MONO-HA, AND THE INTERRUPTED OBJECT (A Reading of “Between Différance, and Now”: 4)

Originally published for Studio Sixty Six, in conjunction with the exhibition between différance, and now, by Anna J. Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe.



Anna J. Eyler and Nicolas Lapointe derive some of the characteristics of between différance, and now from the 20th century Japanese movement, Mono-ha. Roughly translated to “school of things”, Mono-ha is united by work that inhabits the natural state of its material, and equally relates to the spaces that encompass those things.

The materials used in Mono-ha are contrasted between the artificial and naturally occurring: both forms are often presented with little modification. Concrete, for instance, is an artificially created substance and may use manufactured binding additives, but it is derived from natural rock. In Mono-ha, there would be little, or no, embellishment to the concrete. It would either take a simple geometric form or be allowed to solidify into whichever form it takes after pouring.

With no embellishment or changing of the inherent nature and behaviour of a material, Mono-ha asserts an inherent truth that exists behind appearances, revealing itself as opposed to the artist having a finite agency. What can materials reveal without being forced into shape? What is the essence of material before it is given use by its form?


Isolated elements of technology may still be involved, such as wires or lights.

In the work of Lee Ufan, Jiro Takamatsu and Katsuro Yoshida, three defining artists of Mono-ha, we may find such use of simplified technology in their use of lights. elatum, by Lee Ufan, unites boulders with long, wound black electrical cord and a single lightbulb, as though it were emerging from within the boulder. Cut-off by Katsuro Yoshida consists of a wooden plank similarly wound by a black cord, lighting a single bulb from the concrete ground. Jiro Takamatsu’s Light and Shadow* positions a stainless steel board against a narrow white wall, illuminated from behind by a single lightbulb.

Each work seems to reduce electricity and artificial light to an absolute essential. Though electricity is a condition of modern life, it is not necessary for it to be complex. Mono-ha explores technology in these parallel works, where it is quietened, you might even say peaceful. This is, perhaps, the root of intangible qualities being examined as material, and may offer some answer to the pursuit of expressing the inherent truth behind a materially perceived world.

* “Light and Shadow” (1973), “Cut-off” (1970) and “Relatum” (1974) were notably revisited as part of the 2012 survey exhibition “ Requiem for the Sun: The Art of the Mono-ha”, at Los Angeles’ Blum & Poe gallery.


Relating to the discussion on the simulacra – created through différance / confusion induced by the artificial mimicking the natural, between différance, and now plays with the unexpected relationships of material.

This may be found in Susumu Koshimizu’s Paper, where a massive boulder of granite is enveloped by paper. The delicate contains the monolithic, the fragile wraps the abrasive, the ephemeral seems to protect the enduring. Nicolas Lapointe alludes to the influence of Mono-ha in Roche de Bostrom, where resin subverts the material qualities of concrete. The lightness of plastic replicates the appearance of concrete, but in the end it is conflicting and disorienting.


The object is in this way interrupted, where there is discordance in the natural state of its materials, components, its unpretentious form. between différance, and now provokes doubt in order for us to consider the relationship we have with materials, with objects and their encounters.

Reducing the material to its essence is a revolt against the materialistic idolatry of objects. To revisit the question of the sacred: the adorned material, the changed substance, the sculpture, is associated with the religious object. Such an object – or changed material – has a specific statement, or obvious purpose. It is untrue to the essential.