Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities
If there were a presiding spirit over Nishino’s dioramas, it would have to be Italo Calvino’s Marco Polo, guiding us through Invisible Cities where the imagination takes over the job of urban planning from the rational architects and administrators. If anything, we are over-mapped today. Anyone with a screen can in a matter of seconds hone in on a country, a city, a street, a house, a doorway. It’s magic of a kind, I suppose, but then why does it so quickly wear off? Where is the wonder we feel when looking at medieval maps, when cartographers felt justified in filling terra incognita with imaginary islands and two headed-men?
Nishino reinvests cities with wonder (and not incidentally cites 18th-century cartographer InĹŤ Tadataka, who also did his surveys on foot, as an influence). Streets bustle, buildings tilt and sway (perhaps only an earthquake-sensitive Japanese could portray cities perched so precariously on the Earth). The old Cubists would have adored these maps: we look up while looking down; we look down… and see the sky. Nishino’s giddy maps remind us that cities, for all their giddy chaos, are at the core miraculous human achievements.
Text by William A Ewing