Farce Alert: Art Space Tokyo in Metropolis

Wow. Chin Music Press’ excellent book Art Space Tokyo received an absurd and highly questionable review in the latest issue of Metropolis. Riddled with racial/cultural stereotypes of Japanese and dismissive of the opinion of foreigners involving themselves in Tokyo’s fine art world, it upholds Metropolis’ reputation for stellar journalism. Read it here.

AST editor Ashley Rawlings retorts at length in this infinitely more worthwhile blog post on the excellent AST website. Ashley politely pulls his punches aimed at reviewer C.B. Liddell while eloquently pointing out the numerous stereotypes and gross assumptions made in Liddell’s article.

I’m biased, as I wrote one of the dismissed essays in the damn book, but Liddell’s review strikes me as the work of a college freshman’s stab at homework for Journalism 101. Some striking concepts within:

Japanese =Inherently artistic

Apparently, foreigners are inherently less artistic, and if one is to paraphrase some of Liddell’s earlier work, less cute as well.

The whole review is trite and suffers from a myopic view of culture at large, not to mention a very short-sighted perspective on contemporary art in Japan.

Oh, and there are grammatical errors throughout.

October 21, 2008

42 Views of Tokyo


Marxo and I have work in the upcoming WKTokyoLab show in Los Angeles at Gallery Nucleus. The exhibition is centered around the artwork and writing created for WKTokyoLab’s new book + DVD set, Tokyo.Ten. The exhibition is on November 1st at 7pm.

It’s rare that WKTokyoLab stuff makes it to LA, so for folks curious about some of the more innovative image-making coming out of Tokyo these days, this is a great sampler.

October 8, 2008

Ein Gespenst geht um in Shizuoka

Tower Revolution

I’m pretty sure the train poster I saw for this project didn’t specify a romanization of Maakusu: za tawaa. Highlight of my morning commute.

September 20, 2008

Waiting for the Official Japanese Announcement

We at Néojaponisme have all been totally shocked by the reports of Japanese art director Noda Nagi’s sudden death last Sunday.

I hope to have a chance to write something about her very prominent role in recent Tokyo creative culture soon. For the moment though, I have been wondering when any announcement will be made to the Japanese public? So far, only English language blogs have reported anything and facts are hard to come by. Is this kind of delay normal in the Japanese media?

W. David MARX
September 13, 2008

Weather as Revenge

I am hearing reports that this unending, awful hard rain/mugginess Tokyo weather is the gods’ revenge for the new tunnel in Mt. Takao. Thanks a lot, humans.

W. David MARX
September 7, 2008

Notes on Kobe Collection

I’m heading to Tokyo Girls Collection (TGC) tomorrow, which in some circles, is a far, far better thing than the Super Bowl, the Kentucky Derby and the Lower Oakland Roller Derby Finals all rolled into one. This is the kind of Japanese youth culture extravaganza to do up either (A) as a participant-observer anthropologist heading towards the dissertation or (B) totally gonzo, but alas, I am the wrong gender, three decimeters too tall, and too suspiciously foreign to blend in. And judging by the draconian press rules provided by fax, I will most likely spend the nine hours trying not to get blacklisted for life. There will be real deal celebrities in attendance, which means a tighter crackdown than during the G8 summit. God forbid someone snap a unapproved picture of a famous model and post it on a “we-bblog.”

Last Saturday, Team Mekas headed over to Kobe Collection, which is the exact same format as TGC but with a laid-back underdog charm. I finished typing up my relatively dry account here (with some nice photos from Sean Wood), but I had some leftover observations that needed airing before my perspective was tainted with another “real clothes” celebration.

1) There is a Japanese non-arty, but fashionable aesthetic and it can be boiled down to ultra-bright artificial sparkles. Everything sparkles like a tiara. This has an accompanying sound effect in the high treble range.

2) In the US and UK, fashion follows music preference, but in Japan, fashion seems to be the main course. Come to think, Kobe Collection and Tokyo Girls Collection are long overdue. But fashion shows are generally an inefficient way to actually view clothing. And putting everyone in a stadium doesn’t help much. Fashion ends up being the anchor to bring together young women in celebration of models, TV celebrities, and music, but it is a good way to justify spending the money to come.

3) One of the official Kobe Collection goods is a Tartan check bag with the button “We are Fashion Victim” [sic]. Notice the “we” rather than “I” in embracing the epithet. To be honest though, I am not sure “fashion victim” accurately describes a large group of girls who dress in a relatively static way that revolves around their own inherent tastes. The magazines may all say “leopard print” and they all wear leopard print, but they like leopard print anyway. And they generally look good! The whole point about “fashion victims” is that they look ridiculous after following the extremes of the high-fashion world. The girls in ViVi just look like they are maximizing their style potential.

4) This is the kind of event that older men take their favorite hostess/mistress to.

5) No real-deal gyaru at Kobe Collection. I doubt they could pay the ticket price.

6) I thought the appeal of the show would be seeing the famous magazine models “in the flesh,” but they are so far away from everyone that we rely on the jumbotron. And once they are projected up on the screen, they are mediated and feel just as distant as they do in the magazines.

7) Huge cheers for Yoshikawa Hinano of all people. Bigger cheers for the ridiculously diminutive “tough guy” celebrities, the transsexual model Tsubaki Ayana, and the comically overweight girl who does an impression of Beyonce.

8 ) When did all the models do their orthodontic work? They all have perfect smiles, which is not exactly common in Japan. Most of the models are also extremely talented at smiling in a friendly yet evocative way. I no longer take this skill for granted.

9) The soundtrack is fun. “I Kissed a Girl” works and makes me think: no J-Pop artist would ever be allowed to make that song. And yet, they need its bad-girl charm to sell clothing. Later “Sunday Bloody Sunday” comes on and I remember how much I liked it when I was 9. I think someone used a Pylon song too.

10) About 20 brands show and they basically look exactly the same. And I am an ideal candidate for learning the differences. But it’s impossible.

11) Basically everything is an advertisement, and yet, you pay entry price. There are “interviews” with the models between brands, and they talk about special pink Visa cards and other products.

12) When did Urahama Arisa get so tall? When did Capsule start being Daft Punk instead of Pizzicato Five?

13) Ebi-chan was #1 for a reason. All the JJ girls are attractive enough, but they generally look kind of mean. Ebi-chan had an “adult cuteness” but could stay pleasant looking.

14) Who thought that “Pearly Gates” was a good name for a golf brand? Is golf now a metaphor for death? Do only nearly dying old people play golf?

15) Some white models come out at some point for Shiseido and they feel like representatives of a boring, adult world that has nothing to do with anyone.

16) I am no Kato Miriya fan, but girl can sing.

17) Secret guests: Leah Dizon and Ueto Aya. Ueto is brought out in the grand finale, and the response is tepid. Fancy this: the girls liked the celebrity guys best. So long for girl power.

W. David MARX
September 6, 2008


I got confused one night when I couldn’t sleep this past spring and treated Flickr like a blog. Mixed results.

September 5, 2008

UK closing Obasan Gap

“Now it’s the citizen snoopers: Councils recruit unpaid volunteers to spy on their neighbours”

I can’t tell you the stress it puts on me every second Tuesday having my recycling silently judged by local volunteers at the recycling drop-off point. One time I even got into a Kafkaesque argument over whether aluminium cans should be pre-crushed or not. If that woman had had the authority to call the cops on me for showing up with a bag full of uncrushed cans, she would have done it in a second.

August 30, 2008

What a Title!

This is getting to be a bit like Twitter, but in a newspaper article I am reading, there was a quote from a guy with this title:


Talk about overkill.

W. David MARX
August 29, 2008

Yellow Magic Orchestra

Listening to the original release of the first YMO album right now. I think I like it better than the American release. Maybe there was some remastering, but it sounds more robust and I like “Tong Poo” without the lyrics.

W. David MARX
August 29, 2008

Toyoko Line Funnies


W. David MARX
August 26, 2008

Criteria of Beauty

Criteria of Beauty

A new competition for Japanese artists who have practiced or studied in the UK. The competition is a form of research into a fluid ‘Japanese community’ in the UK and its ‘alumni’ by curator Helena Capkova. This competition is open to Japanese of any age, including students, graduates, and established artists. The competition is also open to any media including design. The only condition is contemplate the particular task of the competition.

The competition invites artists to assess 12th Century Japanese art theoretician Soetsu Yanagi’s 12 Criteria of Beauty through the creation of original works of art.

More here.

The application for the competition is here.

The deadline is 1/11/2008. There will be small prizes, but the most important thing is to give exposure to people who would not otherwise exhibited in the competitive London art world.

The exhibitions will take place in three places in London in December and January 2008/2009.

Good luck!

August 24, 2008

I am probably not the first or last to think of this...

Obama / Biden

Osama Bin Laden

W. David MARX
August 24, 2008

Meeting Modernity exhibition in Los Angeles

Meeting Modernity

The Meeting Modernity series of found photographs is the focus of Néojaponisme’s first traveling exhibition. Recently unearthed outside of the city of Sano in Tochigi-ken, this series of pictures documents Japan as it engaged with modernization and commercial photography in the Meiji and Taishō Periods. The series is comprised of portrait photography in particular.

The exhibition debuts next month at Young Art, a gallery in Los Angeles’ Highland Park.

September 13- October 4 2008
Opening Reception:
Saturday, September 13, 2008 7-10pm

Young Art
747 N. Ave 50
Los Angeles CA 90042

August 11, 2008


Just finished a video for Strategy’s song “Lower Macleay” off of his brand spanking new Audio Dregs album, “Music for Lamping”.

August 1, 2008