'Disaster But Disco' happened without major disaster on Friday at AIT room. Yason and his two performers animated his installation set up with a series of actions and short gestures which included a fictional news cast about visionaries appearing in Daikanyama and Yason tattooing his two cohorts with fake sticker tattoos. The image above shows Yason applying tattoos under a rotating cheap disco light that was positioned in the centre of the space. Part 2 of my interview with Yason about this performance-installation is below:
Can you explain a little about the performance element of tonight? What the two half naked tattooed men are doing and your role in it?
The performance tonight is quite important, at least to me personally, as I haven`t presented my body 'live' for quite some time. Usually what I show are traces of my performance via photography, video and sculpture, or if done 'live' employ other people/bodies instead.
The two guys in the performance resemble sculptures; they are not actors. It continues my interest in masculine stupor and awkward figurines, as well as sleepwalking as an in-between state between reality and the subconscious, stillness and action. Visually, the black strip of electric tape on their eyes and headphones on their ears are very similar to the 'straight' guys you see appearing on amateur Japanese porn. I find this fascinating - the Japanese notion of outer and inner realities (I forgot what they're called) - blocking out 'disasters' and other disturbances to norm, and living in a sort of fantasy 'disco' land. I think its also dangerous, because there is little acknowledgement or tolerance of certain deviations and ideas.
The black strip on the eye-line also remind me of visionaries in the Philippines, religious devotees who claim to have seen God, Jesus or the Virgin Mary. In both cases (porn and religion), the focus is on the eyes - the epicenter of ecstasy and knowledge. But also in both cases, these porn actors and religious visionaries are amateurs and charlatans. The realities and apparitions they claim to see are fake, blocked by their own pathology.
My participation in the performance will move between various elements culled from different sources/ constellations, marked by my stenciling of tattoos on the two males bodies as well as small actions inspired by samurai porn, death metal disco, folk science and news-casting.
Why is everything black! Its the colour of many things - death and mourning, but also a sense of high fashion and minimalism. I noticed you have taped objects like umbrellas up in black tape and sprayed things black. Its like you are pushing everything into a state of deep space?
Yes.. deep space.. Not just constellations in outer space but in sunny islands such as the Philippines. I've become interested in macho minimalism, as well as the notion of a 'tropical gothic' - something I want to further develop formally. To explore the dark side of the "dancing sun" so to speak, and sunny, supposedly "happy" people and forms.
Another deep space that comes to mind is the beach. Its a place for frolic and fun, but can also quite be quite menacing. I like the idea of how black waves devour/embrace all the colourful creatures and objects in its path. And it continues, the destruction and creation of patterns. There's a certain horror to it, but also melancholy. Deep within the void/the disaster is a tropical island of colors and flavours, clashing but engaging nevertheless. Its resurrection and quite hopeful.
Is this installation a prelude to your work for the Singapore Biennale in September?
Finally, how has Tokyo been to live in? What have you found interesting, strange, wonderful?
Many things - people, places, music, the culture and of course the city. I like getting lost, and Tokyo is the perfect place to do that, discovering new unintended paths in the process. I feel normal here too, which is probably good for me these days. I wish I had more time though, language skills, resources and
sleep. Hopefully next year when I come back I can get to relax more, see more and say more than "arigatoh" and "gomen nasai."
Our current artist in resident at AIT is Manila based Yason Banal, who will also show in the Singapore Biennale this coming September. Yason has just about completed an installation in our space in Daikanyama and will make a performance there tommorrow (Friday 9th) from 7pm. I interviewed Yason about this and post it in two parts, as it is a bit long. Pictures of AIT room now accompany the interview below.
Interview Part 1 begins below:
Hi Yason, Firstly, what is the meaning of 'Disaster but Disco'? Disco implies a place of colorful lights and pleasure, but it is offset with disaster?
Disaster But Disco, to put it plainly, is a space for both sufferance and pleasure, death and joy. Its perfectly summed up by two little known sexy starlets from the Philippine silver screen:
1) Stella Strada wrote on her suicide note: "It's a crazy planets!"
(misspelling intentional? still a mystery but hilarious and poignant just the same)
2) Azenith Briones said in the camp classic
'Temptation Island:' "There's no water. There's no food. Oh whatever, might as well dance then."
It’s this relentless drive to seek awkward pleasures and resistances as well as errors and terrors that I find interesting. Tokyo possesses this drive to go on and continue amidst tragedy - surviving disasters both natural and manmade such as earthquakes, recessions and the atomic bomb.
Disaster But Disco also stands for DBD, which in Filipino parlance alludes to pirated movies sold on the black market. I am interested in music and film cultures, and how they can be used to reflect and deflect existing forms and narratives, and hopefully create new constellations in the process.
I understand that this installation and performance is inspired by a number of different elements - the Great Earthquake of 1923 Tokyo, constellations, your interest in Death Metal music and the intense Catholic traditions in the Philippines. Can you explain a little about these elements and how have you woven these things together in this installation?
Disasters are said to be caused by the bad alignment of stars. Stars can mean both heavenly bodies in outer space or failed celebrities in media hell Constellations are like disco lights. One bulb goes off and a dark disaster can happen, like tripping on the dance floor, or an earthquake destroying a city
Constellations are formed by various bodies in space, forming various alignments. I see my work, including the AIT project, as another constellation formed by various ideas, each with a certain trajectory of its own, but hopefully all of them at sometime meet at a certain point, and make sense to the viewer somehow, however nervous the alignments may seem.
I've become acquainted with black metal music 2 years ago when I did a show for the Oslo Kunsthall in Norway. I met these kids in a club - boy were they full of angst and make up. I found the mock scary attire hilarious, and found them quite sweet and fragile. I started hanging out with a few of them on and off for two months while in Oslo. Death metal in the Philippines is also quite big, and am friends with a few musicians from that community. Death and black metal are different in aesthetic though; in this work I have geared more towards black metal, for its camp and mock evil undertones.
But both Norwegian black metal and Pinoy death metal are definitely critical, if not hateful towards Christianity. The growling reminds me of earthquakes, as much as fault lines make me think of sixties minimalism. The black metal make up and get up is a disaster, and is more disco than devil. Disasters, discos, jihads and metal concerts also cause mob hysteria, and cause agony and ecstasy at the same time. Any culture has this 'stampede' consciousness and 'religious' experience. Philippine Christian pageantry in its ritual performance and visual design is actually quite pagan, so I find that kind of surreal and subversive in a way. It has somehow effortlessly blended hardcore Catholicism with witchcraft, like a black metal gospel choir.
Joi Ito wrote a nice article about his friendship with Timothy Leary who passed away 10 years ago yesterday. Read it HERE.
Momus made a short interview with Koki Tanaka, now in New York. I used to tutor Koki at Zokei Art University, so it is good to see him answering questions in english (albeit very succintly) and generally having fun. ITS HERE.
I was interviewed on Skype messaging yesterday by Dr Rajinder Jit Singh, who runs An Oracular Insight, a blog about art in Singapore. Raj has been interviewing a number of participating Singapore biennale artists and you can read these interviews and mine HERE.
I was interviewed recently by Andrew Maerkle, news and reviews editor of Art Asia Pacific magazine. The article appears in the current issue of the Asian Art Archive newsletter and is titled "Alternative Art Spaces in Japan'. We bounced several e-mails between oursleves and I think Andrew has managed to organise this into something readable and hopefully, useful. You can read the article HERE.
Russian Film-maker Alexander Sokurov has released the third in his trilogy of films exploring the great dictators of the C20th - following films around Hitler and Lenin, 'The Sun' is based around a single day when the late Emperor Hirohito pondered the fate of Japan in the face of US military might during the final days of the Second World War. The film stars a famous Japanese actor playing the Emperor, something which Sokurov intentionally kept secret until the film premiered, in order to protect the actor from possible threats by far-right Nationalists in Japan. There has been very little media attention about the film in Japan - and when (if) cinemas here release it, it is sure to stir controversy. Read a short interview with Sokurov speaking about the film HERE.
Rex B92 Cultural Center website is a non governmental cultural center in Belgrade, Republic of Serbia and Montenegro. I met and spoke with its Director Katarina Zivanovic during the International Meeting Between Autonomous Cultural Centers Stemming from Citizen and Artistic Initiatives, held at BizArt Shanghai with the support of ASEF between September 25-27 2004. I asked Katarina about the operations and networks through which Rex works. We ended up talking about a recent archive project which they initiated and the challenges this poses to audiences and Rex.
The interview was made at BizArt using an MD recorder and transcribed and edited by Roger McDonald. Please click below for a WORD document of this interview (3 pages), in english.