Julia Lohmann

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Monday, April 21st, 2008

Kelp Constructs at Galleria Nilufar

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For the Saloni di Mobile in Milano we built a workshop in Galleria Nilufar.
Instead of finished products we brought 8 kg of kelp from Japan and Ireland and our tools with us and produced the finished pieces in the gallery. There was a real buzz about the new material and our visitors were very excited to mbe able to see the whole working process and touch the material in its different stages of prodcution: dried, re-hydrated, stretched, varnished, unvarnished.

The Irish kelp turned out to be beautifully translucent and green whereas the Japanese Kombu was much browner and hard, almost like a 70’s plastic.

You can find a video of the opening on Core 77 and more images on Dezeen

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Saturday, December 8th, 2007

The Catch, Sapporo, Japan

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Julia Lohmann’s 90 m² installation ‘The Catch’ confronts viewers with a vast empty ocean, depleted by over-fishing and our unthinking consumption of marine life. Visitors are swept up in towering waves made of used empty fish boxes taken from Sapporo’s fish market. Unwittingly, they find themselves drifting into its womb-like core. ‘The Catch’ is modeled on an Almadraba, a Mediterranean tuna trap now obsolete due to lack of tuna. It is inspired by Tokyo’s Tsukiji fish market. The installation probes our fatal beliefs in endless supplies of marine life, in inflated fishing quotas and our reluctance to act on scientific research.

Photography: Yoshisato Komaki

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Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

From Salmon Skin to Leather

Today, S-AIR hosted the second salmon skin workshop. Under the expert tuition of an Ainu instructor we learned how to transform salmon skins into supple white leather. After a short demonstration he quickly got us to do the work (especially the two boys in the group) while he supervised with a very dignified air.

So how does Ainu fish-leather-making work? The salmon skins are rolled up and laid in a groove cut into a massive wooden block. Under constant turning, they are then hammered with a large wooden mallet until they are soft. They are then ‘broken’ further in another wooden contraption before the scales can be removed with tweezers or pliers. Et voila – salmon skin leather.

Normally, it takes two days of relentless pummeling before the salmon skins are supple enough to be used for clothing. I think everyone who took part will remember the favourite words of our otherwise monosyllabic instructor for a long long time: “mada mada” [phonetic spelling, probably quite wrong], which translates as “Not yet, not yet” – or more to the point: “Get on with it!”.

To reward everyone for their hard labour we concluded the workshop with drinks and a feast of European and Japanese salmon dishes, followed by a screening of German short films from the Sapporo Short Film Festival showreel.

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Our instructor shows how it is done.

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Salmon skin about to be pummeled into submission

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Mada mada!

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Get on with it!

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Top: unprocessed salmon skin; bottom left: softened skin, scales partially removed; bottom right: the finished salmon skin leather.

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Detail of softened salmon skin, scales partially removed.

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The workshop participants tuck into a well-earned dinner.

Thursday, November 15th, 2007

Koyasan

Autumn has arrived in all its splendour. We ascend to the top of the Koyasan temple mountain in a monorail, surrounded by trees glowing brightly in their red and yellow foliage. After a stroll through the small town and its vast ancient cemetery we bed down for the night in a monastery. We join the monks for morning prayers in the darkness of their sanctuary. It is unheated apart from a small gas heater and the candles lit one by one by a monk slowly making his way around the room. From behind a paper wall, another monk with ancient features enters the sanctuary. As the younger monk begins the prayer rituals, his chants punctuated by the low rumbling coughs of the older monk, it dawns on us that these two are the last inhabitants of the monastery. With more than fifty active monastic orders, Koyasan is one of the most sacred Buddhist sites in Japan. We seem to have stumbled on the only congregation slowly fading away. Thanking the monks for their hospitality we leave for a last walk under the canopies of towering trees, past temples and tombs bathed in glorious sunshine.

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Next stop: Naoshima.

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Nara

Today we visited Nara, Japan’s first real capital. The city is home to the Todai-ji temple and its Daibutsu-den hall, the largest wooden building in the world. The temple burned down several times in its history and it is hard to believe the present Daibutsu-den is only two-thirds the size of the original building. The enormous bronze Buddha figure housed inside made us feel like ants in the house of a giant.

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The Daibutsu-den hall of Nara’s Todai-ji temple

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The Daibutsu, or Great Buddha. To give you an idea of scale: The golden figures in the halo are approx. human-size.

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Detail of a smaller wooden figure outside the temple hall

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A monk blesses visitors

We found about a thousand other National Treasures roaming Nara’s temple district – deer! Considered divine messengers in pre-Buddhist days they are so pampered that they have lost all fear of humans. They’ll do almost anything for the special deer biscuits sold by local vendors.

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A National Treasure

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Young supermodel between photo shoots

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Biscuit bonanza

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Hunter-gatherer meeting a messenger of the Gods