June 2011 [NOART Exhibition review, Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.]
June 2011 [NOART Exhibition review, Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo.]
Toyota Art Management website has been running a relay essay section.
I was asked to write for June and my text is up.
Its about Holes, which is something I have been thinking about for some time.
I helped curate a rather unique exhibition of contemporary Japanese artists in the Residence of the US Ambassador in Tokyo, titled 'Ties over Time'. There was a reception last night at the residence preceded by a press briefing to which nearly twenty media organisations came, including NHK TV News. They broadcast this on tonight's news: NHK News US Embassy Tokyo April 3 (I notice that the link is dead due to violation. 22 April. RM)
You can sort of see me in the opening shot standing in the background.
Utrecht became Trattoria today. The chefs were Abake, Martino Gamper, Francis Upritchard and friends. I have the pleasure to be working with Francis now on an unusual art project that will be revealed soon, and she also shows at Kate MacGarry gallery in London (where Peter also is). Trattoria is an irregular dining event that has been organised by the above for almost ten years. See also Dent-De-Leone.
While a tsunami warning sounded on the city public address system and the sun shone after the morning rain the little back room and balcony of Utrecht was a hive of cooking and eating. Fashion designer Semble who I met a couple of years ago at Kandada was there, and I got to speak to several graphic and interior designers and a writer. Ellen was the center of attention on arrival.
For an article about Trattoria I found, see Here.
Thank you to all of the chefs, Hiroshi san and the company.
I took the train down and back to Kokura and Hakata for the second Kita-Kyushu Biennale and to see the fourth Asia Pacific Triennale at the Asia Museum in Fukuoka. Both were worth the five hour journey down.
The Asia Triennale is an important and pioneering exhibition which has also helped form the extensive Asia-Pacific collection of the Asia Museum. The fourth edition, held mainly in the museum, presented a mix of old works by established artists such as Cai Guo-Qiang, Xu Bing and Subodh Gupta and newer pieces by younger artists such as Yee I-Lan, Atul Bhalla and Seema Nusrat. Atul Bhalla (India) showed an impressive photo-text work which documented his journey along a river in a large Indian metropolis. Referencing in parts the land art approaches of Hamish Fulton and Richard Long, Bhalla's work was a poignant documentation of both the environmental and human effects of rapid industrialization. In a similar documentary vein was the powerful video and installation by Bangaldeshi artists Yasmine Kabir and Ronni Ahmmed. They filmed workers hauling steel and detritus from massive ship wrecks in a scrap yard along the Bangladeshi coast. From Japan the photographer Higa Toyomitsu's ghostly photographs of the Nanamui shamanic rituals and his images of the anti-base demonstrations in Okinawa during the early 1970s were utterly absorbing.
The 'Imin' exhibition over in Moji-ko outside Kokura for the second Kita-Kyushu Biennale was a silent, serious affair. Held in the disused former offices of Japan Railways, the exhibition consisted entirely of projected and monitor slide works. Takuji Kogo of Candy Factory Projects collaborated with Mike Bode (Sweden), Federico Baronello (Italy) and Charles Lim (Singapore) on documentary-type photo essays exploring immigration. All of the works shared a formal language which I found interesting - being translated into Kogo's signature method of slide shows which jitter between scenes. Each work was accompanied by an A4 text written by the artists explaining the contexts and situations of the respective places documented. Mike Bode and Kogo photographed Brazilian worker communities living near Toyota City. Federico Baronello's work explored the sinking of an illegal immigrant ship near the Sicilian town of Portopalo. Charles Lim contributed a work looking into the hiring of foreign domestic workers in Singapore. The artists group Second Planet created a collage slide show of historical images of Manchuria, which existed between 1932 and 1945 under various colonial and multi-ethnic formations. The fact that such an exhibition is under way in Japan is something to be recognised - and from talking with the organisers (the non profit alternative space Gallery SOAP, Kita-Kyushu), I learned that they were denied funding from various public sources because the theme and title was deemed too strong. They could have changed the title to something like 'Mobility', and shown the same works, and probably received funding - but the fact that they chose to go with 'Imin' is testament to the organisers and artists critical fibre. Having said this, the exhibition left me with a number of questions, particularly regarding the ethical position of the artist when confronting these complex issues. I kept pondering the difficult relationship which is necessarily created between the artist-witness and those who they film for an art work - migrant workers etc. What was this sense of distance which the act of photographing or filming produces? And how am I, as a viewer, implicated in this in the act of watching? The artists decision to use no sound and to stutter the images, so that a segment would endlessly micro-loop were perhaps attempts to address these issues and lessen the spectacular potential of the subject matter.
The opening symposium was held from 5pm to 7pm. I sat between two 'senpai' critics, Mouri Yoshitaka to my left and Noi Sawaragi to my right. Mouri spoke about the ability of those who could move in today's globalized situation and those who simply could not. I offered thoughts on my recent naturalization experience and trends in curatorial and critical writing towards things 'being on the move', nomadic and flowing - a position reflected in Nicolas Bourriaud's recent book 'The Radicant' for example. Sawaragi, in customary art historian mode, contributed three case studies about what he usefully termed 'Imin teki kouka' (immigrant-like effects) on Japanese art history. He cited Ernest Fenelossa and his use of Hegelian modes to write a Japanese linear art history, the 'dentou ronsou' of the 1950s between Jomon and Yayoi cultures as the true origins of Japanese culture (Okamoto vs Tange Kenzo/ Kawazoe), and debates around Mono-ha in the 1970s and the role of Korean artist Lee Ufan in theorizing it. Other interesting points which emerged included: Isamu Noguchi's 'haafu' identity, the essentialist writings of Bruno Taut in the early 1930s vs the counter essentialist position of Sakaguchi Ango, thoughts about architecture and issues about the mechanisms in Japan which continue to promulgate a Japan-culture centric discourse. The discussion centred largely around art and its writings rather than socio-economic issues of immigration, in line with the sessions title which was 'Immigration and Art'. Around seventy people attended the talk, which was held in Gallery SOAP, Kokura.
I have been reflecting on the widespread use of ‘flips’ in the Japanese TV news. Almost every channel and program uses them. They are invariably card-like boards a little larger than A4 which the presenter holds up or stands on the desk to convey information.
In most cases the flips repeat and summarize what has just been said in a news clip, presumably for the benefit of those who were not listening properly. The flips come in various types, the basic being a bullet-point list of topics and themes which the presenter usually reads through, often using aids such as a pen or a stick to point to each line. There are also charts and diagrams of various types, enlarged parts or details of a photograph, dictionary definitions of words and phrases, acronyms, sketches and boards which guests or others can fill in using marker pens.
While news networks like BBC and CNN tend to use graphics
softwares on large screens, it intrigues me that most Japanese stations
continue to use the hand made flip. Is this because there are skilled
art-school trained technicians working at Japanese TV stations who insist on
producing boards? Or perhaps we can contextualise the continuing use of flips
within a kamishibai lineage of informal
moral education for the illiterate through story-telling using picture cards?
While programs like the wonderfully titled News Zero do use huge graphics
screens, those little flips keep popping up on the desks of announcers to
hammer points home.
I notice that it is the weather people who get the most hi-tech graphics presentation tools. NHK weather uses a touch screen panel with icons that the meteorologist prods with a stick. I began imagining News Zero or Houdou Station using blackboards, in the style of Joseph Beuys, presenters frantically scrawling points and wiping things out, ending up covered in chalk dust by the end of the program. How beautiful that would be.
My hunch is that the technicians working at TV stations are highly skilled and creative. Rather than move over to hi-tech methods, they insist on making hand made flips, models and characters. In our power-point saturated world this is perhaps no bad thing.
Japanese TV news may be an extension of NHK Educations children’s programs, like the classic ‘Dekiru Kanaa?’ with Noppo san and Gonta – master perruque artists.
I was interviewed for TabBuzz #8.
I had a call from my supervisor at the citizenship office of Tokyo-City just after 1pm today.
He told me that the Home Minister (presumably still Liberal Democratic party) approved my naturalization on September 2 2009.
He congratulated me.
It was 1:16pm.
I sat at my desk and snapped three photographs on the computer.
I closed my eyes feeling for any slight perturbations in the identity energy field.
Ellen began to coo and babble in the other room.
At 11:55AM Japan time on July 7th 2009 I became stateless.
As part of the process of gaining Japanese citizenship I must renounce UK citizenship. The official Home Office acceptance of my renunciation came through and I went to pick it up at the British Embassy Tokyo.
My British passport was snipped at the corner, invalidating it.
I am now without a passport of any state. Suspended in limbo while I wait for the final switching process to complete.
It is also the last time that I entered the British Embassy compound in Tokyo as a British citizen (thus entering 'my home turf').
As I lose nationality of one state, I am happy to say that I became a Dad yesterday. Hooray! A baby girl, name to be decided.