Project Japan 16

The last couple of days in Sapporo were actually pretty hectic. Then – BANG – we’ve packed up and left and I’m writing this from a hotel room in Osaka. A bit like someone suddenly changing channels on the TV when you’re half way through a good film… So just a very quick review for completeness: I already feel like I’m in another world.

Sunday morning I spent video editing and then gave a presentation 1pm – 2pm on my films. The reaction to them has been incredibly positive and I had been asked lots of questions about my working methods. It was also an opportunity for us to give something back to the Tenjinyama residents and staff, and so proved to be a satisfying social event. Heather went out and bought cakes and soft drinks so a jolly time was had by one and all: nice to see some kids there too.

Sunday afternoon we had been invited to dinner by textile artist Yumiko Inagaki. She showed us her work space and some of her beautiful and lovingly produced pieces: she dyes her own thread, designs the patterns, and weaves using all sorts of materials including metal. These pictures simply do not do her work justice: there is a profound simplicity and honesty expressed in every nuance of colour, texture, and form:

Monday Yumiko travelled to Tenjinyama to see our exhibition before it was taken down. She arrived at 9:30am and by 10:30 sadly was gone, at which point our other friend Rinako Otsuka arrived with her parents. They had the full tour and were great company.

Rinako, Heather, and I then headed into town for lunch and an appointment with Yuki Yamamoto at Naebono Art Studio. This is an art collective based in an old canning factory near the railroad tracks in central Sapporo. There are six artists based in the complex and they have their own gallery, this currently hosting an exhibition of Mexican artists entitled Mexicaido: the link to Japan and Sapporo being none other than our new friend and LA resident Kio Griffith:

Yuki generously gave over most of his afternoon to us and proved a highly genial and amusing host as well as a hugely talented artist (with pretty decent English). He has an exhibition in Hamburg coming up and was hard at work on a series of abstract works that he imbues with an almost 3-dimensional surface through the clever use of translucent acrylics and an industrial sander:

This is an incredibly abbreviated account of our last two days in Sapporo, but it’ll have to do. By the time we’d finished our tour at Naebono with Yuki, the weather had broken and it was absolutely hammering down. It had been hot and humid the whole time we’d been in Sapporo and the sudden change seemed to foreshadow our equally sudden departure…

Last night—it already seems a lifetime ago—we packed and said our farewells. A last few goodbyes early this morning and we were on the road by 7:30am.


What a great time we’ve had! The people we’ve met in Sapporo have without a single exception been delightful, and we are especially grateful to Yumiko and Rinako for their generosity, kindness, and thoughfulness. The staff and residents at Tenjinyama Art Studio have been just great: a massive “thank you” to one and all.

I suspect I’ll still be processing all this for many months to come.

Project Japan 15

Project Japan 14

Having the exhibition up and running has given us a bit of breathing space, although I’ve still got loads to do. I am still working on the video for the Kyoto show, but the off-the-cuff installation video for Heather’s Pocket Remains 1-79 also spiralled out of control somewhat (but in a good way) eating up yet more time.

Last night Mami Odai—the Director of Tenjinyama Art Studio—kindly ferried a few of us residents down to Benizakura Park for the opening ceremony of their ARTAnnual 2018 (which runs until September 15). This is a new event where works of art are located in the landscape of the park. There is a brand new building at the entrance, a strange mixture of East-West architectures. It has an auditorium area and a stunning chapel, designed for weddings rather than as an explicitly religious environment.

[Bizarrely, this building does not have any toilets. To relieve oneself you have to walk through the park, up a muddy path through the woods, and up to an older restaurant building. Did I mention it was dark and raining? Accessible they are not, and how the future brides are going to feel about schlepping through the woods in a white dress and high heels I leave to your imaginations. To be fair, once there, the facilities are superb despite the semi-wilderness location!]

I digress. The opening ceremony was kicked off with a long plenary session with the artists which, again, and entirely reasonably, was in Japanese throughout. At the suggestion of one of our co-residents we went for a walk through the park to look at the artworks before it got dark. Good call, Yuya!

Afterwards, drinks and nibbles with the luminaries: we made some useful contacts and had another chat with Kio Griffith. Some went on further to enjoy the Mongolian barbecue and free drinks, but at that point Mami kindly drove us all back to Sumikawa and home.

Project Japan 13

Project Japan 12

Following on from my last post, here’s the video:

Project Japan 11

Thursday 9 August. The show has got to be up and running by opening time tomorrow morning. The most time-consuming piece of work will be Heather’s ink drawings (part of her Pocket Remains series): 79 of them! They’ve all got to be mounted on foam board as well… The 1SSUE editions we’ve brought are easy to lay out and the other Pocket Remains displays should be pretty straightforward to set up. My video installation had more-or-less been assembled and tested—it just needed final positioning and tidying up (or so we thought).

We cleared out the gallery in the morning and had a fairly detailed and wholly productive tech meeting with Chiami and Hiroki from Tenjinyama: lighting configuration, power, exact sizes of this and that, what needs painting, shelving, interpretation boards, etc.

Once Heather and I actually got down to laying out the gallery the first thing to go was the plinth with the AV equipment on: this was swapped for a much smaller and neater wheeled trolley. This allowed us to reuse the plinth for another set of Pocket Remains and allowed us to hide the AV equipment behind the plinth. Nice. Only one problem: under conditions of extended play the videos don’t loop correctly and one of them that does play stutters badly.

After lunch we get down to the main task: mounting the ink drawings. We set up a booth outside and use spray mount to glue the drawings to the foam board. It starts raining and we have to abandon temporarily. By the time we’ve resumed and finished I’ve got a splitting headache from the glue despite doing it all outdoors.

By now it’s 5:00pm. Hiroki has painted the plinths and resets the lighting before he goes for the day. Heather and I start putting the drawings up using a laser cross-line levelling kit (courtesy of Tenjinyama) and a whole mess of Command Strips. It’s 8:30pm when we finish. We’re both knackered.

After dinner we sort out the rest. Relatively simple. I fix the video issue: once I convert them all to mp4s everything runs smoothly. By midnight we’re clearing all the day’s detritus out of the gallery and we sit back and look at our handiwork:


Modest and unassuming it may be, but nonetheless the gallery looks and sounds pretty cool (we think). However, there are a few minor things that need fixing:

  1. The way the lights form a heart shape over the ink drawings looks really cheesy. It’s a simple job to fix.
  2. As you can see in the top three photos, the wires from the AV equipment need tidying up and, of course, are a Health and Safety issue as is.
  3. There are no interpretation boards as yet: Chiami has done the English-Japanese translation but it all needs printing and mounting.

These will have to wait for the morning. A very long day, but a satisfying one. And my headache has gone…

Project Japan 10

Heather has been using the gallery as an open-access workspace for a couple of days: her Pocket Remains project has now been extended to incorporate artefacts from visitors’ pockets. Photos courtesy of Ryotaru Kobayashi:

Project Japan 9

Monday I spent the day slogging over a hot laptop, starting to put together the film for the the live performance in Kyoto on the 24th.

Tuesday Heather and I spent the early part of the day doing all the basic tasks for organising the gallery space. Fortunately Tenjinyama are well equipped and everything went incredibly smoothly:

  • The gallery has lighting on tracks.
  • There are hidden shelf fittings in the wall.
  • Recessed power sockets across the floor.
  • Plinths available.
  • Plenty of AV equipment.
  • Very friendly staff who know what they’re doing!

With the help of Chiami and Moe all the basic elements were put together in about half an hour. Amazing.


Project Japan 8

Sunday. Day off. Baking hot. Heather and I meet Rinako Otsuka downtown:

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Destination: Moerunema Park. Designed by Isamu Noguchi, the park is built on a reclaimed waste treatment plant. This is what people imagined the future would look like (only with flying cars):

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Back into town for food on Sunday evening. A quick wander round the old part of town and then a delicious Yakitori dinner at Kushidori:

Thank you Rina for an absolutely brilliant day out. Happy days! Ciao!

Project Japan 7

Repeat these behaviour many times: