Michael Judd is a brilliant photographer, filmmaker and performance artist from Australia who lives in Nagoya and Osaka : like us, he has something of a double life, teaching in the week for four days or so then indulging in his imagination on extended weekends, where he absorbs the neon ghosts and soul of the city into his eerie, velours celluloid.
As Belgium Solanas, the mesmerizing alter ego that often has cabaret audiences ( myself included ) in tears – there is often something overwhelmingly dreamlike and touching in the distilled cinematic melancholy of the performances : Michael appeared in Duncan and Yukiro Dravarious’s hilarious comedy horror film Girl Goned from two years ago and is going to edit their new opus, ‘Spoiled Identity’, the first scene of which we filmed in Golden Week ; analytical, sincere and unflinching – his is a towering, formidable presence.
At Space Witches, an art performance event held in the bowels of deepest Shinjuku, Belgium came on stage, an hour or so after midnight, like an alien air hostess meets Judy Garland meets Sean Young replicant from Bladerunner, holding a copy of Bowie’s Heroes, to a medley of songs glitch-edited over Laurie heartbreaking Anderson’s O Superman, a spellbinding staging that culminated in a spontaneous hugging of my friend in the audience,
A male and female pro-wrestling couple, jostling in the throng of the most packed together electric honeycombs of Shinjuku had earlier spotted D and I ( and smelled me) in Giorgio Red; the girl had apparently said to her boyfriend ‘Follow That Hair! : they then jumped in the cab with us, and the man was soon in emotional floods of tears at the end of Solanas’ performance, which in its lack of tack and its deadly, heart rending earnestness left a black hole of emptiness and longing in the pit of your heart ( in a good way ).
An alien being emitting much needed empathy for this world.
I was standing next to Laurie when they embraced, and could smell commingled sweat (from all our dancing ), and traces of Van Cleef & Arpels’ Gem coming off from the silver dress, an elegant, spiced and long discontinued floriental from the late 80’s I had given Michael in lieu of a flacon of vintage YSL Opium parfum, which for some reason I had always thought he should wear on stage.
Opium, an almost mythical monolith of a perfume, stills smells sexy, and so FAMILIAR – almost too much so – as though it were imprinted in our collective DNA, but inevitably the current formula is vastly thinner and less complicated than the original distilled tiger cordial of resins, spices, vanilla, flowers, mandarin oranges, and seemingly a million other ingredients doused in balsams and patchouli that for me is the very essence of late 70’s and early 80’s glamour. Scoring a sealed bottle of the extrait recently, I decided to send it to Michael. He won’t be able to wear it in the classroom ( where he usually is to be found in Gorilla Perfume’s Breath Of God), but as Belgium, I am excited to sense that opiate of Studio 54 excess drifting from the stage……. perfume, in this context, can consolidate, re or de-emphasize an art piece, or simply take you to an added dimension.
Off stage, as guests and performers chatted and drank together in the interval before the next act ( a hypnotic, bald, female Buddhist stripper covered from head to toe in exquisite calligraphy), Michael took my hand and said we had to go and take some photos up on the streets outside. Handing me his camera, I snapped away outside ramen bars and coin lockers, and felt, for a few minutes, that we had actually gone back in time, almost as though we were Jerry Hall and Helmut Newton
, like ripping through the fabric of time
Burning Bush, a creature from my imagination made flesh by my person ( see above ), an occasional entity I find quite necessary to embody in these dumb, fascistic times (no matter how ‘horrifying’ some of my old friends and family may find it), performed at a Tokyo cabaret this last Saturday night, singing a slowed down semi-acappella piano version of Kate Bush’s yearnful song from 1978, The Man With The Child In His Eyes.
It was an incantation : an exorcism; pure catharsis.
The scent: : Dior Poison Esprit de Parfum Proche; Annick Goutal Gardenia Passion, and Roja Dove Tuberose Parfum.
On my way back to school yesterday, in Fujisawa ( you could see Fuji-san today, when I took this picture ), I was pristinely unscented as is humanly possible.
Every work garment, from coat, to suit, freshly washed. Brand new shirt and sweater. Shampoo: a rosemary and geranium organic affair that leaves no perfumed residue. Body: generic soap and then eucalyptus bath: tonic, regenerative – but evaporative.
Waiting on the train platform, complimenting myself on my relative smellinvisibilty (ideal for the Japanese workplace) I suddenly felt disturbed. Nude. Balded. Peculiarly vulnerable.
I couldn’t stand it. And with just a couple of tiny, tiny spritzes on the back of each hand ( Guerlain Mandarine Basilic, because let’s be realistic), I felt like a black and white colour-by-numbers; coming back to life.
Just a hint of scent, at the borders of my periphery, and I felt more natural. Like a lens, coming into focus.
In my piece from a year ago, The Rosy Scent Trail of Ms. Pusey, I extolled the virtues and mental clarity of not having a mobile phone. That hiatus has lasted from June 2015 until now, almost a year and a half, and I have loved it. The peace of it. All the books I have read. The non-addictiveness; the sense of being detached.
But for one reason and another, I have had to capitulate. It was essentially kind of forced on me.Being uncontactable is essentially selfish, I suppose, and no longer tenable (and in the majority of people’s eyes, seriously weird. We don’t have a working house phone either……………..)
So, anyway, I am now the ‘proud’ (and already addicted, and more insomniac, seriously, even after just five days) owner of an iPhone 7. I feel more twitchy, and compulsive, and itching to always check. The ergonomic intimate pleasure, and the smoothness.The plugged-inness. The gleaming, irresistible lure of the brainwashed consumerist Matrix.
And it has definitely disturbed my inner composure (not that there was much of that going on this crazy, mangled fascist of a year in any case), but at the same time, I can’t deny for a moment that I am enjoying, now that the cold has set in and the end of term and its inevitable alienations and exhaustions begun, the immediate contact with my Loved One. The instant messages that flash up on the screen; the cozy feeling of having him tucked away hidden in my pocket.
And I feel visually really excited, and turned on: that side of me, I realize now, was muted and turned out, me always grabbing Duncan’s phone when I wanted to take something: but now I can just take my own. Random pictures. Just for the hell of it. Just to mutate the boring day into something more curious.
So here are some snaps from my environs taken over the last few days. In the miserable sleety snow of yesterday, when things happened that put me in one of the foulest possible moods of my entire life. The lurches of today. And the marvellous banality of the everyday, and how you can twist it, and edit it, as your eye, and your brain, see fit.
Warm. Intimate. Tender.