Does anyone know what a thomasson is? Let me explain.

Wikipedia would describe a thomasson is a useless structure or relic that has been preserved as part of a building or environment that has become a sort of piece of art in itself. Examples would include some stairs that mysteriously go nowhere, a gate without a fence, an old now unused telephone pole standing free on its own, etc. On object that has the appearance of conceptual art even though they were not originally created to be such.

The word Thomasson is an eponym named after the American baseball player Gary Thomasson. He went to Japan to play ball, and at the end of his career almost held the league's strikeout record. Again, according to wikipedia: Akasegawa viewed Thomasson's useless position on the team as a fitting analogy for "an object, part of a building, that was maintained in good condition, but with no purpose, to the point of becoming a work of art."


Akasegawa and others described the various thomassons they discovered as “hyperart”.

Each thomasson shared the same characteristics: "an object which, just like a piece of art, has no purpose in society, but also, just like a piece of art is preserved with care, to the point where it appears to be on display. However, these objects do not appear to have a creator, making them even more art-like than regular art."

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The hunt for thomassons – or hyperart – gained popularity after a series of articles were published in Shashin Jidai (Photo Times) by Byakuya-Shobō. An entire taxonomy of thomassons was developed, each uniquely fascinating.

You have the basics, like doors or stairs that go nowhere, to the amazing and bizarre like the “pure” thomassons that are now so far removed from their original purpose it is anyone’s guess as to what they were.

The construction of the taxonomy was done through reader submissions, as well as submissions from Akasegawa and his students. My introduction to them was an English translation of the compiled articles in Shashin Jidai called Hyperart:Thomasson by Matt Fargo. I recommend that anyone interested in these fascinating things check out the following links to learn more.

I bet you’ve seen some yourself.

@matty thanks for this thread--it reminded me of something:

I recently finished reading Sara Ahmed's What's the Use which is a really beautiful meditation on use, and what she calls the "uses of use".

One thing she touches on is the idea of Spandrels from architecture & biology, which are seemingly useless features that have creative potentials.

It seems related somehow to this idea of hyperart.

@edsu I think you're on to something here! It seems like thomassons are a sort of biproduct of the "evolution" or change in use of a space. They are similar to spandrels in that regard definitely!

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