Chim ↑ Pom @ PS1


Surprise of my weekend in New York was to see the Chim ↑ Pom video KI-AI 100 in the main foyer of top alternative art museum PS1 in Queens, New York City. Curated by Christopher Lew, the video features the gang with some local kids doing one hundred martial arts style "energy shouts" in a circle amidst the wreckage of the Tohoku earthquake disaster area in Soma City.

It's the typical, over the edge, Chim ↑ Pom production in which, led by Ellie-chan the gang shout out a bunch of inane Japanese political slogans -- and whatever else came in their heads -- as a way of dealing with the unbelievable destruction around them. It's as offensive and brilliant as usual. What is doubly funny is the straight faced curatorial description, in which we are told in a deadly serious tone that the gang "made friends with local youth many of which has lost their home". The description goes on: "This is the KI-AI shouted from the bottom of their hearts, to the midst of sorrow and delight, by those who live simultaneously as victim and aid worker. This is their reality".

Curious New Yorkers didn't know whether to be outraged, or nod sagely at a moving gesture on the anniversary of the disaster. And nobody had a clue who on earth these kids were. Somebody really needs to be contextualising this stuff and explaining the rough Japanese humour going on here.

Here are some of the things they shout out:

"Let's go for it Tohoku!"
"Japan is awesome!"
"Let's all go for it!"
"Screw you nukes!"
"Radiation is great!"
"Is Radiation really great?!"
"It's not great!"
"I want to go swim in the ocean!"
"I wanna see a swimsuit"
"Buy spinach!"
"Soma has great strawberries!"
"We are not gonna lose against radioactivity!"
"Let's do our best to move to a brilliant future!"

Laughter in the dark if ever I heard it.

The video shows until April 23rd.

I write about Chim ↑ Pom -- and lots of other things, in my book BEFORE AND AFTER SUPERFLAT: A SHORT HISTORY OF JAPANESE CONTEMPORARY ART 1990-2011, by Timezone 8 publishers, Hong Kong 2012. Available now.

You can see a preview of the book here:





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