New Currents: Atsuko Mochida
By Pamela Wong
Two houses collided. One was sliced open and detached from its foundation, lodged into the living room of the neighboring structure. Titled Collision (or Rupture) (2021), this installation by Atsuko Mochida was shown at the 2021 Northern Alps Art Festival. The scene evokes tensions and conflicts between neighbors, while recalling the earthquakes that have shaken the work’s site in the Hida Mountains, an area known for its frequent tectonic movements.
In Mochida’s works, houses are not meant to last, but expand, transform, and interact with other entities, resonating with the principles of Metabolism, the post-war Japanese architectural movement. Her most well-known project, The Revolving House of T. (2017), utilizes an abandoned abode owned by her grandparents in the Ibaraki prefecture. The couple first moved in after their wedding, and the house expanded alongside the family. While preserving the structure and strengthening its beams, Mochida, in collaboration with the renovation company Builder Inc., carved a circle in the center of the residence, lifted the excised section from its foundation, and attached wheels to the bottom of the floor. When visitors push the walls and the internal shoji sliding doors, the central part of the building rotates. The originally private rooms, blocked from sunlight, are spun into view. By simultaneously evoking conflicting elements—public and private, change and stability, risk and security—Mochida asks audiences to rethink the life of a house and how external and internal forces can reshape and intervene in a space.
Other projects also invite public engagement. For Steps (2021), from her ongoing installation series, Mochida built spiral staircases with temporary construction materials such as metal tubing, usually seen in the fencing of Tokyo’s buildings. The reusability and flexibility of these components allow the steps to change shapes, such that Mochida’s work appears to be extending in all directions. By definition, staircases are meant to support one’s ascent and descent in a space, but in Mochida’s installation, they encourage alternative routes, transforming their environments into a maze. An architectural device becomes ephemeral, unreliable, and mutable, destabilizing terra firma to make way for continual evolution.