18 × 6.25 in
Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
Bainbridge Island Museum of Art
School of the Museum of Fine Arts (SMFA) at Tufts
University of California, Irvine (UCI)
Yoko Tawada’s text “Jin-shin Jiko” begins with a moving train, feeding the rhythm into our ears with every gap between the tracks – da-dám, da-dám; then it comes to a stop because it is forced to stop: a human accident.
Building on the Japanese term for personal injury, “Jin-shin Jiko,” or “human accident,” Yoko Tawada plays with words and syllables relating to body and soul, self and person, human and corpse, rhythm and silence. She gives a sound to the fast, orderly arrangement of local public transport in Tokyo’s subways – a machinery to which every passenger is subject, and one that is constantly being tested and perfected.
Inspired by the station maps for individual lines that are posted in the corresponding train stations, the Japanese text is arranged vertically and reads from right to left, alternating with the English translation, which is set horizontally on the reverse of each page. The two different reading directions create a dual format that is also repeated in the photographs preceding and following the text; the book can be viewed and read in landscape as well as in portrait format. The images show scenes from Tokyo’s subways, illustrating not only their inescapable-seeming closeness, but also the countless measures taken in the last few years to prevent incidents involving personal injury – such as barriers along the edges of the platforms, colored lights at the ends of the platforms, and emergency telephones.
Due to their transformation into binary images, the photographs seem two-dimensional and strongly abstract, an effect that is further reinforced by the transparency of the thin ganpi paper and the resulting overlapping effects. Some of the photos, printed in gray, are underlaid by colored areas in the dominant shades of Japanese subways: gray like the concrete of the tunnels, and yellow like the many signal stripes on the platforms.
The binding, made from Mitsumata cardboard dyed with coarse pigments, is folded at the fore-edge and printed with the title and a circular symbol: the emblem of the individual subway lines. The centered cutout shows parts of Tokyo’s system map, which is printed in a hidden spot on the inside of the jacket.
The book jacket has a used ticket tucked into it; they are protected by a transparent sleeve made of acrylic glass.
Idea, design and execution: Veronika Schäpers
Letterpressed with polymer plates in gray, partially underlaid with yellow and anthracite.
Text in Japanese and English, printed on old Toshaban-Genshi.
English translation: Margaret Mitsutani.
Binding made from Tsuchi-iri-Mitsumata paper, a Mitsumata paper dyed with coarse pigments.
Jacket made from First Vintage paper with a subway ticket for the Tokyo rail network tucked into it.
Acrylic sleeve with two-tone screen printing.
24 pages. 16 x 46 cm.
Edition: 38 copies numbered with Arabic numerals and 6 copies numbered with Roman numerals.
Karlsruhe, October 2018.