Museum Without Walls

Light, dance, sound, life and fog. A-form was performed on the roof of the unfinished National Museum in Oslo, blurring the borders between object and environment.

From A-form by Fujiko Nakaya, Min Tanaka, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Shiro Takatani. Photo: Trond A. Isaksen / Statsbygg.

When the National Museum in Oslo opened its new, half-completed structure to the public for the first time, it could not have been done in a more poignant way. The world premiere of A-form, a collaborative work by the four Japanese composers/artists Ryuichi Sakamoto (b. 1952), Fujiko Nakaya (b. 1933), Min Tanaka (b. 1945), and Shiro Takatani (b. 1963), questioned fundamental understandings of art historical categories by presenting a piece that represented what an art museum is not.

From A-form by Fujiko Nakaya, Min Tanaka, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Shiro Takatani. Photo: Annar Bjørgli / Nasjonalmuseet.

A part of Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival, the site-specific work on the roof of the unfinished museum might be described as an assembly of formless forms: Ryuichi Sakamoto’s atmospheric soundscape, which resist definition in terms of tonality, melody and rhythm; Shiro Takatani’s light design, slowly flowing over the site and playing with the sky as the natural light inconspicuously changed from light to dark during the one-hour performance; Min Tanaka’s movements that made him float through Fujiko Nakaya’s fog sculpture, which in turn displayed a sense of complete decentrality. A-form was almost nothing, yet it made everything explicit. It was a performance in flux – continuously moving – displaying something that never really stabilized. In turn, it demonstrated a form of art that resisted being slotted into a single, definite discourse.

The work did not allow any concrete and stable form to appear and become realized. Rather, it was characterized by an expenditure of energy – of light, dance, sound, life and fog. Unintentional elements also took part: birds were drawn to Takatani’s light constellation, and the rain, which had been pouring down all day up until the time of the performance, changed the concrete museum roof into watery mirrors reflecting the various shapes. The work expanded in every direction. It expanded into the water, it expanded into the sky, and it even expanded into our bodies as Nakaya’s fog sculpture flowed through the air we were breathing.