What a strange sight: Blue lines covering everything from the floor to the walls and all over the ceiling. If you look close enough at these gigantic blue roots, you realise that it’s all made of plastic rails, more precisely, of blue plastic toy rails we used to play with as kids! And if you look at the patterns longer, you recognise model stations and mountains alongside the rail tracks – one big diorama. You’d eventually find a pinhole-sized goat on top of the model mountain! Paramodel are Yasuhiko Hayashi and Yusuke Nakano, an artist duo from Eastern Osaka, and they unfold such 3D, graffiti-like patterns on any surface: not only on the white walls of a gallery or the floors of a back-street factory, they extend their haptic art all over a Japanese onsen tub and don’t stop with even covering the water surface of a pond. PingMag was eager to meet up with the paramodel duo for a chat during their preparations for the Dialogue with the city exhibition in Yokohama.
Written by Kaori Nishida
In the making of getting everything covered with railway tracks, from the ceiling to the walls and down to the floor, even on the column.
When visiting Paramodel at the BankART Studio NYK, in the Yokohama Bay area, we found them in the midst of their preparation for the Dialogue with the city exhibition: With just a few days to count down before the opening, how can you possibly manage to complete all these parts???
Well… we hope we can. This one is relatively small scale compared to other exhibitions, so it should be okay… But if not, we learnt to phrase it as a “production-in-progress-show”. It might be fun for people to see us putting the rails up, you know. We were sponsored with these Plarail railway parts from the TOMY Company, Ltd. – and they come in truck lorries. We have no idea how many parts we are using…(supported by: TOMY Company, Ltd.)
At the Dialogue with the city exhibition in Yokohama: landscapes on the wall.
An ultra miniature farm!
Your artist duo’s name, “PARAMODEL”, is kind of a spoof word of ‘plamodel’?
Yes, but also many other words too. Originally we used to make flip books [PARA-PARA-MANGA in Japanese], and animations. When we officially had the idea of working together, we realised that everything we’d been doing could be summed up by the phrase “PARA”. Our works are kind of ‘para-dox’ of all sorts, and we are two people running in ‘para-llel’. In a way, what we are doing is on the same track as those kids that make a diorama or make-believe plays. You know, one kid drawing on the street and the other kid keeps on drawing on top of it, and in the end it adds up to one big strange imagery world. They are totally immersed in their imaginary ‘para-dise’, like we were as kids. This made us name ourselves “PARA-MODEL”, combining two image parts into one as if making a ‘pla-MODEL’. That may sound a little old-fashioned and like the name of a back-street factory. We liked it.
You have been making works in various places. How about this night scenery (above) – where was that?
It’s in my family house, we built the whole set inside a back-street factory in Eastern Osaka. Though everything is visible in this picture, it was in fact pitch dark. We put lights on the toy trains that were running on the rails, and then took this photo in a two-hour long exposure mode.
This piece (above) was built on the surface of a huge garden pond at the Okazaki Mindscape Museum in Aichi. The visitors walk through the museum’s indoor exhibition, and at the very end, our ‘pla-rail’ would lead them out to the pond to our ‘pla-rail’ landscape work. We let the ‘pla-rail’ and the artificial lawn quietly float on the pond. This one was pretty heavy in size and work, but we loved it.
So, you also created art works on top of the SAWADA MANSION: It’s a well known apartment house where the owner built rooms on top of each other by himself – with absolutely no plan whatsoever. Its unlimited growth resembles paramodel’s art…
We actually never had any plan to build our rail track works on the mansion. When we had an exhibition close by, our friend took us there. Then, there you go, the magical dream castle! I just had to ask the owner, and he welcomed us. So we made it on the roof top, and the residents and the owner’s grand children helped us…
… children! We heard that your workshops are so popular…
Yes, we make them with kids in places like gymnastic halls. During the workshops, we shoot a video and take photos of the whole process from a fixed point. Then, we fiddle with the images, cut and paste, put more people in and layout the rails in different places. If you look very carefully, you will notice the same people standing in different places… We’re kind of building them on our desktop, too.
It all started from an empty hall… （ｃ）paramodel /© and photo by paramodel
‘Pla-rail’ with paramodel vol.03 at the Shikitsu Primary School in Osaka, 2005. （ｃ）paramodel /© and photo by paramodel
Variations… （ｃ）paramodel /© and photo by paramodel
…and more variations. （ｃ）paramodel /© and photo by paramodel
Detail of a “Tomica” cutlet – including mini truck!
Your “Shinsekai” series as part of “The Hundred Landscape of GOKURAKU SCENE”, again, takes places in quite unusual spots…
‘SHINSEKAI’ [meaning ‘NEW WORLD’ in direct translation], is the name of the red light district in Osaka. It is a ‘GOKURAKU’ [meaning ‘paradise’] scenery series, with photographs of such paradise-like moments, like when you are relaxing in a good spa. Well, we Japanese all resort to the spa for a bit of relaxing, as you know. The “Yae-katsu split cutlet bar”, was set up in one of the uncountable cutlet bars in Osaka. There, we served Tomica, the mini cars manufactured by TOMY Company, Ltd., – fried and skewered! We also had a “Tomi-sushi” version with sushi being served on a Tomica mini car.
And you’re now developing a new toy. We’d love to see that when it’s finished… Luckily, as we are still right at your preparations for the Dialogue with the city exhibition at Yokohama Bay area’s BankART Studio NYK, we should also focus a bit on this interesting exhibition: Organised by young and hot curator Makoto Hashimoto, it also introduces a bunch of upcoming artists, such as Souhei Nishimura (who makes enormous wonderland like maps consisting of literally thousands of snapshots). Right now Makoto stepped in and joined us. He’s in charge of everything regarding the exhibition, so we thought he should give us his opinion about paramodel’s works as well: Makoto, how did you come across their amazing work?
It is certainly interesting how young Japanese artists depict this ‘city’ topic as inextricable part of our life… there are so many interesting aspects. And I found them just when I thought we had seen enough of all these recent works dealing with the ‘city’: Paramodel’s works, at a glance, are visually stunning. But in contrary to their plastic and inorganic looks, all of this is the result of a well-thought-out concept, but also of painstakingly manual work and a sweaty devotion. This perfectly applies to the very existence of a grown ‘city’ itself.
curator Makoto Hashimoto
In the exhibition “Dialogue with the city”, many other young up and coming Japanese artists, such as Souhei Nishimura, who makes one enormous wonder-land like map with literally thousands of snapshots were introduced.
As for paramodel’s ever spreading graffiti-like rail track canvas, they are currently joining the Beautiful New World: Contemporary Visual Culture from Japan exhibition in Beijing and Guangzhou that just opened two days ago. Their rail track paradise may grow unlimited!
Thank you so much, paramodel and Makoto Hashimoto! You guys are great!