Asada Crossing


On Saturday, as part of my current sampling of the Tokyo art scene, I attended the Roppongi Crossing Cross Talk at the Mori Tower about the new Roppongi Crossing 3. I haven’t yet fully formulated my feelings about this show, but the buzz has been good. Luckily, I have been also able to speak with all three curators – Kenichi Kondo, Chieko Kinoshita, and Kenji Kubota. Good, bad, or indifferent, Roppongi Crossing is a very good barometer of the current art scene in Japan. It is frustrating, though, that the rest of the world continues to mostly ignore it – there were no international art press at the press conference, as far as I could see. Still, the Cross Talk event was packed, and eagerly awaited. Three hours of discussion, first about Roppongi Crossing 3, then a featured conversation between Akira Asada and BuBu de la Madeleine about the potent legacy of Dumb Type, the influential Kansai art collective whose work is being used to frame the selection.

The polite conversation among the curators about their reasoning and goals for the Roppongi Crossing 3 show, only started to move in a controversial direction when a couple of questions – extracted as always from the audience like painful teeth – posed the issue of why painting and painters had apparently been excluded from the show. The answer was not so convincing, other than ten had made the short list of 80, but none had been thought to fit the final themes well. Painters, apparently, get more opportunities because it is the most collectible form of art, and gallerists in Japan still invest in these forms over less commercial ones like performance and installation.

That seemed it for the first part, until a small, nattily dressed figure in glasses then ran up to the stage, grabbed the microphone, and started lecturing excitedly at a very high speed and pitch to a shocked crowd. “Now, who is this guy?”, I was thinking. It looked like a crazy excluded artist had jumped on stage to shout their frustration at everyone. But no: it was the famous Akira Asada, internationally renowned philosopher-theorist, friend and chronicler of Dumb Type, and Dean of the upstart Kyoto University of Art and Design, that has been asserting its influence lately against the “old” schools of Geidai and the Kyoto City University.

Asada’s point was that the curators should say it like it was. They were not answering the question, he said. Why have painters been excluded? It’s because the new painting boom in Japan is all garbage, he said. Go look at VOCA (at the Mori Royal Museum in Ueno), or the Garden of Paintings retrospective (at Osaka National Art Museum). Garbage, all of it! Painting is the past, contemporary art should all be about installations, conceptualism. These painting shows are full of inauthentic garbage, driven by the commercial market. These were his words. I’m not sure how good the translation was, but I got the message. Yes, a lot of Roppongi Crossing 3 was trash too, he said, but at least it had a provocative message, connecting art to the streets and society. The curation of VOCA and the Garden of Paintings was just foolish garbage (yes, he kept repeating this word). No-one on stage contradicted him.

It was a great performance, and it livened things up nicely. But even a little reflection on the subject can see it was a cheap and shallow kind of intervention. Both Kinoshita and Kubota are part of the VOCA committee. The choice of VOCA no reflects longer some kind of out of touch old curators network, but basically reflects the new generation of curators who are the mainstream now. Many of the artists they have chosen in the last couple of years also work in other media, and not all the work on show was by any means conventional painting. Some of them are even from Kansai!

At Osaka National Museum, where I was a guest on Friday, it is all painting, and I can see the point about some of the current younger painters – and the ubiquitous surrealist, childish, kawaii style – being weak. But, on the other hand, painting remains such a strength in Japan because of the technical abilities of Japanese artists trained in Japanese art schools. The success of Yoshitomo Nara is no accident. Other artists featured such as Kumi Machida or Mitsuhiro Ikeda are doing extraordinarily powerful work with traditional stylings and techniques. Let’s face it: no-one at a British art school in the age of the YBAs would have been able to make a painting that looked like Makoto Aida’s Waterfall (2007-9) or Mika Kato’s Canaria (1999). Half a dozen people have told me this week how O Jun is their favourite Japanese artist. And so on... Japanese painting is not the problem. In fact, it is often the flimsy adoption of Western conceptual modes and installation fashions that looks most embarrassing when you look at young Japanese art today.

Roppongi Crossing 3 transcends this problem; it is a very good show. But I think Asada was basically wrong. There was no need to rubbish every current artist on show at VOCA or Osaka. It was a good performance, sure. But someone should be answering back when famous philosopher-theorists jump up on stage and start making dubious interventions about contemporary art.



私は、頭の釘によって打たれるアサダを考えます! 問題は、よいペイントけれども中身を作っている技術の能力ではありません。 し、説明であり、アイデアは仕事持ち上げを与えて、それをアート世界に持って来ます。 アイーダは、ペイントすることを得意とするかもしれないけれども、画家と考えられません。 Machada-説明。 終わるミツヒロイケダ流行かぶれけれどもdoesnt理解「ペイント」ミカカトウと図解です。 O Jun~

2010/05/06 23:25



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Asada Crossing
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