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Japan 209

Tragically, I can now report that we’ve arrived back in the UK. We’ve had a few hours sleep since the long trek half-way around the world, but obviously body clocks are hopelessly out-of-sync. Fortunately we’ve allowed a day to decompress, so here I am on Sunday 18 August hoping to wrap up the narrative.

Saturday 10 August
I’ve arranged to spend the day with Carl ‘CJ’ Boland shooting video. To keep out of the baking sun—it’s 37ºC outside and incredibly humid—we decide to head off to one of the underground shopping malls around Shinsaibashi. We have a good afternoon with both of us getting plenty of material. At teatime we head back to the hotel and archive it all off and share the day’s haul with each other. With Heather now back from Atelier Outotsu we head off for a yakitori dinner.

Delighted to see CJ again and spend some quality time together. All great fun!

Sunday 11
The plan was to meet CJ again this morning, head up to Kyoto (where we have to take down the Mirror exhibition after the gallery closes at 6pm), and visit a couple of exhibitions in the afternoon. However, CJ isn’t feeling too well so heads off to Hikone.
As it turns out, we meet another Atelier Outotsu resident artist Laura D’encre at Kawaramachi station in Kyoto. We drop some stuff off at Art Spot Korin where we meet up again with gallery owner Kanama Muratsu and his wife/invigilator/very helpful person Yoriko. Unfortunately the meeting is all too brief and by the time we get back they’ve gone. Arigato gozaimashita!

Colombian artist Marcos Ávila Forero has three films on show at the Kyoto Art Centre. We’ve been recommended it, so with a baking sun directly overhead off we go:

Honestly, I’m not impressed by any of the three films. They are all clearly influenced by Herzog and the basic idea in Atrato was explored by Jon Hassell as far back as 1981. Nonetheless, Heather is very taken with Cayuco which she says is “a great way to make a drawing”. Fair comment…and her much more positive take on the exhibition is here.
Before we go back to ASK we have afternoon tea in the Art Centre cafe. Heather and Laura tuck into lashings of cake and ice cream; I make do with an espresso doppio:

Suitably refreshed, we walk back to ASK and take down the show. It all goes very smoothly and quickly:

Masahiro Kawanaka is with us by now. The four of us go out to eat before we take the train back to Osaka. I get some great video footage on the way. Result!

Monday 12
Last week I interviewed and videoed Ritsuwo Kanno and Kaoru Higashi, the directors of Atelier Outotsu. Whilst clearing up afterwards I had quite a long conversation with Kaoru about various things, the upshot of which was that she asked me to make a video for her. She has a solo exhibition in Osaka coming up in November, and she asked if I could make a short film showing off her work processes. Of course I was delighted to be asked.

Hopefully, it’s all turned out OK. We got plenty of footage and Kaoru worked very hard under a lot of pressure to develop a bilingual script. I enjoyed the day immensely and it was a privilege to be allowed such an insight into her working methods at first hand. I’m looking forward to putting this together.

We’d finished by about 4pm so I shot off to Shin-Osaka station to buy Shinkansen tickets for tomorrow’s trip to Nagoya.

Monday evening we met up with Matthew Fasone and his wife Reimi. It would most likely be our last chance to see them as they would be off to the USA on Thursday. A warm, funny, and memorable evening with our friends. I miss them.

Tuesday 13
At last year’s performance at Gallery G-77 we met Izuru Mizutani. We stayed in touch throughout and he contributed to the “international” 1SSUE 41 (which of course also included simultaneous exhibitions at Oriel y Bont in Cardiff and at Art Spot Korin in Kyoto). He is the son of artist Isao Mizutani, worked for NHK as a TV producer for 15 years or so, and has had a series of extremely prestigious exhibitions of his own work. He currently runs the Arts and Mind Centre in Nagoya.

Most of this we only learned on Tuesday as we spent the day with him. He picked us up at the station at about 10am and we went directly to the beautiful Aichi Arts Center where the 2019 Aichi Triennale is showing:

Contemporary art at its best: a fascinating mixture of installation, painting, video, projection mapping, research, etc., etc., some of it trivial, some humourous, and some deadly serious. There was nothing that really moved me, and I didn’t like all of it, but taken as a whole the exhibition is a thought-provoking and fascinating experience. There has even been some controversy: a section of the exhibition that highlighted Japanese war crimes has been shut, provoking a national debate about “freedom of expression”. See here or here, for example. Again: Heather’s take on all this here.

After lunch we went to a couple more Triennale venues: one by Michiko Tsuda, in an old traditional Japanese house, involved the clever use of cameras and screens to reflect the interior spaces in non-linear ways. In the same venue but in an out-building Takahiro Iwasaki (I think) created an installation that powerfully evoked a burnt-out wartime Nagoya. His use of charcoal looked “real” and used our sense of smell to powerfully evoke the devastation:

Coffee break, and then to Izuru’s Arts and Minds Centre. We were joined by glass artist Irika Amano and a friend from last year (also an artist) Yuki Shinada. We had an interesting and engaging conversation that focussed on the social function of art, and it became apparent that this is something Izuru is passionate about, deeply committed to, and is able to express powerfully. That moved me…
At some point we broke for dinner, and afterwards Izuru dropped us off at the station in good time.

Fantastic day. It was a genuine pleasure to get to know Izuru better, and we are grateful that he was willing to share his time, his expertise, and his excellent English language skills with us. A lovely man. Domo arigato gozaimashita!


Well, I’ve been at this all day—it’s 8pm now—and the narrative is still some way from being “wrapped up”. The jet-lag kicked in about three hours ago, and this post is long enough already. So so so…

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