Where Birds Go Off To Die


Taro Hattori’s paper sculpture currently on display at the SF Arts Commission’s storefront installation gallery on Grove Street in Civic Center, San Francisco, is one of the most eye-catching works of art that I’ve ever seen displayed at the small, walk-by space.

The sculpture, which is made made out of carefully hewn and folded brown cardboard and white paper, depicts a building not unlike City Hall across the street floating precariously — or perhaps even sinking — in a sea of cardboard waves while origami seagulls circle the cupola.

If you look at the sculpture during the day, you can see the real City Hall, standing regal and erect across the street, reflected in the gallery window. The juxtaposition of the building’s reflection and its artistic relief is both beautiful and slightly disconcerting. The birds don’t look like they’re dying. And the cardboard building looks too buoyant to sink. But there’s a dangerous, lurching list to the whole thing, which — especially when viewed in relation to the real building — makes you wonder about about the solidity of the future of a city like San Francisco.<br><br>Part of the SF Arts Commission’s “Now and When” group show, Hattori’s work is on display until September 4.

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  1. says

    A few brief observations: Models are models and art is art, and the two should not be confused. A model of an imaginary or actual building, or of anything else (a ship, say), is not a work of art (and not sculpture) even if it appears to be floating or sinking—not, at least, by any objective definition of the term “art.” The fact that it is “carefully hews and folded” and that an arts commission displays it does not change that fact. And since there seems to be no mention of birds or death in the press release of the San Francisco Arts Commission, the title of this post, “Where Birds Go Off To Die” (is that the title of the piece?), and the remark that “the birds don’t look like they’re dying” (why would they?), are both a bit confusing. Finally, does the installation actually make any ordinary person passing by “wonder about the solidity of the future of a city like San Francisco”? I doubt it.
    Louis Torres, Co-Editor, Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts) – http://www.aristos.org

  2. T A Brady says

    The whole thing is the sculpture. But the thing at the center of the sculpture is not a model of City Hall, it’s a bird cage that looks like City Hall. Does anyone know where birds go off to die? Is that like a Zen koan?

  3. says

    Thank you for your note. (Taro Hattori’s piece is part of the Now & When exhibition at the SFAC Gallery open until September 4.) I wanted to let you know that I appreciate your comments about the difference between models and works of art, however, I don’t think it applies here. From what I understand, Taro created an installation of a post-human world using SF City Hall as the setting, which is fitting considering the site of the installation. His description of the work (included below) is included in our press release and on our website and on signage on the Grove Street door. I hope it provides the necessary contextualization to a piece we are all very proud of here. Again, thank you for your comment. I relish in any and all dialog about the programming of the SFAC Gallery.
    Aimee Le Duc
    Gallery Manager, SFAC Gallery
    Where Do Birds Go Off to Die – Taro Hattori
    At the SFAC Gallery window installation site at 155 Grove Street
    Hattori has created an installation that envisions what human beings might hand over to a post-human world. This time capsule captures the construction of destruction, followed by the invasion of civilization by the uncontrollable power of the natural world. It is a story about what happens after human efforts to preserve our way of life on this planet has failed and eventually ceases.

  4. Maldo says

    Totally agreed with Mr. Torres on all points. You might want to think about running that post through the typewriter one more time.

  5. says

    Mr. Torres
    Thank you for your insightful comments about what art is and isn’t. I’m glad there are people like you setting the record straight. Thanks to your cogent analysis, I’ll be able to confidently classify everything I encounter and quickly determine whether it is or isn’t art. After centuries of spirited debate and discussion, I’m glad you’ve finally set the record straight once and for all.
    Now if you excuse me, I need to go bleach my brain to get the incredulous sarcasm out.

  6. says

    Contrary to Brian Rosen’s assertion, the “debate” over whether something is or is not art has been going on for a mere 100 years, ever since the invention of abstract painting (the first bogus art form), not for “centuries.” Prior to the twentieth century, works that caused any controversy at all were in fact art. Actually, as I document in my forthcoming article “The Interminable Monopoly of the Avant-Garde,” there is no real “debate” in present-day culture regarding this matter. The discussion, such as it is, is pretty much one-sided.
    My remarks on “Where Birds Go Off to Die” were hardly meant to “set the record straight” on what is or isn’t art. They were limited to the distinction between models and works of art. On the broader question, interested readers should see ‘What Art Is: The Esthetic Theory of Ayn Rand’ (now there’s a “setting-the-record-straight” title!) the book I co-authored. You can read much of it at Google Books—see link on our website. (Suggestion: forget whatever you may know or think of Rand, whom we explicitly criticize when need be, and concentrate our interpretation of her theory and its application to the twentieth century.)
    Thanks to Aimee Le Duc for her willingness to engage in true discussion, though I still would argue that the work in question is not art, and to Maldo for his expression of support.
    Louis Torres, Co-Editor, Aristos (An Online Review of the Arts) – http://www.aristos.org