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Contemporary art trends and news from Asia and beyond

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Archive for the ‘Utopian art’ Category

World premiere of new AES+F photo collages at Moscow’s Garage Center – video

Posted by artradar on August 10, 2010


RUSSIAN ARTIST COLLECTIVE PHOTOGRAPHY VIDEO

Made up of artists Tatiana Arzamasova, Lev Evzovitch, Evgeny Svyatsky, and Vladmir Fridkes, internatinoally acclaimed Russian collective AES+F returns once again to Moscow’s Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in the center’s newest exhibition, “The Feast of Trimalchio“.

AES+F, The Feast of Trimalchio. Triptych #1. Panorama #2. 2010, Digital Collage.  Image courtesy of Garage Center for Contemporary Culture

AES+F, 'Triptych #1. Panorama #2', 2010, digital collage. Image courtesy of Garage Center for Contemporary Culture.

Curated by Olga Sviblova, the collective’s interpretation of Satyricon, a work by Roman poet Gaius Petronious Arbiter, features a nine channel video installation of a hotel resort paradise threatened by disaster. The artists’ website states:

the atmosphere of ‘The Feast of Trimalchio’ can be seen as bringing together the hotel rituals of leisure and pleasure … On the other hand the ‘servants’ are more than attentive service-providers. They are participants in an orgy, bringing to life any fantasy of the ‘masters’.

The show, which runs from 19 June to 29 August, features both the video installation as well as several brand new, never-before-seen panoramic digital collages.

Watch Garage Center’s short preview of “The Feast of Trimalchio” here (video length, 1:07 mins)

EH/KN

Related Topics: AES+F, Russian, photography, video art

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Posted in AES+F, Collaborative, Consumerism, Fantasy art, Human Body, Moscow, Museum shows, Olga Sviblova, Photography, Russia, Russian, Utopian art, Video | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Israeli kinetic artist Yaacov Agam helps make “Taipei Beautiful”

Posted by artradar on July 29, 2010


PUBLIC ART INSTALLATION ISRAELI ARTISTS KINETIC ART

A public art installation by pioneering Israeli kinetic artist Yaacov Agam was inaugurated in May this year in Taipei City, Taiwan. The NTD60 million design was commissioned to cover Shuiyuan Market in the city’s Gongguan business district as part of the Taipei City Government’s “Taipei Beautiful” project.

Yaacov Agam's 'The Heart of the Fountainhead' covers Taipei City's Shuiyuan Market.

Yaacov Agam's 'The Heart of the Fountainhead' covers Taipei City's Shuiyuan Market.

Catherine Shu, in a feature article published in the Taipei Times, describes the work, titled The Heart of the Fountainhead, as such,

It encompasses the exterior of Shuiyuan Market near National Taiwan University, with rainbow-colored panels concealing air conditioners (which Agam refers to as “visual aggression”). The centerpiece is a giant mural facing Roosevelt Road that relies on audience participation to fully blossom. From the left of the artwork, viewers see a blue and white grid, with ovals, circles and triangles sparsely interspersed throughout. From the right is a geometric rainbow that spirals into a white center.

In this same article, Agam describes his work:

The artwork I call unity and diversity, because [on one side] you have this composition, it is only blue and white and then you have the other side, which is all color. The two are different, so you can call it the yin and yang. [The right side] is like the positive, with the revolving lines, the spiral and the color. It’s positive like the movement of life and then the other side is the opposite, with no color.

This is not Agam’s first project in Taiwan; two years ago he erected an installation titled Peaceful Communication for the World, consisting of a number blocky colorful columns, at the Kaohsiung National Stadium. It was one of five public artworks created by world-renowned artists, invited during the building of the stadium.

Yaacov Agam's 'Peaceful Communication for the World' at the Kaohsiung National Stadium.

Yaacov Agam's 'Peaceful Communication for the World' at the Kaohsiung National Stadium.

This could explain why, as stated on the Park West Gallery Art Blog, “when the Taipei City Government decided a renovation was in order for Shuiyuan Market, they immediately invited Agam to design a large-scale public artwork.”

According to the Taipei City Government’s Department of Culture Affairs, The Heart of the Fountainheadis the first super-size polymorph creation in Asia.”

KN

Related Topics: public art, kinetic art, Israeli artists, utopian art

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Posted in Artist Nationality, Installation, Israeli, Kinetic, Public art, Spiritual, Taiwan, Utopian art, Venues, Yaacov Agam | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

First Hong Kong solo for Korean sculptor artist Lee Jae-Hyo

Posted by artradar on July 21, 2010


HONG KONG KOREAN SCULPTURE ART EXHIBITIONS

Work by internationally renowned Korean sculptor, Lee Jae-Hyo, will soon be on show in Hong Kong for the first time. In a new exhibition, “From the Third Hand of the Creator”, to be held at Hong Kong’s Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery from 31 July until 20 August this year, the gallery will present thirty pieces of representative works from Lee Jae-Hyo, including work from his “Wood” and “Nail” series.

Lee Jae-Hyo

Born in Hapchen, South Korea, in 1965, Lee Jae-Hyo graduated from Hong-ik University with a Bachelor degree in Plastic Art. Working with wood, nails, steel and stone as his primary media, Lee focuses his attention on exploring nature’s structural construction. The works are made from a process consisting of dedicated design and complex composing, sculpturing, grinding and refining. The wood pieces are assembled into curves, with which various futurist forms in hyper-modernist style are drawn. Each piece is still embroidered with growth rings. His method has been applauded for exuding a strong personal character and opening up a distinctive direction within contemporary Korean art.

New York-based art writer Jonathan Goodman describes the artist’s work in Sculpture Magazine:

Allowing the materials to speak to him, he builds self-contained worlds that mysteriously communicate with their outer surroundings. One of his most striking images is a photograph of a boat-like structure placed in the midst of a stream whose banks are covered with trees. Clearly a manmade sculpture put out into nature, the work contrasts with and succumbs to its surroundings. In the photograph, self-sufficiency is enhanced by the object’s position in a beautiful scene; the poetics of the sculpture lean on an environment that frames its polished surfaces, conferring a further dignity on a form in keeping with its forested setting.

Lee’s works are created through the assembly of a large number of units of the ingredient, and therefore become the respective images of the individual units. In their overall structures and forms, minimalist geometric lines can be found, rich in hyper-modernist imagination.

Lee’s art is built upon a typical oriental spirit – in the pursuit of unity and a harmonious co-existence between him and the universe, Lee attempts to demonstrate how humanity can continue to develop civilization with grace, on the basis of a mutual respect between the man-made and natural worlds.

Lee Jae-Hyo

Lee Jae-Hyo has exhibited widely: in Korea, Japan, China, the United Kingdom and the United States. He has won many awards, including the Grand Prize of Osaka Triennial (1998), Young Artist of the Day, presented by the Ministry of Culture of Korea (1998) and the Prize of Excellence in the 2008 Olympic Landscape Sculpture Contest. His artwork is collected by a number of prominent Asian, European, American and Pacific museums, hotels and universities.

From the Third Hand of the Creator” will be on show at Hong Kong’s Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery from 31 July until 20 August this year.

JAS/KN/KCE

Related Topics: Korean artists, sculpture, gallery shows

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Posted in Art spaces, Gallery shows, Hong Kong, International, Korean, Nature, Sculpture, Utopian art, Venues, Wood | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The distinctive style of young Hong Kong Fine Line artists: what is it and who are they?

Posted by artradar on February 20, 2009


bovey20lee20atomic-jellyfish20125x69cm20papercut202008

Bovey Lee, Atomic Jellyfish, papercut

 HONG KONG ART REVIEW

Meticulous, pale and delicate, the work of a group of artists from Hong Kong is getting noticed well beyond its borders. Characterised by fine lines and sophisticated irony, these understated works in a variety of media show a provocative subtley which turns its back on the ‘in your face’ thick outlined, neon-coloured flat art derived from Japanese cartoons and Murakami influences ubiquitous in Asia.

In his January 2009 show Music Families at the Singapore Tyler Institute, Wilson Shieh (1970) displayed a series of prints showing naked human figures who , with characteristic irony, are transformed into musical instruments being ‘played’.

A Time Out Singapore review describes his interest in classical techniques: “Shieh’s love of ancient Chinese arts compelled him to master the meticulous 17th-century fine-brush technique of gongbi, a style that calls for precision of detail and a measured hand.”

Last year Wilson Shieh was included in the Hong Kong Museum of Art’s show New Ink Art: Innovation and Beyond and was also selected by Claire Morin of Time Out as one of the Magnificent Seven Hong Kong artists.  Shieh is popular with collectors too and is “arguably Hong Kong’s bestselling contemporary artist” says Morin . His three solo shows in the city since 2001 have completely sold out, and there is a waiting list for his new work. “I always think I’m the lucky one. When I started working in this style 14 years ago, I never dreamed I could sell my work and make a living.”

Wilson Shieh Music Families

Wilson Shieh Music Families

Shieh had a busy year in 2008. His works were shown in international art fairs in Europe and Asia, in June he took part in a two-week residency in Singapore’s Print Institute and he has been organising shows in UK and Taiwan.

 “Artists can do their bit working in their studios, but we need help from others in the art field, the galleries and curators,” suggests Shieh of the current Hong Kong art scene. “Right now we’re lacking curators who can bring our work to an international platform, and galleries who can promote our work.”

Eclipsed by the attention showered on mainland Chinese art, Hong Kong artists have been free from the commercial pressures of their compatriots allowing them to quietly develop a unique aesthetic.  Grotto Fine Art  was the first gallery to recognise it and, almost alone since it was founded in 2001, has been tireless in its promotion of Hong Kong art. It was Grotto who was responsible for bringing the work of Wilson Shieh to collectors in his first sell-out exhibition in 2001. This year Grotto will be active in Art Asia Basel in June 2009 – a debut fair of Asian art to coincide with Art Basel – and at Art Asia Miami in December. If you are a visitor at one of these fairs, it is worth making a special effort to see the Hong Kong works up close because, unlike some art which is enhanced by the backlighting of a computer screen, JPeg images do not do  justice to the subtlety and physical wit of these works.

Grotto’s current exhibition Liners’ Paradox (to Feb 29 2009) is a group exhibition of four Hong Kong contemporary artists, featuring works by Bovey Lee, Joey Leung, Angela Su and Wai Pong-yu. Each of these artists uses different media (paper cutouts, thread, ink, ball point pen) but the delicate lacy-lined aesthetic which ties the works together produces a group show which is successful in giving us a coherent view of what might be called Hong Kong’s very own Fine Line Art movement.

Angela Su, Aporophyla Lutulenta, embroidery

Angela Su, Aporophyla Lutulenta, embroidery

Related links: Hong Kong artists on the fringe – International Herald Tribune – Dec 2007 – we came across this link after this entry was written. A useful piece confirming and elaborating on aspects of the Radar story.

Sources: Grotto Fine Art, Time Out Singapore, Time Out Hong Kong

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Posted in China, Classic/Contemporary, Family, Fantasy art, Genetic engineering, Hong Kong, Hong Kong Artists, Insects, Sculpture, Utopian art | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

New York’s first major show of Anime, Manga and Video Games KRAZY! Japan Society

Posted by artradar on February 15, 2009


Takashi Okzaki, Afro Samurai, Film Still

Takashi Okzaki, Afro Samurai, Film Still

 

JAPANESE CONTEMPORARY ART MANGA ANIME

KRAZY! The delirious world of Anime, Manga and Video Games March – June 14 2009 New York

The influence of these three forms of Japanese contemporary art and popular culture has been sweeping across Asia and around the world.  This unique traveling survey of contemporary Japanese culture was organised by Vancouver Art Gallery.

“The Vancouver Art Gallery is committed to fostering new and dynamic understandings of visual culture. With the exhibition KRAZY!, we seized a tremendous opportunity to forward the study of some of the world’s fastest growing art forms,” said Kathleen Bartels, director of the Vancouver Art Gallery. “Despite the pervasive presence of these media, little has been done to assess the ties that bind them. By offering an interdisciplinary account in a major survey exhibition for the first time, we will illuminate their importance as a sustained cultural force.”

From the Japan Society website:

cosplay_party_21KRAZY! will be New York’s first major show dedicated to the Japanese phenomenon of Anime, Manga, and Video Games-three forms of contemporary visual art that are exercising a huge influence on an entire generation of American youth.

The exhibition, organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery, will be presented in an environment designed by cutting-edge architectural practice Atelier Bow-Wow, featuring life-size blowups of popular figures from the worlds of anime and manga within an intriguing sequence of spaces that evoke Tokyo’s clamorous cityscape.

 Co-curated by leading North American and Japanese specialists, KRAZY! will give visitors a direct experience of new forms of cultural production and offers fresh insight into the interdependence of three art forms of the future.

Source: Japan Society website

  • Event details
  • Video  – Brief trailer describing how visitors can interact with the show – 6 movie theatres, a sound room, games consoles etc.
  • Krazy! Cosplay party event details  March 28 2009 – dress up as characters

Artists:

Anime:

Ichiro Itano (Super Dimension Fortress Macross), Yoko Kanno (Cowboy Bebop, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Wolf’s Rain), Satoshi Kon (Paprika), Mamoru Oshii (Patlabor 2: The Movie), Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), Makoto Shinkai (The Place Promised in Our Early Days), and Masaaki Yuasa (Mind Game).

Manga:

Moyoco Anno (Sakuran), Hisashi Eguchi (Stop!! Hibari-kun!), Taiyo Matsumoto (Tekkon Kinkreet: Black & White), Junko Mizuno (Pure Trance), Mamoru Nagano (The Five Star Stories), Hitoshi Odajima (Mu: For Sale), Takashi Okazaki (Afro Samurai), and Yuichi Yokoyama (New Engineering).

Video Games:

Toru Iwatani (Pac-Man) and Shigeru Miyamoto (Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker)

Review links:

  • Popcultureshock.com – appears to be full press release for original Vancouver show May 2008, details of exhibits which have ‘shaped the history of contemporary visual culture’ and bios of 7 participating curators
  • Anime Today – preview of New York show, listen to Joe Earle director of Japan Society talk about it
  • Krazy! at Vancouver Art Gallery stretches visual vocabulary – May 2008 – Straight.com – comment on cross over of high art and pop culture, interviews Vancouver Art Gallery about their art mandate and how this show fits within it
  • Canadian Art – May 2008 – asks ‘is it art?’, information about artworks and several images
Click to buy catalogue of show

Click to buy catalogue of show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Anime, Cartoon, Electronic art, Fantasy art, Illustration, Interactive art, Japanese, Museum shows, New Media, New York, Participatory, Pop Art, Surveys, USA, Utopian art, Video, Virtual | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

What are latest trends in Chinese art, who are the top two emerging artists? Melissa Chiu video

Posted by artradar on February 1, 2009


CHINESE ART TRENDS

Australian curator and writer Melissa Chiu of the Asia Society New York discusses the newest trends from China in a video called Inside The Contemporary Art Scene.

She identifies several emerging changes:

  • young Chinese women are emerging as a force for the first time
  • new technology is being adopted and young artists are excelling at video and other new media
  • China’s experience as a world centre of manufacturing has influenced the scale and construction of art from China and beyond its borders, particularly evident in the activities is Zhang Huan
  • influence of artists in their fifties driven abroad by the Cultural Revolution and now returning to work in China
  • two emerging artists are singled out : Cao Fei for her work on Second Life and Yang Fudong for his videos

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhsCDqGb_LE

For more on Chinese art, emerging artistsfemale art,  new media,

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Posted in Cao Fei, Chinese, Emerging artists, Fantasy art, Feminist art, Interviews, New Media, Overviews, Social, Surveys, Urban, Utopian art, Video, Zhang Huan | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

New roles for art collectors, organisations created by Cao Fei on Second Life – Uli Sigg is RMB City governor

Posted by artradar on January 30, 2009


Cao Fei RMB City A second life city planning 2007

Cao Fei RMB City A second life city planning 2007

 

INTERVIEW CHINESE ARTIST CAO FEI

Editor of Asia Art Archive’s Diaaalogue, Sue Acret spoke to Chinese artist Cao Fei about her Second Life project RMB City which was officially launched in January 2009. In this project which uses as a medium the online virtual world called Second Life, Cao Fei develops new roles for collectors and art institutions which blur the lines between digital and real.

Susan Acret: Please tell us about your avatar China Tracy and the RMB City work and how the online world of Second Life became a platform for these works.

RMB City – a city utopia with Chinese aesthetics

Cao Fei: During the creation of i.Mirror and the China Tracy Pavilion (A machinima-documentary about China Tracy’s first explorations of Second Life, and the large-scale installation where it premiered at the 2007 Venice Biennale), I started to think about creating a place that belonged to China Tracy within Second Life… her own ‘city utopia’. China Tracy felt that since most cities within Second Life were Western in style, she wanted to represent some of her concepts about Chinese urban development in a space that incorporated Chinese aesthetics and identity, albeit in a surreal hybrid style.

Blurred boundaries between real and virtual for modern generations
S.A: You’ve said that your generation, brought up in a digital world, ‘will always compare virtual and real’ and that sometimes the boundaries between the two can be blurred. Your art reflects this movement between these two spheres. What opportunities do virtual worlds offer artists that are not available in the ‘real’ world?

C.F: Second Life is a world where the conventional free-market economy still applies. Although we call it a virtual world, its economic structure and the virtual currency is tied with the ‘real’ economy. From a visual perspective, Second Life appears to be hyper-real and excessively imagined. Combined with its uncertain identity, it can be mysterious and enigmatic to people. On arriving in this virtual world, China Tracy was attracted by the hyper-real prison, but also felt an unavoidable sense of oppression.

Cao Fei i Mirror 28 min machinima

Cao Fei, i Mirror Second Life Machinima, 28 minutes

Although the boundary between virtual and real is becoming more and more blurred, the way the virtual world contradicts and coincides with reality offers something ambiguous and complex. This, to a certain extent, enhances our lives as a whole, providing a reference for the exploration of individuality and the nature of life.

Another reason that the virtual world appeals to me is that it transcends obstacles in reality, despite being hyper-real. It offers a virtual platform for human beings to experiment with a possible utopia, such as building an individualistic heaven, drafting laws and systems, generating new discussions and thoughts, etc.

 
S.A: How many collaborators have you worked with for your RMB City project? How do you find your collaborations with these ‘real’ people?

C.F: Collaborators involved in RMB City include collectors, galleries, scholars, researchers, artists, schools, various exhibition projects, commissioned projects, biennials and triennials, etc.

New roles for art collectors organisations, Uli Sigg is RMB City governor

1. Collectors
We invite collectors to actively participate in the actual development of the city. For example, we invited Mr Uli Sigg to be the first governor of the city (for 3 months), in order for him to oversee and propose a blueprint for the utopia of RMB City in terms of its systems, construction and direction.

2. Public organizations
We are now working closely with Serpentine Gallery. They are one of the real information centres for RMB City. Also, UCCA which will collect RMB City, will have a virtual art gallery and other independent projects. Some art organizations are willing to rent spaces to be involved in this project and also develop their own projects.

3. Exhibition/ Project
I have realized personal projects for biennials and triennials via RMB City, for example, for the 2008 Yokohama Triennial and New Orleans Biennial, as well as on some consigned projects, such as H Box’s video project. I would like to some overseas artist residency programs to take place the RMB City’s platform.

4. Other
We invite different parties (not just limited to the art field) in the real world to participate in the virtual world. We also invite Second Life avatars who are interested in our project.

Therefore, RMB City insists on ‘the cooperation of virtual and real’: collaborators should come from both worlds. Through this process, we hope to improve conventions and develop a new path.

Cao Fei Cosplayers, video 2004

Cao Fei Cosplayers, video 2004

S.A: Your use of internet platforms such as You Tube and Second Life is a democratic, open way of creating work, insofar as it is available freely to large numbers of people all over the world. Do you often get feedback from ‘non-art’ audiences on the internet?

C.F: Yes. I have received emails and messages to China Tracy in Second life, and comments on my YouTube videos, and friend-offers via My Space and Facebook.

I quite like these different forms of feedback from different channels, and meeting different people in different worlds.

S.A: Born in the late 1970s and brought up in the ’80s, can terminologies such as Generation X (the consumerist generation) or Generation Y (the Net-generation or Generation Why) describe who you are? From COSplayers to the RMB City project, are your art projects the result of generational influence or your personality?

C.F: Since 1978, China has undergone an inevitable reorganization. Before we were ready to respond, we were already receiving all kinds of influences from a new time. Everyone is the product of a generation; ‘I’ am an individual as well as a transcendental object. Perhaps a young person who attempts to influence the world or China Tracy who surfs around the virtual world, are indeed coming from the same route. And as for me, I remain extremely close to yet with an appropriate distance from any of these worlds. This gives me a macro view of the ‘world’. And then I decide how I should deal with it and derive my system to process all the complex messages of life. In Chinese terms, it involves entering (reality) and renouncing (the virtual) the world simultaneously. This journey is to experience both worlds while constituting the two.

This interview is edited. For the full version of this fascinating interview and more images go to Asia Art Archive.

Related categories: Chinese artists, virtual art, reports from China, video art, emerging artistsnew media, Uli Sigg, art collectors

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Posted in Anime, Cao Fei, Cartoon, China, Chinese, Collaborative, Collectors, Electronic art, Emerging artists, Fantasy art, Identity art, Individual, Interviews, New Media, Participatory, Social, Trends, Uli Sigg, Urban, Utopian art, Video, Virtual | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Takashi Murakami on why the War helped create Japanese pop culture

Posted by artradar on December 1, 2008


Takashi Murakami

Takashi Murakami

 

 

 

 

 

JAPANESE ART LECTURE HONG KONG

On November 28 2008 world-renowned Japanese artist Takashi Murakami gave a lecture organised by Christie’s as an ancillary event appended to their November sales in Hong Kong. He is the only visual artist in Time’s 2008 list of the 100 most influential people in art.

Single greatest catalyst for explosion of interest in art

In the introduction to the lecture by Edward Dolman CEO of Christie’s, Dolman thanked Takashi Murakami for being the ‘single greatest catalyst’ for the ‘explosion of interest’ in the art world in the last ten years. He explained that twenty years ago art was sold to just ‘a few very privileged communities’ but today art and design have become part of the popular culture and Takashi Murakami has played a ‘huge’ part in bringing art to the people and making it accessible for them.

Murakami’s recession concerns

Murakami opened with the some comments on the current financial recession expressing concern for the market and the 130 sculptors, artists and animators employed by his Kaikai Kiki company. In all 400 peple are connected to the organisation. But he stressed these circumstances are normal to him as an artist implying that the marketing of art is always a challenge.

Murakami identifies himself as ‘otaku’

The substance of the lecture was about the main movements in Japanese popular culture principally ‘otaku’, a culture of young men isolated from mainstream society who are unmarried and often live at home spending hours on video games. Murakami clearly wants to be identified with the group mentioning a couple of times during the lecture that ‘I myself am unmarried’. It is difficult to know whether this is the disingenuous ploy of a marketing genius however he did seem at pains to explain the movement which he tried to communicate with words, images and one and a half minute videos. But in repeated asides to his audience ‘you probably won’t understand this’ there was a subtext of futility. 

Malaise in Japanese society

The sense of not being understood which pervaded the lecture prompted a question from the audience at the end: “How important is it to you that people who see your work understand your culture?” This triggered more explanations delivered with some passion. “Japanese people cannot identify themselves as Japanese so they share the ‘otaku’ culture as an alternative. To be part of community is a fundamental human need. Japanese society is now peaceful and noone is starving. Noone needs to worry about what to eat the next day but there is still a malaise, it is difficult to find satisfaction.”

So ‘Otaku’ is about filling that hole.

Otaku is like a drug

A breathy young woman said she had noticed that were lots of women in the animation asked if there was a link between this phenomenon and why  ‘otaku’ men remained unmarried and whether Murakami himself planned to stay unmarried. The translator deftly ignored the latter question. Murakami explained that the life of an ‘otaku’ male is like the life of a drug addict. Hours are spent on video games to get a dopamine like high but they need to spend more and more hours to get the same kick, like ‘hard-core junkies’. ‘Otaku’ guys find it difficult to communicate with girls, they are hard to approach.

Otaku idols

The tendency to idolatry expressed by ‘otaku’ followers was not explicitly stated by Murakami but came across strongly in the videos. Women are portrayed as inaccessible over-feminine superheroines with magical powers, flat and unreal. Oh Murakami mentioned here, in an interesting aside, that ‘otaku’ men don’t like computer-generated animation, they like their women drawn by hand. Is this as close to the physical as they can comfortably get?

But it is not just women who are idolised….the behaviour spans the genders. We were shown a curious, almost alarming  video – but then we had been warned that we probably wouldn’t understand – in which a group of guys surrounded one young man on a small stand whose dancing they were imitating. The dance disintegrated into what seemed to be genufluctions and adulation. There were no women; the men were awkward and, to use Murakami’s word, ‘uncool’.

Otaku has roots in defeat of Japan in World War II

So where does this intriguing culture of geeky rites, addictions and fantasy characters come from? Murakami has a surprising theory. He believes that the defeat of the Japanese in World War II led to a rejection of the Japanese identity, a turning away from Japanese culture. “Winning countries were able to maintain their culture but we had to break the link with our past, we had to create something completely new”. That the War is even offered as an explanation of a movement which arose 50 years after the event is startling. National shame is still an issue for Murakami and, so he claims, for all of Japan. This is an interesting theory but not altogether convincing: after all why is ‘otaku’ and Japanese culture becoming such a popular export to the rest of the world including the World War II winners?

What will we see next from Japan and otaku?

And what can the rest of the world expect to see as the next export? Well some of the ‘otaku’ fads Murakami mentions are ‘itasha’ (car sticker art) and ‘itansha’ (bicycle and motorbike art). ‘Otaku’ males who are unmarried have plenty of spare money and they spend it on the latest ‘otaku’ fad. Giant car stickers of cartoon cute manga and video game heroines adorn vehicles. There are ‘otaku’ spots with shops dedicated to ‘otaku’ gear.

‘Otaku’ girls are developing their own culture in which they experience unreal love for male fantasy characters which they express by dressing up as the object of their desire. In the female version of the ‘otaku’ culture, again alarmingly but we won’t go into that further here, there are elements of masochism and pain.

Art is a bloodless revolution for Murakami

So what is art to do in this culture? How is art responding? These questions haunt Murakami who says they have made him question the purpose of art. He keeps a sticker on the wall of his office setting out defintions of art. In sum he says  “Art is a bloodless revolution – that is the most important thing for me”.

So war, blood and fighting are never far from Murakam’s mind it seems. He showed us another video created by MR. a member of Kai Kai Ki Ki in which cute schoolgirl-aged females played with cuddly toys and then appeared dressed up as fantasy characters shooting eachother in survival games. “Japanese perceive war as unreal”, explained Murakami, “they play at war games they are just playing, war is just a sport. Japanese people don’t link war with death and pain.”

takashi-murakami-book

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Murakami embraces Japanese identity

While it is more of a stretch to accept Murakami’s self-proclaimed identity as an ‘otaku’ male – after all how can you spend hours playing video games alone in your bedroom if you run a multi-million dollar art factory – there can be no doubt that Murakami’s identity as Japanese is keenly felt. On more than one occasion he came to the defense of Japan. That the Japanese treat war as a fantasy game “is not good or bad” he says” it is just the situation”. In defense of criticism – raised by himself a propos of nothing obvious – that the Japanese do not donate to charities he says that the Japanese prefer to contribute their time not money.

Takashi Murakami is a complex man. Speaking quietly, he is articulate but, in true ‘otaku’ style, somewhat uncomfortable in himself-  at the beginning of the lecture to the organisers “I am sitting here, what do you want me to do”. Dressed in grungy artist clothes surrounded by Christie’s suits, speaking slickly and acting awkwardly: who is Takashi Murakami? Many things:  a businessman, an ‘otaku’ nerd, a Japanese national, an artist but most important of all he is a phenomenon who is having a profound influence on the course of global culture.

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Related links: Takashi Murakami in wikipedia

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Posted in Cartoon, China, Fantasy art, Hong Kong, Identity art, Japanese, Manga, Pop Art, Profiles, Recession, Takashi Murakami, Utopian art, War | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »