I wasn't particularly dazzled by the press pictures of the exhibition Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s and i thought i'd visit it on a day i'd be really really bored. Which you're never supposed to be in London. Still, last Sunday i was at the Barbican, attempting to recover from the heart attack i had when i saw the endless queue to experience Random International's Rain Room and took the lift to see the photo show. I found that the press pictures didn't do it justice. Everything Was Moving is a magnificent, albeit slightly exhausting, show. The exhibition shows the work of photographers who lived and worked in countries as different from each other as Ukraine under Soviet control and Apartheid South Africa, Maoist China and Vietnam attacked by American soldiers. Plenty of politics, social issues and conflicts to cover!
I might not have (or rather 'take') the time to cover the whole exhibition but one of the rooms that impressed me the most was dedicated to the work of Japanese photographer Shomei Tomatsu. His most famous series is "Nagasaki 11:02". Fifteen years after the horrific atomic bombings of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Shomei Tomatsu was commissioned by the Japan Council Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs to document the effects of the A-bomb on the city of Nagasaki and on its inhabitants.
The series is named after the photo of a watch that was dug up 0.7km from the epicenter of the explosion and which stopped at the exact moment the bomb fell: 11:02 a.m on the 9th of August 1945.
Another of his most admired series is Chewing Gum and Chocolate which exposes the influences of the US occupying forces and of American military and popular culture on Japanese society.
Everything Was Moving: Photography from the 60s and 70s remains open until 13 January 2013 at the Barbican Art Gallery in London.
Photo on the homepage: Hairstyle, Tokyo 1969.
The obvious tip would be to send everyone to see the collection of François Pinault at Palazzo Grassi. But there's a small and charming exhibition about to close at the gallery of the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa on Piazza San Marco: Graphic Design from Japan - 100 Posters 2001-2010.
Some of the most impressive works eluded my google image searches. Thankfully, Kazumasa Nagai's "Life" series didn't.
I couldn't find anything about this cheerful "Hiroshima appeals 2010" by Keisuke Nagatomo (design), Seitaro Kuroda (illustration) and Shinzo Higurashi + Seitaro Kuroda (copy). So all you'll get will be details from the original posters:
If the many billboards glued on and around Piazza San Marco haven't exhausted your patience for advertising, then head to the Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa. Graphic Design from Japan - 100 Posters 2001-2010 remains open until 20 October 2010.
She's not only a graduate of Design Interactions (RCA, London), she's also Sputniko!, a Japanese pop star whose music, videos, performances and electronic devices explore themes of technology, gender and pop culture.
Hiromi is the author of devices such as the Pénis Cybernétique (i'm sure your french is fluent enough to make sense of the words) and Crowbot Jenny, a dark-haired girl who goes around urban park carrying on her shoulder a crow-shaped robot that can communicate with crows and turn them into a bird army. Her first dvd album Parakonpe 3000 is a collection of videos which comment on our relationship with technology. There's the "Child Producing Machine" but also the Google Song, "Sputniko! TV: A Children's Program for Newly Born A.I.s" and the Wakki Song (an interactive armpit performance).
More than just a gadget, a video, a song, Sputniko! creates a whole character with its own manga-inspired aesthetics, attributes, super-powers and dynamics. Each of her projects has been produced in collaboration with scientists experts in Zoology, Medicine and Reproductive Science.
She was presenting two new works at the Summer exhibition of the Royal College of Art.
First, a much blogged-about device which, i hope, will soon be added to the collection of the Museum of Menstruation.
The question at the heart of the Menstruation Machine, Takashi's Take is 'It's 2010, so why are humans still menstruating?'
Abdominal pain, headaches, depression, emotional sensitivity, feeling bloated, changes in sex drive and nausea, premenstrual water retention, etc. Not to mention mood swings. Why do women still have to go through that?
Women are in good company though. just like them, chimpanzees and fruit bats need to bleed monthly for their reproductive cycle.
What does Menstruation mean, biologically, culturally and historically, to humans? Who might choose to have it, and how might they have it?
Fitted with a blood dispensing mechanism and lower-abdomen-stimulating electrodes (the same used by your uncle to muscle his abs while watching tv on the sofa, only that Hiromi maxed out the power of the contractions), the Menstruation Machine simulates the pain and bleeding of an average 5 day menstruation.
The machine could be worn by men who desire to feel closer to women and experience what they have to go through, but also by women when menstruation becomes obsolete in the future and the process becomes a mere ritual of gender and identity.
The artist made a music video to illustrate how and by whom the machine could be used.
The video 'Menstruation Machine - Takashi's Take' stars Takashi, a boy who builds the machine in an attempt to understand better what the girls he hang around with experience every month.
Her second project had the same level of fantasy, the same vision of a technocratic future. Sushiborg Yukari is a cyborg designed to serve Sushi on her rotating belt. Her function is to entertain over-worked Japanese businessmen in their after-hours. She is tomorrow's equivalent of Nyotai Mori, the tradition of serving Sushi on naked women.
Given scientists' fondness for young, slick, pretty girl-robots, one would not be surprised to see a sushi cyborg hit the gadget blogs in the future. Sushiborg Yukari, however, is a dissatisfied cyborg.
When Yukari's artificial intelligence develops enough to understand she's little more that a sex object, she starts to slowly and secretly hack herself into a lethal weapon by attaching knives to her own body. And one day, she manages to escape the sushi restaurant....
More works from the RCA show, over here, ladies and gents!
Previously: Japan Media Arts festival - The Art Division.
Last and overdue notes from the Japan Media Arts Festival which took place last month in Tokyo. You'll have to forget my laziness, today i'll just gloss over the entertainment and animation categories and then go back to that mountain of books i'm supposed to review before 2010 shuts down.
Some rather good projects were submitted to the entertainment division. I often think that there's much confusion between the entertainment and art categories in many media art festivals but it didn't seem to be the case in Tokyo this year.
Two of the excellence prizes went to:
scoreLight, the electronic musical instrument designed by Alvaro Cassinelli, Daito Manabe, Yusaku Kuribara and Alexis Zerroug. The prototype generates sounds in real time from the lines of drawings and the contours of 3D objects nearby. A modified laser scanner works like the pick-up head that searches for sounds over the surface of a vinyl record. The difference is that the groove is generated by the contours of the drawing itself. The result is a light beam that dances on the surface of the drawing, while singing its secret score.
Director Naoki Ito created a documentary style web advertisement. A real couple in long distance relationship was selected to run the 1,000 km distance that separates Tokyo from Fukuoka. It took them one month (only!??) The run was broadcast live on the web and it was not until they reached their goal that it was announced that Love Distance was to be turned into a TV advertisement for the world's thinnest condom.
I spotted many gems among the Jury recommended works for this entertainment category:
daruman, by Mari Matsumoto, is a daruma otoshi that changes facial expression as it loses his body pieces, becoming frightened or angry of being dismembered by players. If anyone has other links or maybe a video of the projects, that would be more than welcome.
Rather unsurprisingly some of the entries are best enjoyed if you understand japanese. I haven't got much clue about what is going on in the video below but that shouldn't prevent me from posting it:
The animation, called Here comes the Gyorome Alien, was created by Yosuke Kihara. The stories are told using hand knitted stuffed toys in stop motion animation.
What would a Japanese media art event be without the presence of Maywa Denki?
Designed by KAYAC Inc. and Maywa Denki, YUREX is a device that improves your concentration through Binbo-Yusuri, or twitching leg. It will be released on April 24th.
Now for the Animation category!
The charming stop-motion animation Elemi by Hideto Nakata got an Excellence Award. The short movie follows the romance and struggle of a telephone pole standing in a downtown area.
Ryo Okawara's Animal Dance, which only received an Encouragement prize, narrates the dynamism of life through charcoal strokes on a vibrant orange background.
A young man is struggling with a Deadline while the post-it notes he had stuck on the wall begins to move and morph. A stop-motion animation by Yao Liu Bang.
In Chisato stared, by Wataru Uekusa, a line is used to reflect emotion, and the theme is the sublimation of a complex and continuous moment, like following one phrase of a song.
The image on the homepage illustrates the work of Yoshinori Kanada who passed away last year. The festival awarded him a Memorial Achievement Prize. Looking through his amazing works i was reminded of my favourite tv programme when i was a kid (i don't think Kanada ever worked on that one though) and i'll leave you with Goldorak, or whatever you call it in your language, until tomorrow.
Very lucky me happened to be in Tokyo during the Japan Media Arts festival. Cheerful, a bit chaotic and very laid-back, the festival had much to tickle a European amateur of media art.
First of all, the festival doesn't just celebrates media arts, it also highlights creative works of entertainment, animation, and manga which gives the feeling that media art is part of a broader contemporary culture than it is in Europe. On the other hand, i didn't see as many socially-engaged artworks media art works as one can find in similar exhibitions in both Europe and the U.S. of A. I'm all for activism and hacktivism but you know what? i didn't expect to find conscience-wrecking works in the exhibition anyway, so its scarce presence didn't spoil my dessert.
Unlike most similar events, Japan Media Arts festival displays not only the awarded works but also the ones that have been recommended by the jury.
Finally, there was light instead of the usual crepuscular atmosphere in the exhibition space. I don't understand why media art exhibitions are so desperate to have you nose-dive into darkness and gloominess.
While lasers scan the onion from one of three angles, a fuse deposition modeler creates a plastic model based on the information collected. The device repeats this process every twenty-four hours scanning from a different angle. After a new model is produced the system advances a conveyor approx. 17 inches so the cycle can repeat. The result is a series of white plastic models illustrating a simple organic phenomenon from different angles.
Vernissage tv interviewed Bowen about his installation.
One of my favourite works in the exhibition was Braun Tube Jazz Band. Wada Ei lined up tv screens and used them as percussion instruments, reinventing thus the purpose and characteristics of a media we thought we knew so well. The artist explains: One day, a spectacular picture popped up in my brain. It was an image of abandoned electrical appliances being played as musical instruments on a street in a town. Using this image as a starting point, I set up the same number of tube televisions and PC-controlled video decks correspond to the number of notes in a musical scale to create a set of gamelan percussion instruments. Tapping TV tubes produces primitive and cosmic electrical music.
People were forming a long queue to be allowed to enter the transparent cylinder and sit on its chair, right in the eye of the upcoming storm... Once you've press the start button, a huge volume of foam polystyrene beads swirl frantically against the internal wall of the cylinder. All hell breaks loose around you and after a first moment of shock, the experience turn out to be soothing and perfectly safe.
Among the recommendations of the jury:
Leçons de Français (French Lessons), a very charming French lesson by Vanessa Louzon who cut and rearranged images from a French lesson book that belonged to her mother and a communist-era atlas of Europe that belonged to her father, and constructed a video narrative using language lesson clichés to tell about modern life, displacement, and failed dreams (movie.)
Common Flowers, by Shiho Fukuhara and Georg Tremmel (of the Biopresence fame), reverts the blue "Moondust" carnation -the first commercially available and purely aesthetic GM product- back to its natural white state using open-source DIY bio-bending methods and procedures.
Box 2.0, by
All my pictures from the Japan Media Arts Festival.
Toward Eternal Life and Love, the last section of the exhibition Medicine and Art, attempts to bring light on the latest developments in biotechnology, cybernetics and neuroscience, but also on the vital issues they entail. Can our definition of life remain forever unchallenged? Is the human commitment to reproduce going to stay the same? Are there limits to the way we will be able to modify and 'enhance' our body in the future? Will we ever reach our dreams of immortality? How much can medical and scientific developments impact the way we love and live?
The latest advancements of science are presented into a historical perspective, with the proponent of the theory of evolution, Charles Darwin, as the key protagonist of this section of the exhibition. His theories about evolution through natural selection were evidenced in his 1859 essay On the Origin of Species. The book stirred much controversy but Darwin's ideas on evolution became accepted by the scientific community and much of the general public in his lifetime. As the current debate around creationism demonstrates, Darwin's theory of evolution still haven't met unanimity. A Creation museum in Kentucky, US even brandishes the moto "Life doesn't evolve around Darwin."
The Mori Art Center had brought to Tokyo many original illustrations related to Darwin's research on animals and men but also ivory phrenological heads, some of the original metal plates used by Francis Crick and James D. Watson to build a double helix model of DNA and determine its molecular structure, etc.
One of the most puzzling artifacts for me was this goniometer. Invented in the early 1860s by surgeon and anthropologist Paul Broca, the goniometer was designed to measure the 'Jacquart' angle of the face. "Scientifical" measurements of the face were used by anthropologists in the 1800s to classify human types and races, in the mistaken belief that some human groups were more evolved than others. Human types were then placed on an evolutionary ladder, inevitably with Europeans at the top.
The artworks that illustrate the Toward Eternal Life and Love chapter range from the very pop to the acutely grave.
And Patricia Piccinini's Game Boys Advanced are quietly disturbing. A couple of boys absorbed into a handheld video game shouldn't raise an eyebrow. Except that on closer inspection, the kids appear to be twins with prematurely wrinkled, slack skin.
The brothers are not really twins, they are clones. The boys' accelerated decrepitude is a nods to reports that Dolly the sheep was ageing at a more rapid rate than would be expected. The scientists responsible for her seeing the light argued that the reason or Dolly's arthritis might have been the sedentary existence she led in laboratory rather than any genetic problems resulting from the cloning process.
When American superheroes get too shabby, they are sent to vegetate in Gilles Barbier's Nursing Home. The work refers quite straightforwardly to our societies' obsession with eternal youth. Should medical research be geared towards the fight against the loss of youthfulness? Or isn't medicine's most noble mission to provide us with better lives? Will our society ever revert to respecting old age?
Annie Cattrell used FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) brain scanning techniques to create Sense, a fascinating series of sculptures that map the activity patterns of the brain as it responds to touch, smell, sight, hearing and taste. Scans of a subject's brain using each of the senses were produced with FMRI. These scans were then converted into 3D structures of amber resin using a rapid-prototyping process.
Special mention to the fantastic coin-operated dispenser of plastic body parts which you can find inside the exhibition shop: