Madeline Gins, acclaimed American artist, architect, and poet, passed away on January 8, 2014. With her creative partner and husband, Japanese artist architect Arakawa, she spent the last five decades constructing literary, artistic and architectural works that explored the capacities of the body and its continuous struggle against death. She continued the practice for the three years that followed Arakawa's death in 2010 and their legacy will be carried forward by the Reversible Destiny Foundation.
Her writings have been described by the Art critic and philosopher, Arthur Danto as "like Einstein as adapted for Wittgenstein by Gertrude Stein." Gins studied physics and Oriental philosophy at Barnard College and graduated in 1962. Her first book, the experimental novel, Word Rain or a Discursive Introduction to the Intimate Philosophical Investigations of G,R,E,T,A, G,A,R,B,O, It Says (Grossman Publishers), was published in 1969. This was followed by, What The President Will Say and Do!! (Station Hill, 1984), an excursion into identity, language and free speech using the devices of political rhetoric. John Cage has said of the book that, "any man, woman, or child who intends to lead itself into presidency should get a copy, reading it before taking any further steps." In 1994, her book, Helen Keller or Arakawa, an art-historical novel that ushered in a new form of speculative fiction was published by Burning Books.
In 1963, Gins began collaborating with Arakawa on the research project The Mechanism of Meaning. The architectural projects that stem from it, formed the basis of the 1997 Arakawa + Gins: Reversible Destiny art exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum SoHo. In 1987, they founded the Architectural Body Research Foundation (formerly Containers of Mind Foundation), now called the Reversible Destiny Foundation. They co-authored several exhibition volumes and books, including, Architectural Body (University of Alabama Press, 2002), and, Making Dying Illegal (New York: Roof Books, 2006).
In its architectural production, the Reversible Destiny Foundation incorporates a wide-range of disciplines including, experimental biology, neuroscience, quantum physics, experimental phenomenology, and medicine. The Ubiquitous Site*Nagi's Ryoanji* Architectural Body (1992-4; Nagi Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan) is a monumental art-piece materializing the Foundation's research. Site of Reversible Destiny-Yoro Park (1993-5; Gifu Prefecture, Japan) is a large-scale park incorporating numerous biotopological apparatuses. The Bioscleave House (2007; East Hampton, NY USA) is a single-family residence entirely dedicated to the practice of "non-dying." The Reversible Destiny Lofts–Mitaka (In Memory of Helen Keller) (2005; Mitaka Japan) is a multiple-family residential complex that was the object of the 2010 Japanese documentary, Children Who Won't Die (Nobu Yamaoka)
The Reversible Destiny Foundation recently completed the Biotopological Scale-Juggling Escalator, a monumental stucture challenging the body's sense of scale, for Dover Street Market in New York (December 2013).
Published in New York Times from Jan. 10 to Jan. 11, 2014.