First Work: Tanking Machine / First Work: タンキング・マシーン (1990)

Just what is art? Kenji Yanobe immersed himself in finding the answer to that question and plunged himself into the world of art in the summer of 1990. This came with the release of Tanking Machine, a human-shaped meditation capsule equipped with a white gas mask. The inside is filled with two tons of physiological salt solutions of the same density as amniotic fluid, and warmed to body temperature. When a person actually enters the device, they can enter a meditative state deprived of all sensory functions as they float. The device is said to enable one to see heaven while still alive.


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The neurobiologist Dr. John C. Lilly (1915 - 2001) had built an isolation tank and used it himself. In the same way, Yanobe built Tanking Machine for himself. It is no exaggeration to say that it is a device to recreate the experience of being in the womb, and to create a journey of mystery to auto-regression and rebirth. Yanobe had the experience of becoming one with his creations through this device. He broke himself down to the cellular level and was reborn. He discovered the link between his own creation and his artistic expression. This split second of time became a turning point for him.


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When in London*, Yanobe bought a gas mask used by the British Army during World War II at a flea market. He thought it was spatially interesting and beautiful, and painted it white. He made it a part of Tanking Machine with the life mask, for which he had used his own face as a model.
* Yanobe left to study abroad in London on an exchange program (Royal College of Art) in 1989.


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