14.25 × 3.4 in
CollectionLimited Edition Artists Books
Herzog August Bibiothek
Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Kunstbibliothek
Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
The New York Public Library (NYPL)
The University of Chicago Library
The University of the Witwatersrand, Wits Art Museum (WAM), Jack Ginsberg Centre for Book Arts
Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg, Zentralbibliothek
University of Southern California (USC)
During his three journeys to Japan in 1999, 2002, and 2003, the Berlin-based poet Durs Gruenbein described his impressions in a diary of haiku. (The title refers both to Junichiro Tanizaki’s book “In Praise of Shadows” and to Gruenbein’s personal experience in Japan in 2003 when Tokyo was hit by a typhoon.)
From the 92 unpublished haiku I received from Gruenbein, I selected 28 for this book. They reflect the limited amount of time in Gruenbein’s journeys as well as his concentration on the Japanese east coast and are like snapshots of urban life in the big cities. Every time a reference to nature is made, the reader recognizes how man has interfered and changed his natural environment. This interaction of metropolitan everyday life and this traditional poetic form required a special material. Therefore, I asked Hideo Ogawa to produce a handmade Japanese paper especially for this book: It is a fine mitsumata paper that is dyed grayish-brown by earthen pigments and creates an impression of fair-faced concrete.
The 街 machi character (city, street) on the right-hand side appears heavy and almost static, whereas 影 kage (shadow) is more distorted and seems to glide out of the paper on the left. I sliced the accordion fold printed paper horizontally, in order to divide every page into four squares. Then I printed the two characters in a lighter gray on five pages each and then cut them into pieces of 8,5 x 36 cm. This is not a random measurement but refers to tanzaku, a slim, upright paper strip, on which Japanese poets traditionally used to write. With letterpress, I printed one haiku on each of the 28 paper strips, in the German original as well as in its Japanese translation by Yuji Nawata. On the reverse side of each tanzaku, one can find data, when and where the haiku was written. This data not only reflects the route of the trip, it also explains parts of the poems.
I wove the printed tanzaku into the sliced paper breadth. When opening the accordion folded piece like a book, the reader notices two pages of haiku alternating with two pages of data containing place and time. Reading the book this way, we see only parts of the two Chinese characters 影 and 街. Opening the piece in its whole width, however, there emerge two other possibilities: either we detect all haiku and both Chinese characters in their full beauty (composed of lighter and darker gray), or we see a composition of all places and times of origin, mixed with parts of the calligraphy in dark gray. By dividing the whole piece into squares, I tried to underline the intended construction of the book, which is contrasting with the picturesque Chinese characters.
To protect the book against dust, book and case are wrapped in a cover of clear vinyl, tied with a rubber string. This simple packaging underlines the fact that the origin of this book was a travel diary.
— Veronika Schäpers
Two calligraphies by Akiko Kojima.
Concertina with 28 woven paper strips.
Slipcase with printed title and scaled-down eki-stampu. Cover made from clear Vinyl.
3.4 inches/8.6 cm x 14.25 inches/36 cm (closed),
101.5 inches/258 cm x 14.25 inches/36 cm (open).
Edition of 35 Arabic numbered copies and 6 Roman numbered copies. Tokyo, 2004.