with Masaru kawai

Tornet is an impermanent sculpture and an urn, a tactile symbol in dialogue with the endless variables of memory. It has been imagined to function as a connection between life and death. Tornet is an interpretation of the gorinto, literally meaning ‘five-elements tower’. Uniquely Japanese, the gorinto is a Buddhist symbol often found in memorial and funeral sites. As a symbol it expresses the idea that after death the physical body will return to its elemental and original form. Each shape, representing a specific element ( soil, water, fire, air and ether ), also reflects the Buddhist stages of progress through life: the will to attain perfection; attaining equanimity; energy created in pursuit of the truth; development of intuition and awareness; perfection.

The square base element is the urn in which the ashes of one’s body can be kept and buried below ground, if one wishes to be cremated. It may have been given at birth or acquired later in life. The base element is unique to each person. It holds a vertical pole on which the four other elements are placed. It is now a sculpture and presence throughout one’s life. When someone dies, the four elements are taken off from the sculpture and may be handed down, but they can also be exchanged or acquired during one’s lifetime. When the base element is buried, the pole remains above ground, connecting heaven and earth, and is left to decompose in rhythm with memory.


Letter about tornet

Tornet was born in a letter exchange between Masaru Kawai and myself. 

I am inquiring silence. An experience, a feeling - a condition rather than the (impossible) absence of sound. I wanted to show how, through the making of our hands, we create objects that help us bridge the tangible world with the invisible and more existential parts of our world. With Masaru, we started a dialogue about death. I wanted us to look into the future and see what we could propose as an object. Maybe I wanted to speculate on our need for such objects because we live in a time where we have modernised and rationalised to such an extent that it almost seems that death itself has been lost to us and thereby also perhaps our anchoring to life itself.
To understand Tornet, we need to understand time through several generations: When we are born, we are given the first element, the base, this is the urn in which we may one day be placed, as ashes. Four loose and replaceable elements are then gradually placed upon the base. We live with Tornet, we replace the elements as we move through life, and when we die, our loved ones inherit the elements we acquired through our lives. The base remains uniquely personal.

I could therefore when I am 50 years old find my Tornet with one element that belonged to my great-grandmother, another that I created myself or asked a craftsman to make for me, another that I exchanged with my very best friend... I might have 12 elements in all and change the appearance of my sculpture in rhythm with the seasons or as an expression to my mood.

A living sculpture that follows me through my life and reflects its content. It keeps me in tangible contact with the cycle of life, life and death, with the many different layers of time present – a kind of root to both people and places, to the changing and the infinite and also to the materials refined by human hands and expressions, materials that have changed over time, aged, been mended, oiled... Tornet can take on a thousand and a thousand different aesthetic expressions and reflect our relationship to the feeling of beauty.
To give, receive and give back. There is something fundamental in this, the gift, what we keep, take with us, pass on, exchange - the exchange as a relationship to our surroundings, both human and non-human. That is how we make everything grow and become fertile, we create a permanence determined by the fact that everything is impermanent and in motion. Understanding this environment as one is perhaps the key to a more sustainable system both for our souls and our earth.
The definition of the word nature in the meaning of character includes how we are and how we act whether applied to a tree, a wild boar, or a human being. The definition of the word nature in the meaning as a distinction between humans and "the rest" is a western one (nature in e.g. Japanese –shizen did not come into use until the late 18th century in order to be able to translate the western meaning). It was during the Renaissance that the word nature began to be used as it is today and was truly put into common use in the 18th century.

But what if we used the word in its proper sense, i.e. character, characteristic and allowed ourselves to take time to define the surroundings we are in and understand their natures - the pine forest, the mountains, the river, the meadow ?

Letter read at the workshop Building Tornet held at the Museum of East Asian Antiquities, Stockholm with Petra Lilja, September 2023