What is a Thomasson?

Have you ever seen ... say, a telephone pole which no longer carries a line, but still stands on the sidewalk? Or maybe you've seen a second story doorway in the outside wall of a building that didn't lead to a landing -- or to much of anything -- anymore. Ever seen a "stairway to heaven," a staircase that goes nowhere, or awalkway that ends abruptly in midair? These are Thomassons.

In the seventies, Japanese conceptual artist and writer Akasegawa Genpei and his buddies discovered "hyperart," unintentional art created by the city itself. Everywhere they saw urban objects and structures that had had a use in the past, but were now useless ... yet someone was still maintaining them, not removing them. Akasegawa named these objects "Thomassons" after American baseball hitter Gary Thomasson, who was recruited to a Japanese team and paid a mint to look pretty, but whose bat almost never connected with the ball. Akasegawa wrote about these objects in a regular column in a Japanese photo magazine, and soon readers were submitting photos of Thomassons they had found to be evaluated. The book HYPERART: THOMASSON collected these humorous and profound columns into a manifesto of sorts ...and it was a cult hit in 1980's Japan.

To celebrate the release of the first English translation (by Matt Fargo) of HYPERART: THOMASSON, Kaya Press is setting up a website for a new generation of collaborators (i.e. YOU) to submit their Thomassons. Read the book to find out what it's all about. Then go looking for Thomassons in your area. Don't forget to bring your digital camera! When you have some Thomassons captured, upload the photos and your descriptions onto our website.

Also, don't miss the "SF Thomassons" page! Kaya is collaborating with San Francisco Bay Area Asian American arts organization Kearny Street Workshop to produce a performance guided tour of San Francisco's Thomassons. The SF Thomassons page will be populated by SF Thomassons discovered and photographed by Kearny Street Workshop artists. Stay tuned for more news on this project!

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