Just when you thought there couldn’t be any more innovations on past traditions, along comes something that makes your jaw drop.
Makoto Azuma, known for his eye-catching botanical art work such as the greenery sculptures that decorated Shinjuku’s Isetan Department Store when it reopened in 2013, has taken things to the next level, stratospherically speaking.
While he has previous suspended bonsai in the air, this time round he actually launched a new piece called Exbiotanica into space. The two botanical objects were sent where no plant had gone before from a special site in Black Rock Desert outside Gerlach, Nevada, on July 15th.
According to Spoon Tamago, Azuma and his ten-man crew, along with help from JP Aerospace (despite the name, actually US-based) and Fujifilm (thanks for the great images!), launched a version of his Japanese white pine work “Shiki” and an untitled flower bouquet into space using a helium balloon.
T Magazine describe the launch:
The expedition started in the dead of night, at 2 a.m. One hour later, Makoto was already building a bouquet with about 30 varieties of flowers. He started with an aerial plant tied to a six-rod axis and studiously added peace lilies, poppy seed pods, dahlias, hydrangeas, orchids, bromeliads and a meaty burgundy heliconia. “I am using brightly colored flowers from around the world so that they contrast against the darkness of space,” he said.
The scent of the flowers was stronger and more concentrated in the dry desert breeze than in their humid, natural environments, and the launch site was redolent with their perfume. Makoto worked quietly, until the metal rods were covered completely with plants. Then he directed his attention to his bonsai. For this particular project, Makoto chose a 50-year-old pine from his collection of more than 100 specimens, and flew it over from Tokyo in a special box. While readying it for space, he kept it moist and removed a few brown needles with a tweezer.
The two helium balloons went up in the early morning, both covering the same flight path. The helium balloons then burst at around 90,000 feet and parachutes softened the impact after the two vessels fell back to earth. Sadly the dangling bonsai and the flower bouquet both disintegrated during the fall. The vessels returned safely but alas, not the foliage.
After first appearing in 2011 and proving a massive success in both 2012 and in 2013, the spectacular Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium 2014 is back. Exploiting Japan’s love of the decorative and the vibrant colors of kingyo goldfish to the max, the Art Aquarium event is popular with couples on dates and families looking for eye candy for the kids.
It opened for the fourth time at the Nihonbashi venue on July 11th. Last year’s edition achieved more than 300,000 visitors and this year the organizers surely hope to match this, pulling out all the stops with 5,000 goldfish and even new aquaria that use mirrors and lens called Paradoxrium and Reflectrium.
Technically speaking, there are two events: Art Aquarium is open from 11:00 to 19:00 while the Night Aquarium is from 19:00 to 23:30. As we said, the two main targets here are surely families and couples, so from 19:00 the lighting and music change, and visitors are allowed to take around drinks with them. There will also be live music from 19:00 on weekends. In other words, expect things to feel more romantic from the evening.
Themed around Edo and the goldfish motifs that populate art from the period, the aquarium is very much steeped in the tones of Japonism. It’s only a small coincidence that the venue is in Nihonbashi, an area that was instrumental in the Meiji and Taisho eras as Tokyo modernized.
There are many different kinds of aquaria featured in the exhibition, from balls to folding screen shapes, and complete with outlandish names like Elegance Dance, Bonborium, and Byouburium. You can see a slideshow and bilingual descriptions on the Art Aquarium website.
Eco Edo Nihonbashi Art Aquarium 2014 runs until September 23rd at the Nihonbashi Mitsui Hall.
Noriko Takasugi’s “Fukushima Samurai” photography series documents quiet dignity of Japan’s disaster survivorsWritten by: William on July 11, 2014 at 8:41 am | In CULTURE | No Comments
Photographer Noriko Takasugi has devoted herself to going in search of modern-day “samurai” in the devastated region of Fukushima in northeast Japan.
Her “Fukushima Samurai” series, though, is far from being just a cosplay gimmick. It’s a story of identity. As the artist says: “Since 2011, I have devoted my time to capturing the survivors of 3.11. While I am listening to their story, I could not ignore the unique spirit emerging in these people. These photos are part of my long-term project that differs from the major news stories about the disaster, having been investigating the evacuees not as victims, but as part of a 1,000-year-old folk culture of the area and representative of Japanese identity, examining how they are surviving and fighting their fate to retain their sense of self.”
With a background in clinical psychology at Waseda University and training under Daido Moriyama, Takasugi is one of eight photographers engaged since 2011 in the “Fukushima Photo Project”. Her own contribution looks at identity and the relationship between man and the environment.
Her project focuses on participants in Soma-Nomaoi, an annual celebration in Fukushima that is 1,000 years old. The high point of the famous three-day festival in the district sees horsemen dressed in traditional samurai gear race against each other.
The resulting work, “Fukushima Samurai”, is available as a photo book and is an exploration of Japan as a “hidden world” of ordinary human warmth and triumph in the wake of the 3.11 disaster. As Takasugi notes, Soma-Nomaoi “is not just an event but also an embodiment of their identity and fight for survival. Here, the samurai way of life, Bushido, corresponds to the concept of chivalry. This sense of identity represents how and why, they live.”
The series of portraits of these unbroken men, still intent on participating in Soma-Nomaoi in spite of the hardships they have faced (death, radiation, the destruction of their homes and businesses), is a quiet reflection on masculinity and the dignity and tenacity required to overcome adversity. It might not be the Hollywood version of the samurai spirit but it’s there all right.
As Takasugi says:
The Nomaoi Samurai warriors portrayed here were once residents in the area close to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant but they are no longer allowed to live there. Each of them stands in the places that had a personal meaning to them in the area.
Nomaoi Samurai who stand here were the residents of the area near Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They are unable to live there anymore but are able to enter the territory during a day. The Nomaoi men took me to the restricted area, to the places personally meaningful to them, reviving memories of home.
Armored from head to toe with inherited familial flags hanging from their backs, five hundred samurai storm forward recreating a battle scene. Soma-Nomaoi is an annual celebration of samurai culture in Fukushima more than one thousand years old.
The earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 caused widespread destruction including the explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. About two thousand people died in Fukushima, eighty per cent of whom were from the area where the Soma-Nomaoi is held. Due to the radiation, the people were forced to relocate the day after the disaster, with many indefinitely losing their houses, land and jobs.
Despite the harsh conditions, loss of lives and loss of hundreds of their horses and much of their armory, the majority of the surviving Nomaoi men agreed to hold the gathering in 2011, just a few months after the disaster.
Having spent a month with the local people between summer and autumn 2012, I believe Soma-Nomaoi is not just an event but an embodiment of their identity and fight for survival. This unique sense of identity represents not only how, but why, they live.
“It has been tough working there since the disaster,” said one of the portrait subjects, “but I could survive because of Soma-Nomaoi.”
If you’re in Tokyo, be sure to check out Takasugi’s series of “Fukushima Samurai” at the Konica Minolta Plaza until July 14th.
Artist Asami Kiyokawa, known for her extravagant combination of embroidery and photography, and collaborations with top models and actresses, has got together with Starbucks Japan to create a special Starbucks Card that uses augmented reality.
Kiyokawa’s design is an unsurprisingly floral effort that features a prominent butterfly motif. By using the smartphone AR app junaio with the card, you can watch as the butterfly comes to life and seems to fly.
The AR Butterfly Starbucks Card will be popular with female patrons, no doubt, especially those who want to have gold butterflies fluttering around their coffee cups. Users can take pictures of the scenes they create and then share them on social media.
It will be available from most Starbucks outlets around Japan from June 4th as a gift card of ¥1,000 (or more) while stocks last.
Starbucks is now the second largest coffee shop chain in Japan, present in all but one prefecture. It frequently launches these kinds of campaigns to maintain its brand image in the face of its expansion. These include a collaboration with the studio nendo to create special coffee mugs, a “Japanese crafts” coffee shop in Meguro, and publishing its own “frappuccino fashion” magazine.
Dutch artist Jeroen Bisscheroux installed a brilliant swimming pool artwork in Osaka as part of the Namura Shipyard Creative Center Osaka’s artist-in-residency program.
“POOL loss of colour” was shown from March 7th to March 11th at Grand Front Osaka, and looked like a lot of fun!
This flat artwork is a large carpet, 7.5 by 15 meters in size. Its one image “unites the tsunami in Sendai and the disaster in Fukushima” on the floor. By having people play and explore the empty, discolored Tohoku swimming pool, they are re-populating the disaster zone.
The installation “brings the impact of the disaster back to human proportions; the understandable human proportions of the dimension of a swimming pool”.
In my artwork and as an artist I focus on concepts for public and urban space, projects with a social character are playing a major role. These concepts generate a great deal of energy and engagement from the widely diverse groups whom I’m working with.
This way I gain a sharper picture of what is happening in the society around me, how public processes evolve, how decisions are reached and what the results of these decisions are. I’m interested in all of this in order to more clearly determine my own role as artist and apply myself in relevant social contexts.
The practical limitations of art in public space are part of the creative process. The field of tension between the power of the imagination and existing rules and regulations is an interesting factor. Within the margins of what is physically or technically possible, it is the imagination that must ultimately transcend the limitations. This way, I’m trying to offer the users, participants and audiences a different, more personal reality.
My work is increasingly balanced between architecture, fine art and design.
This is how the team made the carpet artwork.
And here it is being installed in parts in the venue.
The artist and his work.
The fair features around 180 galleries and other organizations putting their wares for collectors and the general to inspect and, hopefully, buy!
This year, G-Tokyo — previously an alternate art fair — has fused with Art Fair Tokyo to present a separate section within the main fair venue. In the past, the fair has used a separate venue or the upstairs floor to showcase younger contemporary galleries’ work. This year and last see just a single floor of the forum being used which, while spacious enough, does mean there isn’t the sense of demarcation between different kinds of art and art galleries as before.
You will need stamina to make it through all the booths!
Look out for the specially customize “art Mercedes-Benz” in the entrance.
A mini exhibition is also being held within the fair as part of its annual Artistic Practice series, this year highlighting Japanese modern painting from the late nineteenth century onwards.
If painting’s not your thing, how about the latest in animation and video art? The Japan Media Arts Festival is screening some of its 2013 award-winners at a special screen just outside the entrance to the fair.
There is also a “Discover Asia” section as well as cafe with cardboard furniture being painted by Aki Kondo.
The most exciting-looking part of the fair may also be its most esoteric. Aoyama Meguro gallery has accumulated a fantastic collection of photography by Mitsutoshi Hanaga that showcase the Japanese experimental art and theatre and dance scene from the 1960′s and 1970′s, as well as social movements and student protests from the era.
Whatever your tastes, there’s something for everyone.
Art Fair Tokyo runs from Friday March 7th to Sunday March 9th, 2014. Admission costs ¥2,000.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum has demanded the removal of an artwork that criticizes the visits to Yasukuni Shrine by members of the Japanese government.
The exhibition is now running, set to conclude on February 21st. It not one of the main exhibition events organized by the museum but part of its public galleries that often feature group shows. The exhibition features around 60 works of art presented by the Contemporary Japanese Sculpture Artist Federation.
One of these is “Portrait of the Times: Endangered Species, idiot Japonica Tomb” by Katsuhisa Nakagaki. The sculpture (pictured below) is a 1.5 meter dome shape draped in a Japanese flag, with pieces of paper on it with political messages written by hand urging the Constitution to be protected, the “folly” of the visits to Yasukuni to be recognized, and the ending of the current government’s “rightist tendencies.”
[Image via Asahi]
The visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine — a shrine in central Tokyo that houses the souls of the war dead, including convicted war criminals — has been a fiercely contested issue in Japan over the previous ten years. Shinzo Abe’s government has re-opened the wounds by officially visiting the shrine, drawing furious responses from Japan’s neighbors in Asia who suffered at the hands of the nation’s past colonialism.
The museum, though, has decided that it cannot allow its facilities to be used for “political activities”. It requested Nakagaki to remove the artwork on February 16th, one day after the exhibition began, and threatened him that if he did not agree, the whole exhibition would be cancelled and possibly prevented from future use of the museum’s facilities.
As a compromise on his part, Nakagaki has removed the handwritten political message. “I expressed my ideas as an artist. I sense the danger of speech control,” he was quoted as saying in media reports. This may not be enough to satisfy the museum, though… or the prime minister.
Heading to a Japanese onsen (hot spring) is one of the best trips you can do in Japan during the winter.
But the exclusive onsen resorts don’t come cheap and they need to keep innovating to attract people to pay top dollar rather than just head to one of the spas in the cities.
Dogo Onsen is one of the oldest hot spring resorts in Japan but it isn’t resting on its laurels. It has set up the Dogo Onsenart 2014 festival in ten hotels and Japanese inns (ryokan). This includes some pretty cool and flashy re-designing of hotel rooms as special art concept resorts for the festival.
Sites include Chaharu Inn, Takaraso Hotel, Dogo-kan, Hotel Kowakuen, Hotel Hanayuzuki and Hotel Horizontal. The Onsen Art Collection also changes the streets and outside of the onsens themselves.
There are also special art souvenirs, an artist residency, and one-off events such as Art Parade, which will be held on July 20th involving dance choreographer Kaiji Moriyama.
Participants include the ubiquitous Yayoi Kusama and her trademark polka-dot pumpkins Takaraso Hotel.
Even the seating cushions get the polka dot treatment!
If you are visiting Dogo for a dirty weekend away, stay at this room in Hotel Kowakuen with some erotic photos by Nobuyoshi Araki. You need to be at least 18 years old to stay at this room.
And for more literary tastes, the poetry of Shuntaro Tachikawa features in all kinds of places in this room.
There is also fashion designer Akira Minagawa’s re-design for at Hotel Hanayuzuki.
Other participating artists include Stephen Mushin and Mimi Shinko.
“We’d like visitors to enjoy ‘the chemical reaction’ of the guest rooms and the audacious ideas of the artists,” a festival official said.
The Shikoku district already has plenty of mixture of modern art and tourism, not least the successful Setouchi Triennale and the “art island” of Naoshima, as well as the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum near Takamatsu.
Produced by Wacoal/Spiral, Dogo Onsen Art then comes at an opportune time but we need to see how it competes in the summer against such major art events as the Yokohama Triennale. However, there is no Setouchi Triennale this year and it might be a great stop-off after visiting Naoshima.
The art hotel rooms have been available to guests since the end of December but the festival does not fully open until April 10th. It then runs until the end of 2014. There are a total of 10 rooms that are available for overnight stays and viewings until mid-January 2015.
See more images on YouPouch.
This coming winter, Japan’s iconic cosmetic brand, shu uemura, will celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of its beauty boutique in Omotesando in central Tokyo with the Christmas collection “Six Heart Princess by takashi murakami for shu.”
On August 29th, the brand had its first opportunity to present the collection in public at Shibuya Hikarie.
In collaboration with contemporary artist Takashi Murakami, this collection of nineteen cosmetic items is themed around “transformation,” featuring pink and black as the two primary colors that represent the duality of women. Six Heart Princess (6HP) is Murakami’s animation work which was first introduced at his exhibition in France, “Murakami Versailles,” back in 2010.
For this collaborative project with shu uemura, Murakami created a new character, Black Princess, and made a special version of the anime in the promotion of various cosmetic items which will all help women “transform” into beauties — or anything that they wish to become. The collection features a wide variety of cosmetics (priced from ¥1,470 to ¥27,300), ranging from single items such as eyelash extensions, gel pencil eyeliners, UV under base mousse, cleansing oil, to more convenient sets such as Palette Kit, Brush Set and Makeup Box.
At the event, a live makeup show was performed on stage. Another highlight was a dancing performance of Tempura Kidz, most famous as Kyary Pamyu Pamyu‘s backup dancers, complete with original mascot characters for the project.
Murakami has previously collaborated with Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs, while shu uemura has previously hired the artistic talents of film director Wong Kar-wai and photographer Mika Ninagawa.