I mention this because we had been looking, of course, but I happened to end up at the Museum of Fine Arts simply because I was on way way to somewhere else. It’s in Tennoji Park which is right next door to my intended destination, Shin-Sekai.
There was an exhibition running in the basement, which seemed to be work derived from schools and/or colleges. I say “seemed” because I’m not sure: even though I have the guide here in my hands there’s nary a word of English (which is fair enough). But there seem to be a lot of education-oriented adverts on it, and the exhibition itself was packed with teenagers.
There was lots and lots of work—about six huge rooms worth—but even so you could see there were definite themes and recurring motifs which suggested curriculum-guided topics: dinosaurs, lanterns, technology, portraits. Lots of bright colours, mild psychedelia, strong anthropomorphism, hundreds of moody women doing magic or having magic swirling around them. A strong Manga influence. Pungently Japanese:
After that I strolled into Shin-Sekai: peak Osaka according to the guide book. A strange mixture of hyper-Japanese frontage for the tourists, but then immediately off the beaten track it all gets quite sad and run-down: the old market in particular is almost entirely shuttered up:
Onward, ever onward, towards Daikokuchō metro station. On the way: Imamiya Ebisu Shrine. Said to have been founded in 600AD it is host to a Shinto festival in January when (allegedly) around a million people visit. There was one other person there when I was, praying. I had a quiet word with myself before heading back to the hotel:
Thursday 1 August
On our train rides into town I’d seen a group of traditional-looking roofs amongst the contemporary sprawl. Again with the aid of Google Maps I identified where it is: off I go to Amagasaki. It turns out there are several temples spread across two compounds or enclaves: the most prominent appear to be Honkoji and Kanroji. I spend a couple of hours wandering around taking photos and paying my respects. There’s no-one else around at all even though there are cars parked within the compounds.
Walking back I catch a street festival similar to the one I videoed last year in Sapporo, but this one seems to feature mainly school kids on the shrines and they’re on wheels rather than being carried. I recorded some nice audio as well, with me standing in the entrance to a big garage, the drums and bells echoing round inside…
After lunch I head off to Amagasaki Castle: built in 1617, demolished in 1873, and rebuilt as a museum in 2018-19. It’s only just opened. Mainly I’m scouting shooting locations and I think I’ve found one up on the battlements…
In the morning I do some clothes shopping at UniQlo, a quick lunch, and then we’re off up to Kyoto again. This time we’re accompanied by Kaoru. We get off the train at Katsura and go to a tiny gallery/craft shop/cafe where two of Outotsu’s members, Yuko Tsuyoshi and Motoko Chicamatsu have an exhibition. They are both superb printmakers, but I particularly love Motoko’s work: I even included a couple of images of her pieces on last year’s post on the Outotsu show in Tokyo.
After this—and by now in a small group—we went to Art Spot Korin for a guided tour of the show by Heather and myself. Although principally interested in Hev’s work everyone dutifully and attentively sat through both my films.
Afterwards we had a meal and then made our way back to Nishinomiya, arriving back quite late.
In the morning I pop up to the post office to send a package back to my children. Much hilarity ensues, but at least I get some use from our Japanese phrase book. Then we’re off again to Kyoto. We go food shopping in Daimaru and then with our booty head to Art Spot Korin for the Mirror party. From about 4:30pm there’s a steady stream of people through the door, lots of our friends from last year turn up, and a great time is had by all.
Well, someone’s got to do it…
Filming in the Outotsu Gallery with Matthew. Two long interiew/conversation sessions and about three hours of material. I’m using two iPhones as cameras: they’re both recording audio but I also have discrete audio feeds from Lavalier mics onto my Tascam DR-44. Gruelling in the heat: we have to turn the air con off because of the noise from the fan.
As usual in the evening we go out to eat. Matthew joins us. Later I back up, organise, and archive the day’s haul.
Ditto. Another three hours of material. Did I mention that it was hot? Like, really hot?
Another trip to UniQlo in the morning: damn those dirty underpants! In the afternoon I filmed a long semi-structured interview with Ritsuwo Kanno and Kaoru Higashi. Another couple of hours of material in the can.
I then head back to Amagasaki and set up the shoot I’d scouted earlier. I set the camera recording and enjoy a very peaceful 90 minutes watching the sun go down and basking in the warmth. A very Zen-like moment of relaxation-with-focus, just revelling in the fact that I’m alive.
After dinner I go out with Heather to begin her new art project, which involves painting liquid rubber onto strips of fine cloth laid out on various surfaces:
Beginning on the top step of Atelier Outotsu, we get maybe 30 yards across the road in front of Kusugawa station when the armed police arrive. Nothing heavy-handed occurs and Heather is even allowed to take up what’s been done so far. However, we are told in no uncertain terms that we must desist immediately and that we must never do anything like this in Japan again.
After some much-needed help from an English-speaking local, an eternity of form-filling, and a constant radio to-and-fro with their HQ, we are allowed to leave. It’s obvious they thought we were hilarious. The most dangerous moment was me surreptitiously taking this photo:
Moving day. Our residential tenure at Atelier Outotsu is over and we move into a hotel in Umeda. Not without its challenges. As well as playing a convincing Laurel and Hardy, Heather and I also do a passable “good cop-bad cop” routine which we feel compelled to perform once we’ve seen our matchbox of a room.
One of the assistant managers steps in and smooths the water. A very nice man, with whom Raymond Chandler would have had a Moose Malloy-esque field day: black, clearly of African origin, about seven feet tall, and mellifluously fluent in both Japanese and English (the latter with a sweet Nigerian Kenyan lilt). He plays basket ball in his spare time. Hontō!
Yakitori for dinner.
Heather’s off to Outotsu. I go to Tempozan, wander round the port for a while, and then visit Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan. It’s absolutely heaving but I manage to shoot some useful video. [One of the films I am exhibiting in the Mirror exhibition uses video I shot at the aquarium in Barcelona. Doing this one has given me an idea for another more expansive and sophisticated work which this Osaka footage may end up being a part of].
Afterwards I go wandering around the Tempozan area. I have a couple of close encounters with Cicadas, a quick but reverent look round the Chikko Koyasan Temple Shinto shrine, and am awe-struck by the expressways and bridges around Tempozan junction.
Before heading back to Umeda I walk around Yahataya Park. A group of young boys hector me with what was almost certainly racist goading. I laugh it off. In the distance I could see Namihaya Bridge soaring away to the South. Incredible:
[Those last two images not my own.] Ramen for our evening meal. Phew!
We’ve been here now for about two and a half weeks. We leave a week tomorrow. Heather has been blogging furiously so I guess we all know what she’s been up to, right? Printmaking at Atelier Outotsu mostly: even though we’re no longer resident there Heather will still be working in the studios until the last minute (I suspect). She’s also had a couple of days (including today) working with her Arts in Health contact Yutaka Moriguchi (a well-known artist in Japan). No days off for Heather!
Things have been a little more, uh, open-ended for me, but I’ve still managed to get a lot done. Here’s what I’ve been up to, part one:
Tuesday 23 July
Arrive Kansai Airport, Osaka. Go directly to Atelier Outotsu. Well, not directly: via Kobe actually!
Taken by Atelier Outotsu director Ritsuwo Kanno to their exhibition at Nishinomiya City Hometown Museum. See here. We get the full tour of the Atelier in the afternoon and in the evening we stroll up to Imadzu to eat and do some shopping.
We met our friend Matthew Fasone—a US artist currently resident in Japan—and went down to Suminoekoen to see his studio. Matthew and I have been planning a collaborative work since we met last year, and this is all part of the planning.
Back to Umeda for more detailed planning over drinks and sushi, and then back to Outotsu for a show-and-tell session with Kanno-san, Kaoru Higashi (the other director of Atelier Outotsu), and a handful of the atelier’s members. Good fun!
A typhoon is passing over Kyushu and the south-western peninsula of Honshu and so Saturday morning it is hammering down with rain. I go for a run down to what on Google Maps looks like a resort area on the coast—Koshien Hama Seaside Park—but it’s all quite desolate, surrounded by shipyards, working docks, and with an expressway more-or-less running over the beach. (Apparently the only “proper” beach around here is a 25-minute train ride away, past Kobe to Suma.)
The rain clears in the afternoon and we’re straight back up to to 35ºC. I go exploring/taking photos whilst Heather gets down to some serious print work.
I go into town and take the Metro down to Namba. From there I walk to Denden Town. Lots of anime, manga, and games shops/parlours/galleries. Funky.
Atelier Outotsu have a barbecue up on the roof that evening to celebrate the end of their big show at Nishinomiya City Hometown Museum and of course we’re invited. What a lovely bunch: all very talented, all very friendly. Fortunately enough party-goers with good English to compensate for our virtually non-existent Japanese.
To Kyoto. Meet Masa and Matthew at Art Spot Korin. Put show up.
Up to Kyoto again. Heather has a few tweaks to do to the show and later in the afternoon we’ve arranged to meet the owners of the gallery, Kanama Muratsu and his wife Yoriko. See here.
Baking hot as usual. Really humid. Time to climb a mountain. OK, only a very small mountain but I did reach the top of Kabutoyama Forest Park.
Hugely enjoyable. I tried filming some ants but that didn’t really work out too well—all video deleted since—but on the walk back I managed a quick freehand shot of a bird feeding its chicks (in a nest on someone’s front porch basically). TBC.
Here are my best shots of the Mirror exhibition now running at Art Spot Korin:
General view of the downstairs gallery:
Heather’s pieces, beginning on the left-hand wall and moving clockwise around the gallery:
Finally, the Art Spot Korin crew (from left to right): “Mati” (invigilator), Masahiro Kawanaka (curator), Kanama Muratsu (gallery owner), and Yoriko Muratsu (invigilator).
Tuesday afternoon we sat down with them all and had a lovely time talking about Lacan, Žižek, Zen Buddhism, and ’emptiness’. Very, very, nice people and as usual we are deeply grateful and moved by the generosity and support we are offered by our Japanese friends.
We had these the other day, sat down in front of the guy making them. Very entertaining. Even though the video title claims this is a seafood pancake the ones made here actually have belly pork in them (which is the “classic” okonomiyaki). I had shrimp, Hev had cheese (like a good Manchester lass). Delicious needless to say.
In theory, of course, all these things should be straightforward. In theory. In the upstairs gallery, all I had to do was set up a projector, hook it up to a media player via HDMI, plug in a USB memory stick, and route the audio output into a sound system. That took me about six hours.
Meanwhile, downstairs, Heather and Matthew were cracking on putting up the 50-odd individual items that made up her six pieces. Matthew has exhibited at ASK a couple of times before and his experienced eye really brought out the best in Hev’s work. A superb show. They finished before I did.
Thanks to Masa for doing the translating for the information boards and for running around to the shops (in the sweltering heat and suffocating humidity) at my behest and totally unnecessarily. Thanks finally to Carl ‘CJ’ Boland for his crucial last-minute technical support.
We arrived at Atelier Outotsu around 5pm Tuesday afternoon. As seems to becoming standard practice, after a good flight over HP and myself indulged in the usual in-Japan transport hi-jinks which delayed our arrival by a good hour. I cannot talk about it in public. Let’s just say that before we even arrived at our new home, we’d been on a lovely sightseeing jaunt to Kobe. Really, there are times when we would put Laurel and Hardy to shame…
Anyway. We were given a fabulous welcome by one of Outotsu’s directors, Kaoru Higashi. The Atelier is spread across the top two floors of a 1960s apartment block, and we have been allocated a small flat on the fifth floor. Cool! After a tour of the facilities I kind of collapsed and slept for a good 12 hours.
The next morning we were in action immediately. We were taken by Outotsu’s founder and director Ritsuwo Kanno to an exhibition they currently have running at Nishinomiya City Hometown Museum. Spread across two huge floors, the exhibition is a mixture of work we saw last year in Tokyo and a lot of new stuff. Needless to say the quality was sky-high, some of the work absolutely exquisite. It managed to be both a varied exhibition but also one that had a definite underlying (modernist) aesthetic that tied it all together. Very satisfying!
Before we went the opportunity of a photo shoot presented itself. Whilst not someone who normally revels in such things, this photo delights me simply because it is almost identical to a photograph taken on our last day in Tokyo in 2018. The only difference being Kaoru Higashi is absent, but instead it is Izumi Ueda Yuu (another superb print artist associated with the Atelier Outotsu (cue Google)) on Kanno-san’s right:
Satisfyingly, this photo glues this first day of our visit almost directly onto the last day of last year’s. Who would have thought!
Last year we moved around a fair bit: roughly two weeks in Sapporo in the north of Japan, three days in Osaka, a weekend in Sugoshicho, and then about ten days in Kyoto. It was all a bit mad. This year we’re adopting a rather more sane approach and will be staying in the Osaka/Kyoto area throughout:
We have a two week residency at Atelier Outotsu to start with. Arrived yesterday afternoon.
This coming weekend we’ll have to set up an exhibition at Art Spot Korin in Kyoto which runs from July 30 to August 11.
On August 7 we will be leaving Outotsu but staying in the area. We haven’t booked anywhere to stay, yet. What can possibly go wrong!
Return to the UK August 17.
What will I be doing? Making a film with Matthew Fasone (shooting it at least). Shooting video that will form the basis of at least one more film. Photography. Recording sound. Keeping my eyes and ears open…
This video is part of the submission to 1SSUE 41 by Carl “CJ” Boland and myself. Last year when Heather Parnell and I spent a month in Japan this is what I was doing.
The majority of the footage was shot by CJ in 2008 when he first went to live in Japan. There are a few clips derived from an unattributed home movie that I downloaded from the Prelinger Archive, and another single sequence that I shot in Sapporo on my phone.
I started editing it together during our residency at Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio in August 2018. The editing was sync’d to an unfinished and/or abandoned track that I’d been working on months earlier with David Pitt: basically just the looped sound of a railway work car overlaid with two interlocking music box samples.
After I had the basic thing up-and-running we headed down to southern Japan from Hokkaido and we spent a weekend at the Boland residence in Sugoshicho. CJ and myself put in a couple of long sessions on the music track with him doing most of the sound design work on his Kyma system and me kludging it all together.
I spent another couple of evenings working on it in my hotel room before CJ and I played live to the film at Gallery G-77 in Kyoto on Friday August 24.
The film’s next outing was at The Swansea Fringe on Friday October 5th at Cinema & Co. The visuals were identical but the soundtrack somewhat different as I didn’t have CJ’s ATV aFrame playing along.
Finally, when we were invited to contribute to 1SSUE 41, I stripped the soundtrack back down to its basics and rebuilt: it’s now very different from the Kyoto and Swansea live versions although still based around the same backbone of the train and music box loops. Most of CJ’s original parts survived the cut of course, and he also contributed two new sets, one in November 2018 and another in January 2019. [At this final stage I asked him for a few last-minute overdubs to patch up some remaining holes and he sent me 43 tracks of audio! What a guy…]
A few last minute tweaks to the movie itself—it’s amazing what you can overlook even when you’re watching the same thing over and over all day, weeks on end—and here we are. I hope you get something of value from it: