2016 - 2017
Laser cut vellum in Petri dishes, various lab tools in the drawers, and deaccessioned library card catalog cabinets.
Approximately 45" (L) x 35" (H) x 30" (W)
Observations made during my residency at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard led me to investigate what has been lost in the progress of science and medicine. This work led me to consider the Edwin Smith Papyrus, the earliest known surgical treatise on trauma, from 1,600 BC in Egypt, including remedies for injuries, fractures, wounds, dislocations, and tumors. On this papyrus, rational science is not seen as being at odds with magic, and on its verso, magic spells are recorded as legitimate medical treatments.
Fascinated with this papyrus, I created a number of works combining images of magic spells. Library explores the interconnectedness between knowledge and belief, while bringing forth forgotten ideas—like the magic spells once considered legitimate. What have we lost? What do we still believe? What do we hope to find? These ancient spells—indecipherable to the untrained eye—operate also as formal visual elements, like technical scientific writing today that can sometimes seem at once beautiful and difficult for a layperson to understand.
Library is housed in deaccessioned card catalog cabinets from the Harvard Fine Arts Library, an object and system that’s also obsolete in our time. It is a lost format in research as well. The laser cut pieces in the Petri dishes are based on the magic spells from the ancient Egypt. These “broken” spells inside the Petri dishes resemble something organic and living, calling for closer inspection from the viewers, yet never revealing what they are from looking—what are they? Current lab tools such as pipets are also housed inside the drawers.
Growing up in a suburb of Chiba prefecture in Japan, a town library was my favorite hang-out spot after school. At the college, I used card catalogs to look for books for my papers. Now, the physical card catalogs are mostly obsolete, and the card catalog cabinets are no longer being used. I work at the library. At the library where I work, these empty card catalog cabinets just sat, and one day we finally had to get rid of them. I inherited a few cabinets and used them for this installation. I thought it would be a perfect furniture to house these magic spells—also obsolete, forgotten, and lost.