Artwork with water-repellent effect exhibited at 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT
“furumai” is a polysemic word that simultaneously means “behaviour” and “dance;” a serious connotation of individuals’ conduct within the society, and a light-hearted act of playfulness. This double-entendre manifests Takram’s attitude towards the issue of Water.
Through the intervention of a dozen paper plates on which water droplets play around, we hope that people become aware once more the joy of its existence and rarity of its pureness. A drop of water bestows life to the plates as one encounters with heretofore unimaginable movements and behavior of water.
Water dances freely on each of the 12 individually designed plates, sometimes as if it were a whimsical shape-shifting amoeba or even a microscopic football, rolling helter-skelter across a field.
A single set of furumai mainly consists of, from the bottom, a concrete base, a metal bar, a wooden dish and a paper plate. The concrete base on the ground is 300 mms high. It serves not only as a foundation, but also as a step on which children can stand and have better access to the plate. The 900 mm-long metal bar is set onto the base and is 5 mms in diameter and thus soft and pliable. This allows us to easily tilt it around so as to control the movement of water drop on the plate attached to the bar. The principal body is actually a disposable paper plate. The wooden dish thus adds strength and inertia to the weak and light plates for better handling.
The reason why we decided to fix each plate onto a base is that we can maintain certain public nature to it. If it were not fixed and free to be carried around, one person may play for a long time to himself. In this way, however, everyone around the plate can enjoy whilst someone else is playing with it. On the wall along which stand the 12 sets, we have a silhouette of a child playing with furumai, as standing on the base. It was designed by Mr. Taku Satoh and it serves as the instructions to its usage.
We employ the superhydrophobic (or water-repellent) technology in order to accentuate fascinating movements of water. Coating a plate with fine particles makes a water drop look as if it is standing on the surface of the plate and thus it glides around over the plate. In other words, we have applied an extraordinarily strong version of water-proof coating, similar to those we use for shoes and outdoor clothing. Such a special treatment draws forth the characteristics of water that are often hidden in nature, namely viscosity and surface tension.
Once put on the plate, a water drop behaves in a rare fashion that we wouldn’t usually see in everyday lives. People thus tend to stick around the plates like all possessed. Even some grown-ups squeal and have fun with their children.
The 12 plates are playgrounds or stages for water. What we would like visitors to appreciate is not the plates themselves, but the different expressions of water accentuated by them. This is the kind of art piece that comes into real existence only through interacting with someone. Each of these plates has unique design, from abstract and geometric patterns to nonfigurative images; from shapes that are miniaturizations of something that are gigantic to forms that are reminiscent of a microscopic world. To many people, it must be a new experience to find out how an ordinary drop of water depicts completely different scenes in our minds.
A water drop glides around on a plate, sometimes like a tiny and mysterious creature walking with a wagging tail, or like ameba that repeats dividing. Its protean, ever-changing behaviour even reminds us of a playful child dancing freely on a stage. Some plates required more than 25 procedures – such as surface preparation, water-repellent coating, modeling components and colouring them, printing, decal transferring, filing and so on – in order to draw forth the most beautiful charm of a water drop on that particular stage and its movement to be presented at its best.
We hope that playing with furumai gives people a chance to have another look at water that appears virtually anywhere in our lives, in forms of sea, rain, tears and so on – or a chance to discover the new dimension of water that usually seems ordinary and familiar in everyday life.
We worked as a part of the creative team for the water exhibition, directed by Mr. Taku Satoh and Mr. Shin’ichi Takemura. When we held a workshop where we showed the team what we can do with water to have fun, a water repellent dish was one of many ideas. That was roughly half a year prior to the exhibition. Sato-san found the dish very entertaining, and developed the concept further to have it come with a solid base and a slim support. That was how we started the project. All told, he designed the concrete base and the graphic on the wall, while we were in charge of the bar and what are above it, including each design of the 12 paper plates.
These 12 plates were deliberately chosen from among over 300 prototypes that were crafted during 6 months of development. What are the possible designs of a paper plate to fully draw forth some of the best movements and interesting behaviour of water? To answer this question, we made different variations by adjusting the dimensions of each component to an accuracy of less than 1 mm, and by fabricating the same shape with different materials, so as to investigate minutely the most suitable shape, size and expression. The seemingly excessive amount of time and effort we have spent to create all these plates was in itself a process to rediscover the beauty and fascinating aspect of water that was supposed to be familiar and common – a process of learning and play. We hope that the visitors would also give more than a passing thought to wonders of ubiquitous water and its preciousness.
Motohide Hatanaka (ex-Takram), Kinya Tagawa
“water” exhibition 2007-2008 at 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, Tokyo