Renkinjutsu (Alchemy)

Project Description

How to handle the paradox? By official mandate, the National Center for Media Arts must collect and trumpet the value of manga as an art form while, at the same time, an individual manga rapidly loses its value as it ages. Impossibly then, this museum must synthesize value by transforming hordes of aging books into cultural capital. To answer this this alchemical challenge, I propose a half-buried machine that cycles manga as a cultural product in order to replace its fading monetary value with a new form of personal or cultural value.

Unreleased manga—the most valuable sort—starts in a closed archive in the jewel-box above the landscape. Before they’re released, fans can come see these comics in the top-floor viewing room by special appointment. The winding staircase that connects the lobby to this upper reading room, allows one to see but not browse the archive.

As items in the collection age and lose value, they are transferred to the subterranean library. Unlike the packed cube above, the library is an emptied box, it’s spaces arranged like an underground city with Piranesian overtones. These smaller volumes are reading rooms that allow individuals to personally curate the collection. Museum-goers may move manga from the library to their own shelves, establish personal collections, and put on display manga they find particularly interesting.

These rooms establish a second and entirely unique organizational structure for the museum’s collection. In this network of reading rooms, manga is not organized rigorously as per to a cataloging system but rather is arranged subjectively by individuals according to their tastes. The result is an inner labyrinth demanding to be explored and a collection distributed in manner that encourages browsing and discovery. For here, in this second system, one does not look up and retrieve a book but rather, one wanders, experiences the whole collection, and potentially discovers something new and entirely unfamiliar, and thereby establishes new value in what was once the dross of the archive. As this new value is created, the upper cube comes back into play, recapturing a manga that has found new meaning. Thus the two cubes are tied together in a reciprocal relationship constantly cycling material back and for as it gains and loses value.