Books On Books Collection – Marian Macken

Ise Jingū: Beginning Repeated (2011)

Ise Jingū: Beginning Repeated (2011)
Marian Macken
Black Cotona bookcloth portfolio, with embossed base; 61 sheets of handmade washi paper, made from kozo, with watermark images. H245 x W330 x D80 mm. Papermaking undertaken at Primrose Paper Arts, Sydney, with assistance from Jill Elias. Unique. Acquired from the artist, 5 February 2021. Photos of the work: Books On Books Collection. Displayed with permission of the artist.

Ise Jingū is a Shinto shrine complex in the Mie Prefecture, Japan, consisting of the Kōtai Kaijijingū, or Naikū (Inner Shrine), and the Toyouke Kaijingū, or Gekū (Outer Shrine). “Once every 20 years, since the reign of Emperor Tenmu in the seventh century, every fence and building is completely rebuilt on an identical adjoining site, a practice of transposition known as shikinen-zōkan. While empty and awaiting the next iteration of building, the unused site or kodenchi sits silently, covered with an expanse of pebbles” (Binding Space, p. 101). For Macken, this ritualistic rebuilding poses architecture as performative process rather than as inert object; it “manifests the replication of a beginning, of a process” (“Reading time”, p. 100).

What better suited phenomenon to be captured with book art?

Referring to the shikinen-zōkan process, Ise Jingū: Beginning Repeated consists of 61 loose sheets with a watermarked image within each, the number reflecting the 61 iterations of the shrine up until the making of Ise Jingū: Beginning Repeated. The watermark is a perspective image based on Yoshio Watanabe’s photograph of the East Treasure House of the Inner Shrine, taken in 1953 on the occasion of the 59th rebuilding. The contrast of the reduction of a photo to a drawing with the subtle embodiment of that image in kozo entices reflection on the phenomenon of representation.

By shifting the image’s placement on every other sheet to mirror its placement on the preceding one, Macken makes the reader’s page turning replicate the process of shikinen-zōkan. As one sheet yields to the next, the differences between them, arising from the washi papermaking process, reflect the subtle variations within similarity arising in the shrine’s transposition from one site to the other. When the last sheet is removed from the portfolio, the position of the temple supports are revealed.

Macken’s book Binding Space: The Book as Spatial Practice offers further insight into Ise Jingū: Beginning Repeated, but more than that, it provides penetrating discussion of various forms of book art and specific works such as Olafur Eliasson’s Your House, Michael Snow’s Cover to Cover and Johann Hybschmann’s Book of Space. Although the book’s principal argument is why and how the artist book can serve as an important tool for design, documentation and critique of architecture, Macken’s perceptive descriptions show how to observe materiality and its functioning and understand how they contribute to the making of art. Reading Macken’s book will sharpen the ability of any reader or viewer to appreciate book art.

Exhibition: “The Book as Site”, Research Gallery, Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney, Australia, 2012. Photos: Joshua Morris. Displayed with permission of the artist.

Further Reading

Architecture“, Bookmarking Book Art, 12 November 2018.

Fred Siegenthaler“, Books On Books Collection, 10 January 2021. For more on “watermark art”.

Macken, Marian. 2018. Binding Space: The Book as Spatial Practice. London and New York: Routledge.

Macken, Marian. 2015. “Reading time: the book as alternative architectural practice“. Cowley, Des, Robert Heather, and Anna Welch. Creating and collecting artists’ books in Australia. Special issue of The LaTrobe Journal.

Pallasmaa, Juhani. 2019. The eyes of the skin: architecture and the senses. Chichester: Wiley. Another whetstone for sharpening the ability to appreciate book art.

Tange, Kenzō, Noboru Kawazoe, Yoshio Watanabe, and Yusaku Kamekura. 1965. Ise. Prototype of Japanese architecture. Kenzo Tange, Noboru Kawazoe. Photographs by Yoshio Watanabe. Layout and book design by Yusaku Kamekura. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.