Saturday, October 4, 2008

Tokyo Nonsense

Scion Space Presents: Tokyo Nonsense

October 4 - October 25, 2008

Curated by: Gabriel Ritter

The title, TOKYO NONSENSE, not only refers to the city itself but also references the word "nonsense" in the context of Japanese popular culture, connoting so-called "modern decadence" and the rebellious, anti-establishment spirit of the 1960s student protest movement. The work of these 11 young artists reflects both Tokyo's frenetic energy and the banal realities of everyday city life. The exhibition will consist of more radical forms of expression such as performance, video, and installation art in addition to more traditional mediums such as drawing, painting, and woodblock printing.

Original work by: Ichiro Endo, Taro Izumi, Ai Kato (aka ai*madonna), Sachiko Kazama, Iichiro Tanaka, and the six-member artist group, Chim↑Pom

From Scion Space:

Here's a short video of some of the included artwork.

Scion Presents: Tokyo Nonsense from elemental on Vimeo.

This announcement for "Tokyo Nonsenses" seemed especially timely after viewing the film "Tokyology" in class on Wednesday. I announced this film on VAOJ when it first came out in May. Recall some of the claims about the film from its website:

TOKYOLOGY is a documentary exploring contemporary Japanese pop-culture.

[T]here's more to Tokyo than crazy nightlife and entertainment: from anime to architecture, political art to gaming, from shopping and style to the Cherry Blossom festival, the city has something for everyone, and its share of surprises, too!

My concern in the earlier post was that this film would fall into the Weird Japan and/or Cool Japan trap - perhaps an updated version of orientalism that perpetuates stereotypes of what we think we know about contemporary Japan. I gave the film too much credit. It is simply not a documentary at all. We follow the banal Carrie Ann Inaba on her ten day trip to Tokyo and listen to her reactions and interactions at seemingly uniquely weird Japanese settings. Most of what we get in the film is surface: here's the place, look at it, wow isn't it strange and/or cool. For example, the film visits a restaurant that has a Christian theme. We see the setting that many might consider sacrilegious and hear Inaba's reactions. Finally she ponders how customers act while at the restaurant. Why didn't they simply film when the restaurant was open? At times Inaba tries to interview people (she is supposed to be fluent in Japanese having attended Sophia University and having a two year singing career in Japan but the film reveals that she is definitely not...) to get deeper analysis and it is oh so painful. During the film students both groaned and laughed. One student commented, "well, we need to see bad films too, right?" In this sense, the film shows how not to do a documentary. It also illustrates the danger of the alluring visual overtaking real research. Other students, recalling Neighborhood Tokyo, suggested that Inaba and Professor Bestor switch places. I suppose that this means that both films fall into the reflexive category. Or perhaps students wanted an anthropologist to guide them around the scenes of Tokyo pop culture. And Inaba would have made Miyamoto-cho a more interesting place...

VAOJ students will discuss Japanese pop culture in their blogs next week. It is hoped and assumed that they will avoid the nonsense of "Tokyology."

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