Monday, March 29, 2010

cold cherry blossom

The cheery trees are blooming but it's still really cold and grey, not much of a spring and not good picnic weather. Haico and I are off to the mountains to walk from onsen to onsen through snow.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Back in Tokyo

Hanging out with Hanako and trying to get some more Fuji rubber stamp drawings made. It turned cold again after a wonderfully warm morning, so we set off to the sento to warm up. When we got there we found out our local one is closed on a Friday night, so with the help of Hanako's iphone we located the next closest and headed off to Ebius.

It was a great little place- a real old local, shoe lockers in the alcove straight off the street, dance hall like ceiling, fresh flowers and a Banto, my first. A banto is an old man or woman who you pay to get your ticket and who is sitting watching both sides of the bath house which is divided by a wall, not sure why we have to be watched, maybe in just "tradition". When we arrived we were the only ones there so we could take some photos, which is normally not allowed for obvious reasons. I love the roof and dome hair dryers. The roof in the bathing area was barrel vaulted and had sky blue, bamboo green, and peach wide stripes. Instead of Fuji as a “view” over the baths, there was photo wallpaper of a bamboo forest.

Haico and I meet up today-yah. Have been missing him.

For the views of Fuji from the Shinkansen from Nagoya to Tokyo check here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Nara-conversations with deers

Unfortunately I missed the moment where this family was posing next to the deer is the usual style... and when the small child took a close up with his iphone... although dads casual close up is quite nice. I love how the deer doesn't move and looks completely bored. It might have been a bit about the weather - it was cold and rainy

Nara was pretty interesting. The deer around some of the temples seemed to be statues- not moving at all despite all the human activity, although there was area in further up towards the forest where deers would come running at you when they saw you turn up and if you bought the deer biscuits to feed them you would get mobbed. I didn't feed them- I couldn't cross that Australian native-non-feeding-attitude.

back checking..

So I am probably not doing this via "normal" blog protocols but some times I am posting things later into titles I have already made: eg Tokyo spat me out. So please scroll down and also visit my Fuji project blog magneticglimpses.

Monday, March 22, 2010


I was incredibly lucky to get a beautiful spring day on my one day in Kyoto. I had been planning to stay longer but I still have so much work to do and I need to make a research trip to Nagoya, as I will be in the next Aichi Triennale. That is this August so I also felt relaxed that I will be back soon and can go see Kyoto again.

I had an incredible day where I felt completely blessed and marvelled that my life had brought me to this beautiful place. I have never understood that phrase “so beautiful it hurts” until now and I can’t really find a way now why that was… or really another set of words to describe the feeling. Looking at nature always leaves me feeling elated joyful, and with a deep sense of satisfaction. This was a different response to the nature of the gardens and buildings of Kyoto. I felt a deep deep sigh and extreme pleasure in the looking, but also a kind of melancholic pain that I was on my own and not experiencing it with friends or family. Kyoto is not a place to go on your own, and mostly I saw people moving around the city in groups.

The thing I came to Kyoto for was the Inari shrine called Fushimi-Inari Taisha; it’s the most spectacular Inari shrine in Japan. I started to become interested in Inari shrines as I was seeing them at the starts of my forests walks. The figure of the fox at the edge of the forest is a symbol (or enactment) of the intermediary between the mortal and the spirit world. For me nature is the spirit world so that these shrines are at the beginning of my communing with nature has had resonance for me.

The feature of the Fushimi-Inari Taisha is its pathway through the forests at the edge of Kyoto where pilgrims walk under 10,000 red/orange Tori. Above are just three of the many pictures I took. Dotted along this route starting behind the main shrine and then climbing into the hills, are several points where there are fox pairs and alters. At the highest point over looking the city there was a semi circle of about 100 alters, all with fox pairs and Tori prayer offerings (second picture above). It was not the last time that day where I thought it was a good thing I had seen Kamakura before Kyoto. Don’t get me wrong Kamakura is very special and has things Kyoto doesn’t; it’s just not on the scale of Kyoto. Also Kyoto’s stone and moss gardens are hard to beat anywhere.

After spending a couple of hours walking the whole trail I head to Southern Higashiyama, which is close to where I was staying at Gojo. At this point I really felt like I had seen so many images of Kyoto but they where not connected with words… like which temple has the famous stone garden? Anyway I went to Kennin-ji, the oldest Buddhist temple in Kyoto, which has three very beautiful stone and moss gardens (I will post some more pictures either here or on flickr when I get back to free and fast internet). After that it was about 5:30 so I wandered along the streets towards Kiyomizu-dera-, which was an incredible building. I felt like I was in a Kurosawa movie. Then back to my fancy Ryokan to have a beautiful meal, missing Haico with each mouth full.

Beppu Yufu-Dake

Wind swept on the saddle of the summit.

With the friendly walkers who adopted me at the beginning.

View from the bottom- at the onsen we went to soak in post walk

View from the top - 1,548 metres above sea level.

The walk started in open fields; then through winter bare forests where gusts of wind lifted the deep layer of dried leaves into spectacular whirls; then cedar pines where we walked on the fallen pine needles releasing their perfumed oils; then up above the tree line clambering over volcanic rock of the long dormant volcano to the wind battered summit.

Friday, March 19, 2010

conversations with Beppu cats

View from my hotel window
Three different tabby's in central Beppu. The bottom photo is outside the Beppu Projects Office.
After living in a flat where you couldn’t open the windows for 10 weeks, it was an unbelieve joy to get to a hotel where you could open the window wide. Better still that it was a barmy humid Beppu in Kyushu.
One of the side effects of having the windows open means you hear the city. After 10 weeks with the drone of air conditioning and police sirens being the wallpaper sound scape (sirens being the only sound that cut through from outside), I thrilled to lie in bed and drift off to sleep to the sound of cats scrapping and tomcats wailing. It seems like a rare sound scape to me- the last time I remember hearing the sounds of stray cats like this would have been in Barcelona (10 years ago). Although there are stray cats in Marrickville, it’s not really a sound I hear much at home. I spent a couple of night and morning hanging out the window with my microphones recording their yowls echoing up from the walls below.
As you can see from the pictures above, most of the cats seemed to be tabby’s, I only saw one ginger tom- white with ginger patches. He was very large with lots of battle scares on his face.

Tokyo Spat me out

The last 3 days of a residency is always crazy. You try and do the things you definitely didn’t want to miss, plus still try to make work- all the while ignoring that you have to pack and clean.
This time wasn’t quiet as bad as when I left Barcelona on New Years Day 2000, but was close enough to make the memories very vivid. At about 2am I realised that I wasn’t going to get any sleep so I may as well have a cup of Earl Grey to get me through to when I had to leave at 4:45. I still feel a bit discombobulated, and can’t remember where I put things. Including two drawings that I had been working on in my last 48 hours, which I was meant to take with me to scan and send back to Australia. The brain works in strange ways on less sleep- I had some pretty odd trains of thought, but I made the first shinkansen and saw Fuji.
I was still a bit delirious when I got to Beppu. I was standing on the platform looking at a vending machine that read at first to me as “Devil’s Corner” until it morphed into Drinks Corner.
Speaking of the devil or spirits, there where many occasions during the residency when I thought I saw some one move out the corner of my eye or disappear around a corner in front of me. Tokyo Wonder site is an office building and you spend a lot of time walking from lifts to your flat, laundry or studio, down empty grey carpet tiled corridors. Most residents, and former residents, comment about the uncanny feeling to the building, however it didn’t feel that way to me, perhaps as it is like many of the new buildings I go into in Canberra or Sydney.
However I did wake up several nights because I thought I heard someone open my flat door. One night I had a really strange dream where one of the smoke detector workers (who had been into the flat the morning before the dream), wearing his pastel mint green uniform had just enter my flat, I had jumped out of bed to see who it was. He was standing by the door, but instead of a short haired clean shaven man it was the head of Stephen Mori- long grey haired, with long grey beard. I woke up in a sweat.
There are some small sculptures of a cone of salt in some of the corners of the corridors. I just assumed they where a left over intervention by a former resident, however when I went to dinner with Andre and Atsuki at the Kabuki bar the night before I left, I noticed that there where two small pile of salt on the footpath either side of the doorway. I asked about them and the woman said it was to keep away evil spirits. When I think of it now, the fact that an artwork would be left in place at Tokyo WS when they don’t even leave tea bags in the flats would seem a little odd. All of this said I didn’t ever feel scared just that there was a strong feeling of the building ghosted.
Inside of the Shinkansen. Breakfast on the Shinkansen. Check Magnetic Glimpses for the views of Fuji.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Packing and planning while working

Second last day here at Tokyo Wonder site. Photos above give should be compared with the first ones I posted. I don’t think it’s too bad… Could be worse, but still it’s going to take ages to sort it all out. I don’t know why I am such a paper hoarder- mainly because I am afraid of forgetting things. And a zine maker… this would look good, extra photocopy here of a page etc.

Working on some stamps at the moment- will post (ha! you are probably not believe those promises now).

This is the lovely JR lady fixing up my pass and booking my first trip to Beppu for Thursday morning. It’s going to be a 4:30am start- ouch! She used every one of those stamps in the kit to activate the pass. The large one set to the Japanese year calendar is my favourite.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring is almost here

Warmer days now and plum blossoms flowering. Trees are still bare and the sky is often grey. Asakusa temple on a day when I was riding the metro to find mechanised bird sounds. For the metro line change there you have to leave the station and walk through the temple.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Another open studio and another late night.

It seems like I work in fits and starts. Having another late night to try and get something up to test run point for tomorrow. Kind of want to make a new zine too. But as I have only vaguely started on a few things it seems unlikely.

Above is a still from the new video I am working on.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

What is this?

Anyone know?

Seen next to Ikebukuro Station

I think I saw a similar van in Shirakawa; it was playing the same kind of calling announcement. The smell of what it was burning was terrible and kind of toxic. The man next to the truckin the second shot, is the driver/ owner. We waved at each other and he seemed happy that two gaijin (Lisa H and I) where paying him attention, no one else seemed interested.

So what is it? What is it selling? Haico, Andre- time for you to comment.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Today- wonderful Spring

I am so behind on blogging what’s going on- and with how my work is developing. Work has really started to take over – which is great, but I am so used to not talking to people and reflecting publicly about my work, I keep not writing about the questions I am asking myself and which I would actually like to talk to people about…anyway…

Bec, Lisa and Anneka have been here for a live art showcase organised by the British Council, has been really nice to see people from home. We have caught a few times for dinner and today after the conference was over we went to see a few shows. We spent most of the day at the Hara Art Mueusm and the Yang Fudong exhibition.

Yang Fudong had the series "Seven Intellectuals in a Bamboo Forest" parts 1 to 4 in the 2007 Venice Biennale (If I remember right it was 4 parts). I enjoyed seeing the work on that occasion although did not watch them all the way through as each is an hour long. I felt then, and it was the same feeling on seeing his work again, that there must be another layer of narrative and symbolism that is not accessible for me, not knowing much about China and its history and language. It was good to see his work in a focus exhibition and see the development of his use of the film form and his concerns about the massive social changes occurring in China. His later works have become really long marathons, the new work the "General’s Smile" is a multi- channel installation that you would need to spend an hour in to get through everything, and each part of Seven Intellectuals is an hour long. However I feel that the earliest work in the show “Backyard- Hey! Sun is rising” was the easiest to enter and had some of the imagery and qualities, as well as the same actors that appear in later works. This is a Black and White 35mm film that has a fracture and surreal narrative, with repeated actions such as the four men in a small room yawning, running through a garden with swords like is stylised battle scenes from Chinese cinema and stalking each other along the street. The sound track was a bamboo flute that accentuated the distance of the viewer from the action and added to the playful humour. Because his work was shorter it was easier to deal with this fractured narrative and parts that where less readable as there was still a sense of the work as a whole.

Because we are old friends we didn’t think to take pictures of each other in Tokyo- so here we are walking away from the very photogenic Hara Art Museum gardens (postcard top).

Today had the feeling of Spring, warm clear skies after a month of grey... I just checked the weather though and we are back to grey and cold for the rest of the week- not good for filming or fuji viewing...

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

pattern love

The combinations of pattern and decoration here fascinate me. The most interesting examples are in fashion and ceramics, especially the combinations in kimono outfits.

Hiroko (top two photos) is one the fashionistas of the art scene I find myself in (which means I assume there are many art scenes and I know I have not seen many of them). The top photo is from an Åbäke event last Sunday. The jacket is one she bought as a student in the 80’s- it’s a bone gabardine with heavy hot pink screen-printed design- no label. The skirt would not have been one I would have chosen but I can see how it fits with the aesthetic here.

The second photo is of her wearing a very interesting scarf. The green spotted fabric is shear voile, and the yellow, green brown check is soft wool. Again two patterns you don’t normally see together- spots and checks, and two fabrics that are not a usual match- the light weight voile with a medium weight wool. It works though.

The bottom two photos are of a lovely lady I meet in the second hand kimono store on Aoyama Dori, which is the main road out in front of the residency. I went in two weeks ago after a particularly frustrating encounter trying to buy a ticket and hotel to Hakone. It was the right thing to do to put me back into the positive connections you can make in Tokyo.

It seemed to me that although she was dressed very traditionally that her energy made the kimono very contemporary. I went in and had a look around, and as I was leaving I took a second look at a jacket. She encouraged me to put it on and then when I pointed out an especially beautiful kimono, but said I would not buy it because it need to be worn for what it was created: a coming of age celebration; not to be cut up to be more conventionally worn in a western country. She agreed but said I should try it on so she could take my picture in it- Very nice! She chose an interesting obi with a lot of gold thread work. I asked how the choices where made- what patterns go with what? She found it hard to answer and she it took a while to understand it, that beginners make mistakes.

She asked me where I was from and when I told her Australia- she said ah summer! And that she wanted to go to Australia to go surfing. She said look at my tan line- and held out her wrist pointing to where her full body wet suit ended. Japanese can be so cool.