Non-anthropocentric models about subjectivity,
responsibility, and the care of the self

Who am I in relation to what surrounds me? The aim of the intercultural two-year arts-based research is the investigation of the term "orientation" as a sustainable, configurative activity (gardening) with artistic means. In questioning the dichotomy of subject and object “Orientation as Gardening” tries to leave an anthropocentric perspective.




Based upon three major systems on composition, the artists challenge our notions of subject and object, of experience, care of the self, and of what it means to assume a non-anthropocentric view of the world. An underlying principle is an organic idea of order : “order” is what follows the laws of nature. Like the grain of wood or the structure of a snow crystal, it is by no means random, yet unpredictable.

Sakuteiki, a classical Japanese garden-manual from the 11th century, describes a stone as an entity in itself. Its placement in the garden is guided by a complex system of ordering principles as well as tabus – and by its gardener’s empathic understanding of the stone’s inborn nature.

Shitao, a Chinese painter from the 17th century, wrote a treaty about painting as a process that gives shape to what surrounds us and is guided by what he calls the “all-one brush-stroke”, coming from a place before and beyond principles.

Epicureus, a Greek philosopher from the 1st century B.C., hosted an open garden community outside the city walls; even women and slaves were invited to philosophise about humankind’s rootedness in the overall logic of nature. His thoughts were related by Lucretius three centuries later.

Shohin Display: Tana-kazari

In a traditional Japanese home, small and very fragile shelves can be found in a corner of the house; they hold a bonsai tree or a stone that has been carefully chosen to represent nature, its unpredictable beauty and humankind’s unbreakable connection with it.

For “Orientation as Gardening”, eight Assemblage Boards have been developed. Based upon classical Shohin displays, called Tana-kazari in Japanese, they have been enlarged to life-size, transforming a person who interacts with them into an element, putting them equally on display as what is around them, as though part of nature or any other element in their environment. For eight days, the boards acted as a vantage point for the artists to question an anthropocentric view of the world.

Eight Views

In Chinese and Japanese painting there is a tradition of looking at one and the same site in eight different ways. The views can differ in atmosphere, time of the day or the year, standpoint etc. In their entirety, they refer to the portrayed space – while at the same time to all other views that are contained within the space. They are not an extensive representation of the site, they are an approximation, opening up the infinite around these views, the void.
The classic themes revolve around motifs such as appropriation, loss, migration. The images are always combined with poetry. The Eight Views became an structuralizing element of the whole research.


A project by Almut Rink and Carola Platzek
Installation in the context of the festival Trolls in the Park
3 November – 23 November 2016, Zenpukuji Park and Youkobo Art Space, Tokyo

In their work for Zenpukuji Park, a public garden in Tokyo, Almut Rink and Carola Platzek chose eight sites to locate the eight Assemblage Boards, each one linked at some point to the structure of the park. Eight situations to work from, one day each. Eight moments out of an infinite number to approach a connection with the whole.

Absence / Presence

Across eight subsequent days, in the morning and at night, one Board was built up and taken down, with material for its seven counterparts being on display in a nearby gallery. Thus a dynamic of absence and presence was created, relating to the interplay of empty and full that is essential to approaching the total in Chinese and Japanese thinking.

Likewise, out of eight books that explore orientation in one form or another, eight texts have been extracted: one essential word has been filtered and subsequently a poem developed from it. Where the Board had been taken down, a text took its place. The 8th Board remained in the park for another eight days during which the artists were absent. Its Red Drawer contained images of the first eight days. For London, this archive has been turned into eight Red Boxes, containing material from the project’s first stage in Japan as well as results of the artists’ ongoing research on site.


A project by Almut Rink in cooperation with Ursula Reisenberger
February 28th to March 9th 2017
At the Crossing of Central Saint Martins,
University of the Arts London and King's Cross vicinity

The second part of the project was about bringing these experiences to a Western, dense urban context, to the King’s Cross development in London (in co-operation with Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London).
In Japanese tradition a non-anthropocentric view of the world is deeply rooted; relating to the surroundings through the Boards proved therefore to be relatively easy. In Europe, this approach turned out to be more difficult. Even though Europe has always known lines of thought similar to Eastern philosophies, these have rather been side-lines to the tradition. Ever since the Enlightenment, Western thinking has strongly prioritized a view that has put the human individual at the centre of its universe.

Therefore, the London research was about testing the Assemblage Boards in a non-Asian context. The respective placements were developed out of extensive site-specific research, approaching King’s Cross through its fringes and trying to re-include aspects like disease and death that had been excluded from the development. The Boards turned out to be hard to access, some being only virtually present or absent altogether.
Almut Rink continued to work with and around the Boards for another eight days. Once each day she was met by the audience of a performative walk covering all the Board locations, led by Ursula Reisenberger. Whereas in Japan the focus had been on searching for a personal experience with an alternative approach to the world, in London the research was extended and explicitly included the encounter and sharing with an audience.


A project by Almut Rink
Co-curated by Anne Eggebert
In cooperation with Ursula Reisenberger

With contributions of

Margot Bannerman (GB), Ben Cain (GB), Sarah Cole (GB), Regula Dettwiler (AT),
Kyoko Ebata (JP), Anne Eggebert (GB), Polly Gould (GB), Matthew Wang (SGP)

Opening reception: Wednesday, 6th September 2017, 6 pm

7th September – 21st September 2017
Korea Kulturhaus, Arbeiterstrandbadstraße 122, 1220 Wien

The final part “Beyond Orientation. Eight Views” brought the London and Tokyo experiences back to Vienna.

Almut Rink

continued her research and, together with

Anne Eggebert

as a co-curator, opened the space for an exchange with eight artists. The exhibition has formed a discourse space for a temporary collective.
The Korea Pavilion at the outskirts of the city was acting as host, providing a space that merges nature and architecture. Coming from the antique idea of a “Care of the Self” that was re-discovered by Foucault, Almut Rink continued a discourse started in Japan: she tried to explore the subject not as an entity but as a process composed of relationships – above all a relationship with itself.
The eight Assemblage Boards here turned into supporting structures, framing the other artworks and setting up relationships between them. They were entering into a dialogue with them, adapting to them, framing them, contradicting. Out of the relationship between the two works, a moment of encounter evolves, a portrait of the present moment.
What links the artworks are questions of orientation and cultivation, care and relationship, autonomy and dependence.

Margot Bannerman (GB)

drawed marked zones in the Iris Lake, islands of the precariat, fragile organic habitats, which can only survive with floatation support and (according to Ernst Mach) become the metaphor of the “I” as a temporary sum of sensations;

Ben Cain (GB)

deployed the gesture, rupture and gap between things, to reflect on the marginal, and examine blurs and mergers in designations such as subject / object, influencing / being influenced, passive / active;

Sarah Cole (GB)

reflected in her video on experiences of isolation, endurance and the oscillation between self-determination and determination inherent in the profession of long-term carers;

Regula Dettwiler’s (AT)

territory is the organic, here as a symbolic mapping of the psychological affects we might read through the materiality of our world;

Kyoko Ebata (JP)

has been washing an endless loop of Japanese flags, which in the context of the pavilion – as a place of the Korean community – become a commentary of a difficult common history, cleaned and hung up to dry;

Anne Eggebert (GB)

reflected on a sense of placeness through the proximal, the distant and the virtual, and mulls over the problem of trying to picture place as a means of a subjective connection to the other-in-place;

Polly Gould’s (GB)

sound installation in text and sound became a sensory exploration of the pavilion and conceives it as a host with its inherent structures and surfaces, as an independent entity;

Matthew Wang (SGP)

was tracing a part of the connecting line between London and Vienna physically. Applied to the care of others, he was walking from Berlin to Vienna to join the opening of the exhibition and then remained in situ to take care of the work of the others.

Ursula Reisenberger (AT)

who accompanied “Beyond Orientation” as a co-operation partner, opened up a potential space along an unconditional presence, in which the performative body can be experienced as a connecting instrument to the here and now.

In their totality, the artworks – like the classical Eight Views of Chinese and Japanese painting – hint at the greater, the whole abundance of possible orientations: beyond the concrete examples they open up a space that contains them, but doesn’t understand them as an absolute. In the same way, the very display of the artworks transcends the staging of an individual position as well as the limitations of the building, also including its natural surroundings.
Thus, the exhibition is less of a finite presentation than of an open laboratory: a participatory space, that understands “beyond” as a vector. Like the Assemblage Boards, the exhibition acts as a tool, a stage, moving and widening the understanding of “Mit-Welt” (co-world) and inviting it to assemble and share.

Each part of the project has been accompanied by performances, walks, talks, guided tours and lectures.

The project was realized in cooperation with the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Youkobo Art Space, Tokyo and the Central St Martins University of Arts, London, and is accompanied by two publications.

Supported by
Embassy of the Republic of Austria in Japan
Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan
Austrian Cultural Forum London