- Wild Plants - Hiyoshi, as the title indicates, is paired with the work done
on Niijima Island. It was installed as part of a project sponsored by the city
of Yokohama, the "Matsunokawa Green Road" of Hiyoshi, Minato Kita-ku in Yokohama
in August 1996. It conveys the same message as Tanabe's other monuments, the preciousness
of the natural environment, and it shares the theme of birds, but uses quite a
different means of expression than the Niijima BIRD.|
The Niijima work does not depend on spatial centrality and physical size, but the Hiyoshi BIRD is a mass of stainless steel, 4 meters high and weighing 1.5 tons, that confronts the surrounding space with an imposing spatial and physical presence. It is a symbolic work of art with the classical characteristics of a monument.
The site of this work, Hiyoshi, is hilly land that changed rapidly into a residential area after World War II. The natural beauty of this formerly peaceful rural area has faded, and it is probably difficult even for people who lived there before the war to remember it. The urban site of Hiyoshi is completely different from the pristine natural environment of Niijima even though the artwork is based on the same theme. It is easy to guess that the difference is reflected in the method of expression.
The "Matsunokawa Green Road," the site of the work, is a band of open space being redeveloped by the city of Yokohama as a green area along the course of a small stream named Matsunokawa that was made into a culvert. This was a unique development, different from most parks or revegetation projects, because the local people were closely involved in planning, design, and construction. Yokohama City gave local people an opportunity to participate in all stages of the Matsunokawa Green Road project, beginning with determination of the planning concept. Arrangements were made so that they could interact with the designer and play a role in construction. The concept proposed to Yokohama by the citizens' group was different from an ordinary "green road," in which commercially available garden trees are planted. They proposed using wild plants growing naturally in the region to bring out the characteristics of the local environment. The previous natural environment had been lost with urban development, so the project was intended to encourage awareness of the natural environment by restoring the wild plants that were originally a part of it. The city handled planning and basic construction work while members of the Matsunokawa Walking Path (Green Road) Committee, organized by local citizens, did the actual planting on a volunteer basis. The first planting was carried out in 1992, and more plants have been added every year since then.
The most important reason for BIRD - Wild Plants - Hiyoshi was to obtain the active participation of the local people in improving their living environment. It was designed to express their wishes. The enlarged form of a bird's head sensitively portrays the fragility and beauty, the preciousness, of nature. The simplified eyes, ears, and the nostrils in the beak are rendered with almost brutal sharpness as powerful artistic forms. The work has obvious social relevance as a monument dedicated to the restoration of the natural environment.
Tanabe was born in Hiyoshi and still lives there. He participated actively in this project to improve the environment as an ordinary citizen.
Translated by Stanley N. Anderson