Noguchi’s Body-Space Devices & Our Environment in this Crisis

If you are forced to stay at home in this COVID-19 crisis, the architecture of your home might seem like the enclosure that stops you from moving. The “Body-Space Devices” exhibition at the Noguchi Museum is a good reminder that it should not be.

Dancers reacting to Noguchi's Play Sculpture
Dancers reacting to Noguchi’s Play Sculpture

The exhibition (May 2019- May 2020) shows Noguchi’s works that provoke viewers’ physical connection to space. I was lucky to visit it when its site was used for the improvisational performance by dancers who work with Brendan Fernandes.

The sculptures there are the ones that you would touch, sit on, move, or climb up if you were a child. The dancers did just that. They stood up and slid down on his bright red “Play Sculpture”, for example. Their views of the surrounding space must be constantly changing.

“Call it sculpture, when it moves you.”

Isamu Noguchi, The Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum (New York: Abrams, 1987)

Then, interestingly, I saw one dancer’s interaction with the sculpture affected other dancers and then the audience. Do you perhaps remember trying to mirror what another kid did on a slider or with a toy in a park? When a dancer dragged “Rocking Chair” to the corner and moved as if he were this chair, two other dancers started to replicate it. The audience then moved to surround them by taking the distance that each felt right.

And how about your home?

Dancers with Noguchi's Rocking Chair
Dancers with Noguchi’s Rocking Chair

So you see any spatial object, including your home and its furniture, could be a body-space device. It could make you want to move and feel the same space in many different ways.

If you feel imprisoned in your home during this crisis, try to think about how it could be such a device. There are many spatial elements you could use in your home. Perhaps you can start with one of your windows. How do you make it so that you will go their often to look outside? I plan to write another article about these tips, so please stay tuned.