I spoke yesterday at the 101 Art Fair with Haruka Ito, Director of magical art room. Many people came. I opted to translate myself, which resulted in a very interesting proto-performance in which I would say a few things in Japanese followed by English, but the content would invariably begin to dissipate. So in effect I think I ended up speaking a kind of 'A' side and a 'B' side, each with slightly different mixes of an original.
Haruka invited Ichiro Endo, an artist who lives in a small van, along to share his thoughts. Endo has worked with Makoto Aida a bit, making a very funny video with him where we see him running into the main wall of the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower (where the Mori Museum is) for twenty minutes. Endo did not go to art school. He travels around in his small van, which also doubles as a mobile studio/ exhibition space.
Endo's practice revolves around the phrase 'Mirai-E' - Towards the Future. There he is in front of one of his signature large banner paintings with the above characters. I suggested in the talk that we may link this kind of approach to characters like Taro Okamoto, who wrote an interesting treatise called 'Jomon Doki Ron' (Thoughts on Jomon) in 1952. The Jomon was the Mesolithic pre-historic period of Japan. Okamoto's interest in Japanese pre-history and a sense of the primitive can, I think, be usefully re-visited to think about the work of younger artists like Endo, as well as many artists emerging now whose works seem to touch on aspects of magic, ritual, invisibility, animistic traditions, Japanese myth and festivals and images of primal nature. I find this interesting in light of the dominant discourses which have so strongly defined Japanese art recently - subcultural tendencies reflected in Superflat and the banality of the everyday reflected in Micropop (and in the sociological critiques of thinkers like Miyadai Shinji - 'Owari Naki Nichijoh'). Sawaragi Noi has, I believe, also touched on these aspects. Okamoto's primitivism must, of course, be read in light of his search for a post-war Japanese avant-garde within a broad European Modernism, as well as part of a rather essentialist 'Nihon-jinron' (unique Japanese-ness) search. Nevertheless, one of my impressions of seeing work by younger artists at the two art fairs as well as at graduation shows, has been to think about such things.
Endo has been involved in something else of interest. At the end of last year, as part of a city scheme to gentrify and evict homeless people from an underground passageway near the 246 highway in central Tokyo, a so called 'gallery' was initiated on the tunnel walls. Endo and others have objected to this and made a series of counter art actions and events in this tunnel. Makoto Aida has written about this process at length (in Japanese only). Makoto Aida's writing on the Shibuya underpass 'Gallery'.