An interview just published in Arts Illustrated. Quite interesting, in the sense that I was sent a list of questions and wrote the replies, and so had the opportunity to give the answers some thought and to edit and tweak the text until my heart’s content. No excuses then…
One day to see the sights of Tokyo, and the pair of us totally knackered anyway: physically and emotionally exhausted, tetchy, short-tempered, in foul moods because we were about to go back to the UK. Laughable…
Because it was a Monday the almost impossible job of choosing where to go was made somewhat easier, insofar as almost all the galleries were closed. However, there were a few open and we eventually decided to go to Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum: not because there was anything we particularly wanted to see but a) because it was in Ueno Park where there were several other things possibly worth doing, and b) it was an easy journey by subway from our hotel.
On such ill-considered decisions do futures hang…
After brunch we headed up to Floor 2F to what we thought was an exhibition of modern art. We paid our 500¥ each and walked into this:
Moments like these are why the phrase “WTF!” was invented. Almost every genre of painting is represented. There’s calligraphy, sculpture, collage, photography, and those ceramic dolls, plates, and figurines. There is some nice stuff, but most of the work is pretty hideous and clearly amateur. In the absence of a single word of English interpretation and no-one amongst the staff on that floor able to speak English, we assumed it must be some kind of “Tokyo Open” competition.
OK. Fair enough, but not exactly what we were looking for. Surely our Japan art adventure couldn’t end here!
Bemused and rather dejected we wandered over to the other side of Floor 2F. At the entrance to the exhibition—free I may add—we were given a beautiful catalogue and this is a small selection of what we encountered:
Fantastic! Really, I could have put up twice as a many photographs as I have done and still not do the exhibition justice. Almost every piece was interesting and challenging in some way, but without it all getting vanishingly conceptual. Extending across two large gallery spaces, this was a genuine find: a large collection of high-quality contemporary art united by medium.
It was at a certain point in the last of the rooms that I struck up a conversation with a Japanese gentleman who fortunately had pretty good English. This turned out to be none other than the Curator of the exhibition and Director of Atelier Outotsu, Ritsuwo Kanno. This Outotsu Hanten exhibition, then, was a mixture of work from his atelier and open-call submissions, and it had recently been on show in Paris.
By now Heather had joined in the discussion and she got very excited: her background is as a print-maker. She and Kanno immediately got involved in some technical stuff whilst I smiled on benignly in the background. After a short photo-op, Kanno disappeared stage left, but then came back almost immediately with his wife Kaoru Higashi. She is a fellow print-maker—both she and Kanno have works in the exhibition—and another round of quite detailed discussion took place (with me again totally out of my area of expertise so just keeping my mouth shut). Needless to say that by this point Heather was almost visibly throbbing with excitement and on the verge of spontaneous combustion…
Both Ritsuwo and Kaoru were a delight to talk to, and, as has so often been the case with the lovely people we’ve met on this trip, they were unstinting in their generosity:
So what started out as a bewildering and rather unsatisfying gallery visit suddenly turned into a visual feast and another wonderful chance encounter. A fabulous end to our month in Japan.
We did one last bit of sightseeing around Ueno Park:
Then it was back to the hotel, start packing, have a final meal, and hit the hay. First thing in the morning we would be off to Narita and the UK.
Get up late. Exhausted. We’ve peaked. We’re suddenly burnt out. Go shopping. Still baking hot… Have a nice Teriyaki dinner and then spend the evening catching up on the blogging (which has completely dropped off in the last week because we’ve been so busy).
Sunday 26 August
Pack and check out of the hotel, leaving the luggage there. We go for a last walk in the Imperial Gardens. Even mid-morning it’s incredibly hot and humid: we’ve adopted the Japanese habits of carrying an umbrella to keep the sun off and carrying a small hand towel to mop up the sweat:
We then head off to Gallery G-77 where we take the show down. Much easier than putting it up! Then a a farewell lunch with Carl, Matthew, and the latter’s wife Remi: unfortunately Sueko couldn’t join us. With heavy hearts we depart in time to catch the 18:35 Shinkansen to Tokyo:
Arrive in Tokyo just before 21:00. WOW. Even this late on a Sunday night it’s like we’re dwarfed into inconsequentiality by the huge and wildly extravagant post-modernist architecture. Ginza is a neon-emblazoned temple to consumerism, the scale of which staggers the mind. It makes London look silly:
Immediately we get lost on our short walk to the hotel: the state we’re in this could get ugly. We are saved from ourselves by a passer-by who intervenes, takes control, and walks with us virtually all the way to our destination. Lovely man.
A quick meal and we drop into bed.
This an easy one: last quick run-through in the morning, setting up in the afternoon, The Resonant Interval ‘Special Event’ at 6pm.
Heather gave a very successful talk on Arts and Health between 6pm and 7pm with support from Sueko Boland doing the English-Japanese translating. Truly outstanding work by both!
7pm until about 7:45 Carl and I did our audio-visual pieces. I started with Exploded View 1 followed by The Crystal World. Then Carl did Tokyo and then, together, we performed our brand new 15-minute magnum opus that—as yet—we must call Untitled. Mercifully, a very positive reaction to all four pieces.
Here are the few photos I have (although there are loads knocking about on Facebook and some video too courtesy of another of our new friends Gregory Hilton):
Overall, about 30-40 people turned up which—as we’re starting from scratch in Kyoto—is a pretty good turnout. There were drinks, many good conversations, and crucially for Heather and myself, some great links established.