Just for some contextualization, lest I be seen as bashing the country I ( kind of ) call home.(I don’t want to be misunderstood….)
Although I meant and mean every word that I wrote today about the fascist palace of Meguro ( although it occurred to me later that in some ways you could argue that Kissler, in one way, triumphed : that his art remained and is on display when all of that 1930’s and 40’s vileness and heinous slaughter is long gone ( but again……. is it ? Is it not in fact menacing the world all over again, from Brazil to Hungary and America, and is that not why I was so ferocious in my feelings about the atmosphere of the museum in the first place? A BONE MARROW DEPTH OF REJECTION?)
Despite this, I do feel I have a tendency sometimes to crystallize things sometimes into the most intense, fierce basic elements that capture my reality for me but might still contort perceptions of people who don’t know the surrounding context; that something reductive might be decided upon as a stereotypical viewpoint of a whole society and culture that is as varied as any other, and so I want to clarify, and widen the topography.
‘Art’, and ‘Culture’, in a highly sophisticated city such as Tokyo, where the arts flourish uninhibitedly in all spheres, both overground and underground – this a citadel of fanatical subcultures – is a complex beast : on the one hand there is an extreme liberalism and openness to all forms of artistic expression from theatre to cinema to orchestras and koto players to Kabuki and Noh, alsu cabarets – which, as you know, we also ourselves sometimes perform at
(Duncan performing on Friday night to a enthusiastic crowd…….although I wasn’t there as I was working til late and then feasting on deliciousness at a local restaurant alone while reading a biography of Dorothy Parker
…. a mind bending cornucopia of stimulating things to see and do you could never get tired of, at the same time there is often – particularly when it comes to western cultural imports – a kind of tedious overeverence I personally can’t stand. The extreme lack of critical thinking in the Japanese education system, which is so passive, and requires intelligence and great diligence but doesn’t really teach you to have an opinion, has the result that plenty of people literally often don’t know what they actually think of something ( the other extreme is maniacal aficionados of one particular artform who have consumed every last drop of information about one particular facet of European or North American culture ; be it Scorsese, Schubert or Salinger – and then proceed to tell you all about it, though the reverse is not often allowed…..)
In any case, a trip to a museum is not quite the same as it would be in Paris or London ; Tokyoites often seem to almost ERASE themselves, somehow, in a gallery space: but what I personally find overbearing – as I just can’t stand meaningless solemnity; I have written a similarly excoriating and infuriated opinion piece before about the excruciating experience that was smelling Martin Margiela perfumes at the Hankyu department store in Ginza – others might, for all I know, actively seek that element out as an enjoyable part of the entire experience : as a silent pocket of appreciation and ‘tranquillity’ after the hassle and effort required for the daily commute; a ratified void of respectable, and ‘edified’ contemplation.
Whatever the case may be, I am not apologizing for the (for me) very accurate description of the Teien Art Museum ( seriously : FUCK ALL FASCISTS, THEN AND NOW – actually I forgot to mention one amusing detail which will stretch your incredulity perhaps even though it is completely true : there was, in fact, halfway through the designated ‘route’, a rattling tremor, an earthquake as we ascended the polished stairs, and the noise was really quite startling for the visitors and gallery staff, who were momentarily wide eyed and terrified (and I must admit I found it all rather thrilling, in such elegant surroundings – ‘trapped in the Art Deco rubble’,) but it was only a fleeting one, and the ripples and heartbeats soon slowed down to the deadening, and stultifying, previous pace.
In any case, prior to going to the Kissling exhibition, in that quite sprawling and varied area of Tokyo, we had been to an excellent Indonesian restaurant, down to earth, relaxing and homely, bought spices at an Indian tradesman’s, trawled the thrumming side streets at sunset with all the sushi shops and bars and seated people in tapas bars spilling out onto the pavement, and then made our way on to Ebisu, to the club we have had several events at over the years, in order to book an event for our next party ( can it really have been three years since we held one of these stravaganzas? Sometimes I think that is the only time I see quite a lot of my friends ).
As usual, Enjoy House, an excellent place to hold a celebration, was as convivial as ever
and we have booked it for Duncan’s birthday in September. We talked with some new people and danced for a while, then made our way back to the station for the hour’s ride back to Kamakura – Ebisu is HEAVING on a Saturday night, really energetic and in full swing; and though we were tired and a bit drunk by the time we had arrived back at our street at midnight, I remembered ( and heard from the noise), that our local izakaya, or pub, which opened just after the Earthquake in 2011 when everyone was traumatized – and which was an excellent boon to the community – was celebrating its eighth anniversary.
It was carnage in there – only a small space but everybody dancing, and later taking their clothes off but the batteries on my phone had run out by that point so sorry : i sat talking to some people I knew as the carousing got worryingly noisy ( the police will only tolerate this up to a point …. after all, our neighborhood is dead quiet, which is precisely why we chose to live here), but I did sit there thinking to myself about what a vivid and memorable – cinematic, actually – day it had been; the perfume fountain and the shocking ‘revelations ‘ of its owners’ poisonous history just a granite chipped mausoleum residing coldly and sinisterly ( and quite fascinatingly, in fact) at the heart of it all.
One minute from home though, where we were at that particular moment, was, undeniably, precisely, and gratifyingly, the opposite