Issue 3 - Kota Ezawa

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Quick Overview

+ White baseball cap with black stitching
+ Letter from the editors
+ Released spring 2008

Kota Ezawa’s issue was the first in which we produced the entire object from start to finish. Much of Kota’s work has been about interpretation and modes of translation. His contribution to THE THING was no exception. His issue consisted of a custom THING box stamped in Cyrillic (Russian), a letter from the editors translated into Mandarin, and a simple white cotton baseball cap with Arabic text embroidered onto the front. Subscribers were only given a very small clue as to what the translation might be (a URL in English, buried in the letter’s Mandarin text). The result for many was a search for meaning through interacting with a text that had symbolic weight, but little relevance in daily life (unless they spoke the languages). Many subscribers took the letter to their local Chinese restaurant and asked for help, or wore the hat around for days or weeks until someone told them what it meant.




Dear Subscriber,

Welcome to Issue 3 of THE THING. If you are able to readthis, you must be one of very few subscribers who can read Mandarin. We do not read Mandarin, nor do we read Arabic or Cyrillic for that matter. If you can read all three of these languages then we are very impressed, and we wish we would have known that you existed when we were looking for people to do translations for this issue. But if you are, like us, unable to read any of these languages, then what you are reading now is the letter we wrote before it was translated. Most likely you have found the secret spot on the website where the translated version exists. It is hard to know what tense to use when writing this letter because we can’t help but have it refer to itself when writing it. Perhaps the translator will figure this out for us and it will be correct in the Mandarin version. I guess we will never really know.

Kota Ezawa’s issue of THE THING has to do with translation, and at this point that has probably become obvious. The other work that Kota has made also has to do with translation, but it is a translation of a visual language rather than a textual one.  He focuses in on something and through a process of translation into different visual languages he shows the viewer something new in something that he or she has most likely seen many times before.   

When Kota approached us with his idea, he told us about this hat, this white baseball hat that we couldn’t really picture on Kota’s head. It just seemed like the wrong kind of hat for Kota. He told us he bought a hat like this one in Chinatown in San Francisco. He bought it because it was raining, and it served its purpose of keeping the rain off of his head. When he tells the story we see it like this: It was raining in Chinatown. His head was getting wet. He looked in a shop window and saw the hat glowing white. The hat then sat around Kota’s house because we think that it is not the kind of hat that Kota would wear unless he was being soaked by the rain. It sat there in his house and when asked to be the artist for Issue 3 of THE THING, it was the first object that came to Kota’s mind. The other thing that immediately came to Kota’s mind was the text for the hat. He knew that it had to be in Arabic, and he knew that it had to state exactly what the object was: THE THING 3.

Everything is very simple and everything is very complex.


Will and Jonn



Special thanks to Carol V. Davis and Taha Belal for help with the Cyrillic and Arabic translations.



Kota Ezawa's practice uses animated video to reconsider images from art history and popular culture, slide projections, light boxes, collages, and prints. His work has been shown is solo exhibitions at Hayward Gallery Project Space (London), Artpace San Antonio, and Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. He participated in group exhibitions at Museum of Modern Art in New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Warhol Museum, and Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. He is currently on faculty at the California College of Arts in San Francisco.

More information on Kota Ezawa can be found here.

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  • "I listened to the Rolling Stones before I knew what ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ meant, just for the quality of the sound. It’s the same experience when you look at Chinese text and Arabic script. Art has a surface that can be looked at by itself without interpretation." - Kota Ezawa (via ARTInfo, 2008)
  • “Everything is very simple and everything is very complex.” - The editors

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