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- Favela Painting
I should also mention to UNIT friend Jeroen Koolhaas is here in Tokyo looking for galleries to exhibit an installation that he’s made to explain/publicize “Favela Painting” a project he’s doing with another friend Dre Urhahn.
Check out their site for more info, but the basic premise is to paint an entire section of Rio slum as a single, recognizable picture to help alter the image of favelas – notorious, but popular informal communities that are often left off Brazil’s maps and political agenda.
- What I learned walking around Tokyo
Brendan: That’s crazy right?
Jeroen: Not really
Observation 1: Techniques pioneered at airports – currently the most fashionable testing ground for new forms social division and behavior control – are popping up in the real world.
Japan used to be a haven for smokers. Cheap prices, very little social stigma (as long as you’re a man), ample street-side vending machines for the kids. But something has changed. Outside the major train stations in Tokyo, smokers are now segregated into special smoking districts. To make matters worse, they are surrounded by elaborate diagrams that deliver guilt trips like, “Where does the smoke go? Only the person producing it is unconcerned,” “You tossed your cigarette out the window. You looked like you were fleeing the scene of a crime,” and (my favorite) “A lit cigarette is carried at the height of a child’s face.”
In the most dramatic cases, though, smokers aren’t even allowed fresh air. They’re crammed into little, frosted glass death chambers, as in this one I found outside the Roppongi Hills center.
I once heard a passionate, defiant smoker talk about how the smoking sections of airports were actually good, because they offered the chance for people with little else in common to get to know each other, and bond through a shared hobby/addiction. Maybe this is true, and for the sake of my smoking friends I hope so, because they are being rounded up, and sooner or later may need to defend themselves.
Observation 2: The future will be cute and comfy.
When I left Beijing, the Motorola Razr was reigning mobile phone champion. It was an unavoidable presence in restaurants and clubs, and a pink version had just been released, apparently in the hope of attracting female buyers who were turned off by the cold, Alien aesthetic of the black and silver versions. My friend even had his stolen by a girl he hooked up with. Everybody knows that Japan leads the world in personal technology, so when I got to Tokyo, I expected to see the next Razr. And maybe I have, but it’s different than I guessed.
Instead of continuing the tradition of metallic angularity that signifies ‘modern’ in many places, the phones here are more and more soft and colorful. They’re usually made of plastic and, compared to the enormous mini-computers that many of China’s businessmen carry, look a lot like toys. 5 years ago when I lived here I had a too slim silver phone that I thought was very stylish and was hard to use. Now it seems like silver has been removed from the pallet and the phones are thicker. A friend told me that she thinks Japan hit the ceiling in terms of outward displays of technological advancement and the designers are now pursuing a new form of progress – less flashy, more comfortable and intimate.
Observation 3: Contrary to its image, politics in Japan is not only for conservative old men.
As this cinder block wall attests, women and even animals are welcome.
- HI from Tokyo
I’m in Tokyo now, visiting old friends, preparing a Japanese issue of UNIT, and (occasionally) binge drinking.
Today I was very happily reunited with my friends Lok & Jeroen, two of funniest and most talented people… If I were to compile a compilation of the best people called, “Now that’s what I call people!” both of these gentlemen would be prominently included, nuff said.
A couple of years ago, we made a 60-meter long collage of the history of Europe. It was part of an exhibition called “The Image of Europe” that Holland and the EU commissioned Rem Koolhaas and his office AMO to create. It eventually was shown in Brussels, Munich, and Vienna. Our friend Iwan Baan has photos of it on his website, check it out…
- Art in Beijing I: Brian Wallace
At the moment I’m working on an article about Beijing’s art scene. It’s an intimidating topic, and I’m mostly just running around trying to speak with people who know the situation intimately. In the next week or so I’ll post up a few of the most interesting interviews. This first one is with Brian Wallace, the founder of Red Gate, Beijing’s oldest contemporary arts gallery…
BM: Hi Brian. While I’m in Beijing, I’m trying to assemble a kind of oral history of how the contemporary art scene has developed here. As the founder of Beijing’s oldest gallery, I’m curious about your experience. How did you first get involved?
BW: Well, when we opened Red Gate there was actually one other gallery, the Concert Hall, and that subsequently closed. At that time there were no other galleries, but even before that Beijing was already hosting exhibitions of contemporary art. That’s how I became involved, by organizing some of them, in 88 and 89.
Things were opening up at that time. Contemporary art was still misunderstood or frowned upon, and attracted a lot of negative attention – this was still really early days, in the 80s, after ‘the 70s’. There was no market, there was no interest, people didn’t know what it was. So all of that had to be developed.
But there were still groups of active artists. We – and when I say ‘we’ I mean the greater we – were using places like the Temple of Longevity, the Confucian Temple, the Temple of Wisdom Attained (智化寺), the Ancient Observatory, which were just empty spaces, and surprisingly they let people rent them. And so different artists were getting together, and people like me were organizing events, and then a few people like curators, but I don’t think they used that term back then.
- Blog Bonito VII: This is the end
I can report that no matter what happens tonight, Italy is already a winner. Not for redeeming the image of Italian football following the corruption scandal that’s now tearing apart its domestic league, not for providing hope and confidence to a nation mired in economic stagnation, not for any of that.
Italy has accomplished something much more significant and moving. In short Italy is the winner of the World Cup 2006 Bikini Shootout. And NO ONE can take that away from them. Here’s a short clip of the opening round, originally broadcast on Veronica, Holland’s classiest television network.
Post script: The Bikini Shootout proved to be prophetic, and I’m more upset about it than I ever thought I’d be.
There’ll be a lot of hang wringing and expressions of outrage over the next few weeks, but my hunch is Zidane made more friends than enemies tonight….
- ¥€$ ma’am
Sorry for the long, unexplained pause.
I’ve extended my stay in Beijing for a few weeks to write some stories and make a little money. Right now, I’m researching the art scene here for Art Review, a London-based contemporary art and style magazine. I’m learning a lot, and I’ll post up some of the interviews in the coming days…
In the mean time, check out my current favorite piece of youtube flavor, a little documentary by Nate Harrison on the “Amen break” – a drum pattern taken from “Amen brother” by the Winstons that is arguably the most influential sample of all time. Of special interest to all the UK hardcore and jungle heads.