After studying medicine and mathematics at Tokyo University, Shusaku Arakawa decided to study painting and attended the Musashino College of Art. He was influenced by the Dada movement, bringing its ideals to Japan. He created many pieces that commented on the corruption in modern Japanese society, which eventually caused controversy and forced Arakawa to move to the United States in 1961. Arakawa settled in New York City, where he works as a performance artist, filmmaker, and painter
Arakawa met his partner Madeline Gins in 1962. Together, they founded the Architectural Body Research Foundation. They have designed and built residences (Reversible Destiny Houses, Bioscleave House, Shidami Resource Recycling Model House) and parks (Site of Reversible Destiny-Yoro). They have developed an original theory and practice of the relation of the human being to the exterior world, elaborated most extensively in their book, Architectural Body. Arakawa and Gins are, together and separately, the authors of several books and exhibition volumes, most recently Making Dying Illegal.