It all began on Wednesday evening, April 1st.
Ryoji Ikeda at MOT is an exhibition for chromophobes, for Matrix Trilogy fans and white cube fetishists.
Some parts of the museum lobby had been renovated. The Nadiff run museum shop now finds itself in a new corner, polished.
The venerable Mr Johnnie Walker at the opening about to eat a bit of broccoli.
On to the regally colored 2nd edition of the 101 Tokyo Contemporary Art Fair at Akiba Square, Akihabara. Compared to last year the walls of the booths were noticably thicker. Amid the crowd, Fumio Nanjo of The Mori Museum and Agathe and Antonin , organisers of last year's fair.
Thursday, 2nd April, evening. Opening of Art Fair Tokyo at International Forum. I find art fairs incredibly difficult places to navigate, let alone see art. Taken by the current of the crowds, the experience is akin to white-water rafting.
Rather than use my own eyes, I discovered the pleasure of looking at things through the view-finder of my camera. I started to take pictures of the gathered high-priests - gallerists and dealers.
The Director of Art Fair Tokyo, Misa Shin.
Friday 3rd April, late afternoon, opening of The Kaleidoscopic Eye' at The Mori Art Museum. A well installed, but somewhat cold exhibition of well known artists from a European aristocratic collection.
Klaus Weber's 2003 work, Public Fountain LSD Hall, made it for me. It is a small glass fountain, modelled on the fountains at The Great Exhibition of 1851 London, flowing with potentized LSD, which neutralizes its consciousness altering properties and makes it into a homeopathic remedy. While looking at it I was introduced by a museum patron to a former Minister for Education in Japan, a moment of magical synchronicity.
I went back to the 101 Art Fair to hear their first panel discussion, on the impossible but always welcome topic 'What is contemporary art and what is not?'. Moderated by Andrew Maerkle, formerly of Art Asia Pacific magazine, but now living in Tokyo, it furnished some interesting points. The panel consisted of:
Haruka Ito (Magical Art Room) , Satoshi Okada (collector).
Two things in particular remained with me. Jeffrey spoke of contemporary art in Japan as in its infancy, and therefore having a sense of immediacy, which I thought usefully captured a prevalent mood current here now. I understood immediacy as coming across in certain naive styles, the often seen blurred effects in painting, Micropop tendencies and the neo-Gutai/Dada performance of artists like Ichiro Endo who I have written about here before.
The issue of history and discourse building was inevitably raised. The interesting point about the ongoing emergence of art movements in Japan since the late 1990s offered a counter-trajectory to European/ N. American histories. It does seem both odd and somewhat natural that movements should become one of the main vehicles through which micro histories are charted and 'written' - Superflat, Micropop, Shibuya-kei, Showa 40 nen kai etc.
Saturday 4th April, AIT resident artist from Finland, Meri Nikula led a body/ voice workshop for a dozen people which I attended. It was the best thing in the entire bonanza art weekend. Beginning with various meditation and warming up exercises, Meri got us grunting and chanting, stumbling around the room with our eyes closed and generally sounding very much like those apes that appear in the first twenty minutes of Kubrick's Space Odyssey 2001.
Refreshed and 'aped' up, I walked to openings at various galleries in the Shirogane art complex. Kodama Gallery was showing wall drawings by Olaf Breuning, including this funny parody of a Murakami image.
Nanzuka Underground was showing fetishistic tribal masks by Akiyoshi Mishima.
On the upper floors were new galleries selling ancient Buddhist art and relics. Black limousines and ambassador's cars lined the street outside.
Sunday, April 5th. I was invited by O.F.F., the Oosutoria Freespace Foundation, to an informal meeting with other alternative art space people. Begun by Georg Russegger and Elsy Lahner, they currently live and make projects from an apartment in Bashamichi, Yokohama. We talked about the problems and complexities of creative city policies in Japan today, about international cooperation and the relative inflexibility of cultural policy and frameworks in Japan which tends to be bound by strict codes and modes of operating.
The long weekend reminded me that art spans a constantly self-transforming spectrum of experiences, from classical museum or gallery based displays, the disorientation and high of the commercial art fair, opening parties, public discussions and talks, tiny encounters while wandering through galleries, the intensity of participating in workshops, drinking and eating with artists and colleagues, and the sense of depth and friendship one finds in small gatherings. Writing this at my desk, I find myself alone again but strangely filled with images and memories.