependence, inability to maintain an income, and failure to take control of their lives. The long list of these cases is tragic, but at the same time also rather comic, because the explanations and excuses are often exactly the same.

Heiko Michael Hartmann, a German author with whom I spoke about these cases of pension fraud, wrote a short story about this topic. Taking the perspective of an officer who is told to examine these cases, Hartmann describes how this officer visits the house of an unemployed cultural scientist and finds the corpse of her mummified mother. The daughter becomes more and more dependent on her mother and finally sees no other way out, but hiding the corpse.

I printed Hartmann’s story on four single pages of thin Ganpi paper, alluding to newspaper typography. These papers are fold into sheets of the same paper with black stripes of barrier tape printed on their back side. A fifth page contains the translation of the documented cases as well as the imprint. All five wrapped papers are placed next to each other in a big cardboard cover. On this cardboard, I have printed all 30 cases of pension fraud, always in the same order: name and age of the delinquent, name and age of the dead, total amount of wrongly received pension, place where the corpse was found, and finally a quotation of the excuse. The wrapped cover is placed into a stronger cardboard, on which I have printed two roughly pixelled photographs. These pictures show the house in which Sogen Kato was found in 2010, and where his family is still living today. The case is held by a self-adherent so called Gecko tape, on which title of the book and name of the author are printed. — Veronika Schapers

Heiko Michael Hartmann: Im Hochhaus (In the skyscraper).

Letterpress Print from polymer plates and barrier tape on Bicchu-Ganpi paper. 5 fold sheets in a wrapped cover from GA file, with cases of pension fraud in Japan 2010 and 2011, printed in silkscreen.
Case made of silkscreen printed GA file. Banderole made from Gecko tape, title printed in silkscreen. 15 x 37 cm (closed), 103 x 37 cm (open) or 5.91 x 14.57 inches (closed),40.55 x 14.57 inches.
Edition of 36 Arabic numbered und 4 Roman numbered copies.
Tokyo, 2011.

H.M. Hartmann / Im Hochhaus – In the Skyscraper on Vimeo