Contemporary Art Tokyo to feature Thai Artists (and Adamu, sort of)

Translated from the museum’s official site (edited as needed):

The First Exhibit to Offer an Expansive Look at Thailand’s Modern Art History

mitemithai-644_1_3.JPGFrom April 18-May 20, the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo will hold Show Me Thai, an exhibit jointly produced by the Kingdom of Thailand’s Office of Contemporary Arts and Culture, to commemorate the 120th anniversary of Thai-Japanese friendship.

This is the first attempt to take an expansive look at Thailand’s contemporary art history. The exhibit will take visitors from the country’s early contacts with Japanese culture, which started before World War II and progressed through Japan’s era of high economic growth (1955-1975), to the time of high GDP growth in Thailand (1986-1996), when the Buddhist kingdom absorbed massive amounts of Japanese pop culture, including manga, music, and fashion, all the way to the present day.

A diverse array of pieces, including paintings, sculptures, mixed media, video, installations, cinema, animation, and music will be displayed throughout the museums’s exhibition space. And that’s not all – the artists themselves will be there to participate in performances and panel discussions.

Among the 60 artists and groups participating (Links lead to samples, mostly, or at least a picture of the artist):

Pinaree Sanpitak (painter)
Rirkrit Tiravanija (installations/mixed media)
Nobuyoshi Araki (photographer)
Sutee Kunavichayanont
Navin Rawanchikul (mixed media, lives in Fukuoka)
Wisut Ponnimit
Yasumasa Morimura
Ichi Ikeda
Apichatpong Weerasethakul (filmmaker whose filmography includes “Blissfully Yours,” a romance that was showcased in a non-competing section of the 2002 Cannes Film Festival, as well as the more interestingly titled “The Adventure of Iron Pussy”)
Yoshitomo Nara (pop artist who has done Shonen Knife album art and is the subject of a recent documentary)

The museum is open from 10AM-6PM, and will be closed on all Mondays save for April 30. The museum is easily accessible by Tokyo Metro, Kiyosumi-Shirakawa (清澄白河) Station on the Hanzaemon and Oedo Lines.

Disclaimer/self-promotion – I learned of this event because a translation I did about Thai-Japanese contemporary art exchange will be featured in the exhibit’s ‘art catalogue,’ with full ‘translator’ credit! This doesn’t exactly mean a whole lot, but I’m pretty excited to go see this, not least because this is my first time being published but also because I just might get to take in more Thai culture in Tokyo than I did when I lived in Bangkok.

A recent trend in Anime: Small production teams (think Homestarrunner or Adult Swim)

An interesting piece from FujiSankei Business-i (in translation):

Animation Produced in Small Teams is a Breath of Fresh Air for the Industry: FROGMAN Co., Others Showcase A Powerful Individuality
March 13, 2007

Animation produced in small teams have been hitting the market one after the other recently, which is a new development as works are usually produced in production teams of dozens or even hundreds of people. The new works, which maintain a high level of quality while showcasing the creators’ intense vision in every nook and cranny, a feat that can only be achieved in a small team, are blowing a new wind throughout Japan’s animation industry. (by Ryuichi Taniguchi)

Improved Performance of PCs Plays a Role

Makoto Shinkai, director of “Five Centimeters Per Second” (秒速5センチメートル) gave thanks before the 200 people who had gathered to watch his animated film shown at Cinema Rise in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward on March 3: “I am happy to show a film that I made the way I wanted it in a large space.” This was his first film since his long-form “Beyond the Clouds, at the Promised Location” (雲のむこう、約束の場所) was shown at the same theater in November 2006. He seemed to have felt a positive response from the excited crowd of waiting fans that filled the seats.

In the past, animation production was assumed to require a large staff, but Shinkai released his first 25-minute short “Voices of the Stars” (ほしのこえ) created almost entirely by himself on a PC. The imagery, which measures up to animation made by pros, and the story, about susceptible young men and women, made the piece a hit with the younger generation and gained its creator recognition as a member of the new generation of animation directors.

However, Shinkai did not choose the path of producing his work in a major studio with a large staff at his beck and call. He continued using PCs and producing his films with a small staff to complete his “Beyond” and the more recent “Five”.

Shinkai explains, “For a year and half, I had the animation staff come to my home, and created it at a steady pace using my desktop. He didn’t create the whole thing by himself as in “Voice of the Stars,” but he made drastic staff cuts compared to the number of people involved in “Beyond.” As a result, Shinkai was able to realize a film in which his vision crept into every nook and cranny, from depictions of the lyrical countryside, to the village landscapes, to the endless sky and ocean.

Productions that can make full use of the creator’s individuality because of such a small staff are made possible by high-performance PCs that can be used to draw, color, and even edit finely detailed images. It’s easy to see how individual creators like Shinkai can make it into the animation industry if they have talent and backup in terms of funding.

Product Placement Comes to Anime

The films produced by FROGMAN Co, led by a man who goes by the same name, were also born of superior talent, a PC, and the Internet. The company creates animation using Flash, an animation software that can play simple video on a PC, and began offering programs on the Internet starting in 2004. These short films gained an following, and in April 2006 FROGMAN’s “Falcon’s Claw, Secret Society” (秘密結社鷹の爪) debuted on TV Asahi.

On March 17, “Falcon’s Claw, Secret Society The Movie: The Fuhrer Dies Twice” (総統は二度死ぬ) opens in theaters. FROGMAN spoke at a sneak preview held in Roppongi on March 4: “I’m so happy because cinema is the apex of film.” Just as in the TV version, FROGMAN does almost all the voices himself and drew most of the animation. He was overjoyed to see his brainchild up on the big screen.

The big-screen version of course cost more, but the costs were covered by including product placement within the film. Since it’s a comedy, the film blatantly displays company logos and products to make the crowd laugh. They even included a “budget gauge” on the side of the screen that dips during the more elaborate CGI scenes as a gag for the audience.

Another Internet-based talent is Rareko. She published her work on the Internet and eventually worked into picture books and DVDs after they became popular. As more and more companies seek out dormant talent, it looks as though we’ll keep seeing unique, individual animation.

The Companies Backing up Individual Talent

Individuals’ talents can only blossom fully with the support of a corporation. Shinkai has received support from Comics Wave (headquartered in Shibuya) since he began work on “Voices”. CW is a company that manages publishing rights for content and scouting/development of creators. They contract with manga artists and illustrators and serve as a conduit for bargaining with companies that want to use the creators’ characters.

DLE (HQ: Chiyoda Ward), a company founded in 2001 as a company that provides consulting for the video content industry, serves as FROGMAN’s producer. In addition to producing television programs, the company also aids in Flash animation and helped bring FROGMAN into the limelight.

Fanworks (Shibuya) produces independent animation and supports Rareko, of “The Fragile Tank” (やわらか戦車) fame. When the Internet-based animation took off, they served as a conduit for commercialization demands and helped boost its popularity by forming the “Fragile Tank Coalition Force.”

To close out, here are some YouTube clips of some of the shows mentioned in this article:

Falcon’s Claw Secret Society:

Fragile Tank:

Five Centimeters Per Second:

Fire spinning on Kamogawa [Photos]

The penultimate night of the Gion Matsuri, and on my way home from being swept down Karasuma Dori through the hordes of locals and tourists buying mediocre festival food like a mentally handicapped salmon not sure which way is upstream, I stumbled across this excellent performance just below Sanjo Bridge on my way home.

All photos taken with Canon EOS 300d and EFs 17-85 IS lense. Naturally, these effects come from long exposures.

Spinning fire

Spinning fire

Fire Spinning

Fire Spinning

Spinning fire

Spinning fire

Fire eating

Fire eating

Porn v. Google: MF replays the highlights

Proof that federal judges understand the beauty of internet porn, courtesy of Perfect 10 v. Google, Inc., Case No. CV 04-9484 AHM (C.D. Cal. Feb. 21, 2006):

In the final analysis, P10’s use is to provide “entertainment,” both in magazines and on the internet. For some viewers, P10’s use of the photos creates or allows for an aesthetic experience.

Aesthetic indeed.

Contrary to P10’s contention, photographs of nude women can, like photographs of the American West, vary greatly.

Ride ’em, cowboy!

Both kinds of pictures can be described verbally, yet no matter how susceptible any image is to textual description, words cannot adequately substitute for thumbnails in quickly and accurately conveying the content of indexed full-size images.

Ain’t it the truth. And this has got to be the best footnote ever:

Google argues that P10’s works are not creative because P10 “emphasizes the objects of the photographs (nude women) and [P10] assumes that persons seeking Perfect 10’s photos are searching for the models and for sexual gratification.” Google contends that this “implies a factual nature of the photographs.” The Court rejects this argument. The P10 photographs consistently reflect professional, skillful, and sometimes tasteful artistry. That they are of scantily-clothed or nude women is of no consequence; such images have been popular subjects for artists since before the time of “Venus de Milo.”

I wonder if this judge is still hiring clerks?

(The practical effect of this decision might be to end or at least limit the wonderful thumbnail function on Google Image Search; for more, see this Wired article.)

“However fake the subject, once photographed, it’s as good as real.”

Those are the words of Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto, who’s exhibition I checked out today at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Sugimoto’s black and white photographs were delightfully unlike anything I’ve ever seen done with a camera before, and more than once I caught myself smiling at his insight into his subjects.

BearThe entire collection consists of a series of large (around 4 by 6 feet), black and white photographs, separated by theme into a number of galleries. It opens with a series called “Dioramas,” which are photos taken of displays in some of New York’s natural history museums. When he first moved to New York in the 1970s, Sugimoto spent a lot of time wandering around the city’s museums. He was struck by how fake the three dimensional displays of animals in their various habitats with painted backgrounds appeared to the human eye. By closing one eye, he discovered that all perspective vanished and the displays seemed more life-like. From even a close distance, his photographs of a polar bear and its kill, or a group of carrion birds feasting on a carcass in the savanna appear indescribably real.

All of Sugimoto’s “Portraits” were taken in Madam Tussaud’s Wax Musuem in London, and through his camera’s lens these wax figures take on a degree of realness that is impossible to believe without actually standing in front of them. One room of the gallery features a very large, and very real-looking image of Henry the VIII, flanked on both sides and three walls by photographs of all six of his wives. But it gets better. The wax figure of Henry was based on a methodical study of portraits painted in the 16th century by Flemish artist Hans Holbein the Younger. Sugimoto conducted extensive research into lighting techniques used by painters of the period, applied them to the wax figure at Madam Tussaud’s and shot. The result is spectacular. From real life, to canvas, to wax, and then back to real life again.

TheatreThe rest of the collection departs somewhat from his theme of fake can be just as good, but in no way dissapoints. The series titled, “Theatres” is a number of smaller black and white shots taken inside darkened movie theatres or at drive-ins during the screening of a film. Sugimoto left his camera’s shutter open for the entire duration of the film, essentially capturing the entire film in a single shot. The contrast between the darkened interior of the theatres, many with classical design on the walls and ceilings, and the bright, white rectangular void of the glowing screen is haunting.

Sea of Japan“Seascapes” occupies the entire length of a long, darkened gallery that gently curves along the Hirshhorn’s rounded design. Each image is illiuminated individually by bright lights in the ceiling. Viewing the photos while sitting on one of the sofas in the gallery is almost like staring out many windows onto misty seascape horizons. The shots were taken of various seas around the globe (image to the right is of the Sea of Japan), at different times of day, so that the contrast between sea and sky vary from barely distinguishable, with the horizon line fading into each, to lightness and darkness that are as clear as day and night.

BuddhaThe adjacent gallery features the series, “Sea of Buddha,” which is a panorama constructed of forty eight photographs of the thousand and one Kannon statues in the Sanjusangen-do Temple in Kyoto. Sugimoto waited through seven long years of red tape perhaps only the Japanese are capable of serving up before he was allowed to shoot inside the temple. Prior to doing so, he had all non-period items removed from the room and the electric lights turned off so that the figures would reflect the morning sunlight filtering in from Higashiyama. Like “Seascapes” here too the gallery is darkened, with only the panorama lit, and curves along the wall of the building. Again, the effect is stunning.

There is of course more on display, and I strongly encourage any of our DC readers to get to the Hirschhorn as soon as possible and have a look at this man’s work. It’s free, open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m, and on display until May 14th.