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In “Do Not go Gentle Into That Good Night,” the 20th-century Welsh poet Dylan Thomas famously defied death with the words, “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” In a more conceptual art way, the Japanese-born New York-based Shusaku Arakawa (b.1936) is similarly indignant. He wants to make dying illegal, thinks it old fashioned and views it as an illness that may one day be cured. His partner and longtime collaborator Madeline Gins has claimed that death is immoral. Their contemporary work develops ideals of reversing destiny and escaping the inevitability of death in odd architectural projects.

An example is the “Site of Reversible Destiny — Yoru Park” (1995) in Gifu Prefecture. Visitors to the park are guided through various unusual cognitive and perceptual experiences, while being cryptically instructed to make a note of their landing sites if accidentally thrown off balance. Arakawa believes that losing a sense of balance in his disorienting architecture is good for the immune system and it is part of his campaign against mortality. It is the aversion of a near-death experience, however, that is on display in “Funeral for Bioengineering to Not to Die — Early Works by Arakawa Shusaku” at the National Museum of Art, Osaka.

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