Mario A / 亜 真里男


'We don't have to take our clothes off' in Kabuki-cho

Exactly 3 years have passed since the tragic Earthquake-tsunami-nuclear catastrophe hit Eastern Japan, with its 267.000 evacuees still unimaginably living in temporary prefab houses. However, Tokyo's morbid, insular gigantism and its vibrant LGBT countercultural scene in Shinjuku's Kabuki-cho area have returned to business as usual a long time ago. Each day about 200.000 people shuttle past hostess bars and sex clubs in this post-modern red-light district, where one feels safer than at famous tourist spots around the globe.
Oscillating between entropia universalis japonica and graphic sex sociograms, between ample amounts of sake and orgasmic voices, curator Stephen Sarrazin organized one of the best exhibitions actually running in Japan: "We don't need to take our clothes off" (to have a good time). "Geijutsu-Kou-min-kan" 芸術公民館 (GEIKOU; engl.: art community center) as spatio-narcissus, the brain child of Japan's most popular artist Makoto AIDA 会田誠 whose solo show last year at the Mori Museum in Tokyo experienced a record half million visitors, emphasizes Kabuki-cho's fait accompli as a method of loci for curational practices. Aware of the unquestionable fact that Shinjuku's bohemian history mirrors the importance of eclectic artistic (underground-) movements in Japanese theatre, art, music and literature, Sarrazin superbly transforms his concept as he reaches out to further global resources, places of intercultural affections, whether personal or art community-wise, where imaginary museums for obsessions and fetishisms are born. By challenging the notion of "identità metafisica" the mounted show joyously underlines sexual ambiguity beyond the constructiveness of genderism, asking whether it necessarily implies a female/male bipolarity. Reading the following statement by the curator, we may appreciate his yearning for Kabuki-cho's specificity especially in the context of the Tokyo Olympic Games of 2020.

Stephen Sarrazin

How many concepts can one fit in a space as intimate as GEIKOU, located in the Kabukicho area of Shinjuku?

1- Kabukicho is made of fringes and migrants. As the Tokyo contemporary art scene becomes increasingly insular, access to work by international artists doesn’t take place in the city’s galleries or other institutions, unless the artist is already a ‘name’. And yet other continents thrive on this encounter of cultures and practices within a local scene, embracing the heterogeneous. GEIKOU, under the patronage of artists Makoto Aida and Goso Tominaga, opts to play a role as one of a few remaining ‘sanctuaries’ to open its doors to a different selection of international contemporary artists.
2- This exhibition consists of photographs by artists who work with several mediums (film, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video). But media art is in the foreground, and Shinjuku is the province of media in Tokyo, from photography to cinema, from video art and performances to digital installations, from Daido Moriyama to Koji Wakamatsu, from Dumb Type to Chim↑Pom.
3- Shinjuku also represents an era of cultural defiance and resistance, providing a past that never had the time to become a path. In light of Japan’s current relationship to memory, this exhibition cherishes the opportunity of being held in the center of an unforgotten history, when artists voiced differences. It is likely as well that the area will cease to exist by the time of the city’s 2020 ambitions.
4- The artists in ‘We don’t have to take our clothes off’ are thinking about ‘the post nude/the post-body’ as an emblem for another chapter of art history. All bodies here are ‘interrupted’ by something, an item of clothing, an attitude, a tattoo, body paint, scars… It’s Kabukicho’s nature to provide nudity at every corner. The artists in this exhibition came bearing difference, mystery, and questions.
Stephen Sarrazin
Tokyo March 2014

Japan's society, with its endless, profoundly rooted, socio-cultural history of homosexuality and transsexuality, as its government openly proclaims with great pride and fanfare the classical homoerotic Kabuki "Onnagata" 女形 as a Living National Treasure. Japan, where hordes of "single" women and housewives literally adore their all-female 宝塚 Takarazuka-boys and cinderellas, and points unhesitatingly to the Samurai pedo-Spirit, as explicitly seen in films like 大島 渚 Nagisa OSHIMA's film "Gohatto" 御法度 (1999)

or in 春画 Shunga woodblock prints. A country in which transsexuals like 三島由紀夫 Yukio MISHIMA's muse

Akihiro MIWA 美輪 明宏, born in 1935, (reference film: "Kurotokage" 黒蜥蝪 engl.: "Black Lizard", 1968)
are popular house-hold names and act as "jinsei-sodan" 人生相談 (social advisor) in serious newspapers and TV programs, answering questions regarding work and financial matters, marriage/partnership, social discrimination, sex-related topics including LGBT, or a profane "what's life about"?

Likewise, on the same level of MIWA's popularity hovers 'Peter' ピーター (aka Shinnosuke IKEHATA, 池畑 慎之介 born 1952), who visually femulates with grandeur and finesse una bella figura, epitomizing the queer stardom in mainstream Japan. Rich in artistic practices by re-contextualizing subtle pro-aesthetic performances, Peter's persona smoothly integrates authentic happiness and the living role model for the next generations of transgender people, like 'New-Half' ニューハーフ, 'O-Nabe' おなべ or YUNA, whose enigmatic she-male erotism had been superbly captured through artist Travis Klose's body of work "Untitled" with an extraordinary refinement.

model YUNA, in front of "Untitled 1/2/3" by Travis Klose

Klose's statement: "I've always been fascinated by Bara no Soretsu, Kuro Tokage and Nikkatsu Roman-Porno. For this, I wanted to capture and share that atmosphere in terms of how one thinks about attraction and the portrayal of one's body."

artist Travis Klose "Untitled 1/2/3"

By mentioning 松本俊夫 Toshio MATSUMOTO's masterpiece in world cinema "Bara no Soretsu" 薇の葬列 (engl.: "Funeral Parade of Roses"), especially in the context of time, space and gender/women's liberation movements, Klose's noteworthy comments draw attention to the very crucial Japanese roots of art-genetic lineage, which has been inoculating for over sixty years, through multi-causal social effects, the over- and underground kafkaesque labyrinths of Shinjuku, where Kabuki-cho and "Ni-chome" are located. In an evolutionary process, this art-genetic lineage ultimately entangled Japanese mainstream culture, currently culminating into the government sponsored 'Cool Japan' strategy; hereby perplexing neighboring Asian countries with this kind of heterodox contemporary art politics.
Reconsidering the social circumstances and necessary turmoils of the year 1969, in which the epic Œuvre "Bara no Soretsu" was accomplished, the scouting of living drag queen Peter at the 'Bar Genet' can be praised as one of the best decisions ever made in Japanese cinema.

'Peter' starring in "Funeral Parade of Roses" 1969

Peter, a trope for attraction/repulsion, exquisitely blurs the lines between male and female, reality and fiction in Kabuki-cho's environment, amalgamating the spirits of Paolo Pasolini, Alain Resnais and Jonas Mekas and consequently influencing Stanley Kubrick during the making of "A Clockwork Orange" (1971).

In this context, Sarrazin's exhibition space selection, Makoto AIDA's GEIKOU (in the matrix of Shinjuku-ku) fits astonishingly well into the concept of artistic practices by Japanese creators, who see Kabuki-cho as their "uteri di spiritu". I believe that Andy Warhol, whose retrospective actually runs at the Mori Museum in Roppongi Tokyo, would have strongly endorsed Sarrazin's GEIKOU project.

GEIKOU host YUNA, with visitor Rei Kagami

Furthermore, GEIKOU's 2nd floor, with she-male host YUNA, directly refers to local Peter's Bar Genet, whereas the chosen artists' works from around the globe (Canada, France, Morocco, Sweden, USA, and Japan) on the 3rd floor interrelate harmoniously with each other and affirm their collective consciousness towards challenging the sexual in art and exploring the soft colors of transgenderism.

Amongst the displayed 32 works I would like to emphasize another favorite: the "Spree"-series by Dorothée Smith. Her poetic eye captures androgyny and ambiguous appearances in a naturalness of beauty, although the viewer discovers mutual respect and dignity, therefore eliminating it as a critical study work regarding a polarized separation of the genders.

left: a part of the "Spree"-series by Dorothée Smith

Her artistic attitude reminds me of Del LaGrace Volcano whose work I collect or 井桁 裕子 Hiroko IGETA's 'Mario doll' about which art critic Kentaro ICHIHARA 市原研太郎 wrote these remarks ten years ago, that may function as an allegorical hommage towards Sarrazin's exhibition: "To what extent has Mario A deceived himself in order to preserve his loyalty toward art and social justice? However, isn't this self-deception the basis of identity, i.e. its definition? His own miniature "Mario doll" plays the role of his own scapegoat. In the sense that he keeps on relaying differences without violating boundaries, he is indeed an artist who pursues an eternal revolution. His hermaphrodite's genitals constitute an unquestionable indication of this."

Dear readers, you don't need to take off your clothes to have a good time in Kabuki-cho, thanks to Stephen Sarrazin. I hereby strongly recommend you to experience this exhibition running another two weeks at well known GEIKOU. The art works in this show are full of surprises proposing astonishing conclusions. It’s a fascinating head-f*ck; a truly unforgettable visit deep into Kabuki-cho. Chapeau to all the artists et mes sinceres compliments, Stephen Sarrazin!

Tokyo, 2014/3/13
Mario A

We don't have to take our clothes off (to have a good time) @ GEIKOU
Geijutsu Kouminkan 芸術公民館
2014/3/2 - 3/31
open 20:00~
Closed on Sun/Mon
Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Kabuki-cho 1-3-10-3F
新宿区歌舞伎町1-3-10-3F,日・月曜 休館

Complete list of artists:
Pascal Lièvre
Dorothée Smith
Cendrillon Bélanger
Lydie Jean Dit Pannel
Tove Kjellmark
Shelly Silver
Sarah Trouche
Soukaina Joual
Jean Marc Sanchez
Marie Losier
Pacome Thiellement & Thomas Bertay
Travis Klose
Goso Tominaga
Stephen Sarrazin

"Hallucination Schopenhauer" by Pascal Lièvre

Lydie Jean Dit Pannel "RIP"

富永剛総 Goso Tominaga "Man in Yellow 1&2"

Tove Kjellmark "Phronesis"

Soukaina Joual "Meat"

left: Marie Losier "Jane"
right, up: Pacome Thiellement & Thomas Bertay "American Woman"
right, down: Shelly Silver "Craiglist Member 08"

Sarah Trouche
"Action for Adashino Nebutsuji, Kyoto"
"Chinese Opera. Act 2"

Stephen Sarrazin "sprinkles"

Invitation card



Mario A / 亜 真里男



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