Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Today’s J-blip: Mangazara

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Ahahaha! Is that your salad laughing at you?

These manga-inspired plates are making it fun to play with your food again. Award-winning product designer Mika Tsutai created these plates (or zara) to look like frames straight out of a Japanese comic. They are designed so that when food is carefully positioned just right, it will seem to jump into a story. Always felt like you could hear your salad roaring with laughter? Or wanted to underline the satisfying thwack of your knife chopping up a tonkatsu? These plates bring the illusion to life and product website Comicalu has a list of their specifications. Dishes in the collection are priced at ¥2980 a piece and can be purchased at the Tsutaya entertainment chain in Japan.

Tokyo Designers Week 2012

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

It’s that Tokyo Designers Week time of year again. The main event sees the usual collage of temporary structures (shipping containers, a huge dome tent, etc.) on the lawn at Meiji-jingu Gaien. The theme – which to be honest doesn’t really sound like a theme at all – is Hello Design! Interpret that as you like.

New this year is a section on architecture, with a collection of models, both experimental and ones that are or will be real structures. There’s also an art fair run by Gallery Tagboat and a whole row of digital content exhibitions. All of which means that there is actually less of the usual stuff – like chairs and lights. Hello Design?

There is more product design action over at Design Tide, being held at Tokyo Midtown, where the nendo Bottleware collection we featured earlier this week is on display. There’s also a whole gaggle of exhibits and installations at shops and galleries around Tokyo (though mostly around Aoyama) under the banner Tide Extension. So yes, there is plenty to see!

All together, it’s mostly Japanese designers, both established and just out of school, but there are quite a few other nationalities represented, too. Taiwan, Singapore, Norway and Israel, for example, all have booths this year. Several Korean universities occupied containers along with their Japanese counterparts in the student section.

Tokyo Designers Week runs until Nov. 5 (and Design Tide until the 4th). There will also be a mega PechaKucha night at the main event on Oct. 31.

Or just stay in and check out our gallery. (Photos by Rebecca Milner. Click on the thumbnails to read more about each photo.)

Today’s J-Blip: Red Bull Curates Canvas Cooler Project

Monday, October 29th, 2012

Artist and fashion designer Akiyoshi Mishima at work on the Red Bull Curate Canvas Cooler project. (Photo by Hiro Ikematsu)

After visiting New York, London and Milan, the Red Bull Curates Canvas Cooler Project has landed in Tokyo. The project invited 21 local artists to take a Red Bull cooler as their canvas. We scored pictures of some of the artists at work in their studios and at play during the opening party at SuperDeluxe. See the finished results for yourself at the Red Bull Japan HQ in Shibuya. The exhibition starts today and runs through Nov. 7. (Click on the thumbnails to read more about each photo.)

Today’s J-blip: Coca-Cola Bottleware

Monday, October 29th, 2012

The iconic Coke bottle was designed in 1915 with the goal that “a person could recognize even if they felt it in the dark, and so shaped that, even if broken, a person could tell at a glance what it was.” The bottle architecture has since undergone many variations and recently has even had a Karl Lagerfeld edition, but its newfound usage as tableware surely takes the Coke — er, cake.

Japanese design firm nendo has teamed up with the legendary beverage company to produce Coca-Cola Bottleware. This collaboration is primarily a collection of bowls and we can see its novelty factor already. These green-tinted, clean-cut dishes are completely recycled from the distinct “contour bottles” and are hand-manufactured by artisans located in Aomori, northern Japan. Since when did exquisite traditional crafts become so contemporary cool?

Prices range from ¥5250 for a dip dish to ¥14,700 for a large bowl. Each design is limited to a quantity of 500, so get your sticky-Coke-stained-hands on them fast at CIBONE Aoyama from Oct. 31. They also go on exhibition the same day they go on sale at DesignTide Tokyo 2012 till Nov. 4.

Suitably inspired to make your own bottleware? We can’t guarantee that as many people will be appreciate it, but at the very least, if one is broken, you can always just make another.

Bunpei Yorifuji’s ‘Wonderful Life with the Elements’

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Remember that kid who doodled all through your chemistry class instead of taking notes? Now imagine if that kid had an encyclopedic knowledge of the elements as well as a knack for drawings that made everyone giggle behind the teacher’s back.

Bunpei Yorifuji’s Wonderful Life with the Elements

That’s the feeling we get flipping through Bunpei Yorifuji‘s “Wonderful Life With the Elements.” Yorifuji is well known for his series of Tokyo Metro manners posters that urged riders to, among other things, “do it at home.”

Though the pull-out periodic table poster looks at first like a random collection of whimsical yellow guys, every part of each endearing little dude is carefully designed. From their ages, hair styles, and clothing (or lack thereof) to their weight and facial hair, every, well, element of each element matters and tells you something about each substance. (It might remind kanji nerds of the way kanji radicals add up.)

Most of the elements get their own pages. Illustrations show key properties (toxic thallium is soft like butter) as well as where they turn up in daily life (“Sodium compounds are great for housework!”) and beyond (boron is key in both fake movie snow and roach poison). There’s a section on eating the elements that compares the elements contained in a Japanese vs. a Western breakfast.

We learn which elements like to stick together for good, like the “digital semiconductor trio.” Troublemakers are grouped together, too, like the elements that were used to attack subways in Tokyo as sarin gas and to poison a pot of curry in Wakayama. They appear as benign-looking acrobatic combinations, perhaps suggesting that the elements themselves aren’t evil.

We wonder if future editions might address elements that have gained new prominence. Things have changed since the original Japanese version (元素生活, genso seikatsu) came out in 2009. Japanese scientists created Ununtrium for the first time just last month. Cesium, the subject of thousands of post-Fukushima articles, gets no more than a nod as a natural timekeeper, and there’s no mention of the problems that iodine can cause when its radioactive version is ingested.

The English version, published by geeky U.S. imprint No Starch Press, is available in Japan through Amazon.com or Amazon.jp. The original is at bookstores all over Japan and online. There is a bit of Japanese scattered throughout the book, including each element’s Japanese name and Chinese character, but not their readings. The book may be too late to help many of us pass our chemistry tests, but it’s a great second chance to get to know the elements as the individuals they are.

Today’s J-blip: nezo art

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

It is said that the only thing worth stealing is a kiss from a sleeping baby. We completely agree, especially when they are the stars of nezo art (which literally translates as “sleeping position art”).

A recent slumber-time tableau by Mami Koide

The art wasn’t exactly made in Japan. The true pioneer in this genre is Finnish former designer Adele Enersen, who rose to Internet fame with her blog Mila’s Daydreams. She photographed her daughter  sleeping in various artsy dreamscapes realized with props and costumes. She eventually spun that popularity into a photo book, titled “When My Baby Dreams” and published in January 2012.

While Mami Koide has clearly been inspired by Enerson, the 41-year-old illustrator diverges from the master by giving her dream tableaux a slightly more DIY vibe. In fact, in her self-imposed rules, Koide says creators of nezo art should strive to use everyday objects found around the house as their props. It’s all a matter of taste, but we prefer the more amateurish, homey nezo creations.

Koide is not alone in Japan. NAVER Matome has compiled an array of photos contributed by individuals who have chosen to put their little ones on the slumber stage. You can also check the Twitter hashtag #NezoArt for more. And if that isn’t enough, there’s Koide’s recently publish photo book, “Nezo Art Book.”

Take the kids back in time this summer

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Lunch at Ubusuna House, part of the Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale. (Rebecca Milner photo)

Last week, NHK ran a story on a “Showa Lifestyle” exhibition at a shopping center in Mito, a city two hours northeast of Tokyo. The exhibit wasn’t aimed at baby-boomers — Showa refers to the historical period from 1926-1989 — but rather their children and grandchildren.

The Mito City Museum, which put on the event, set up a mock living room circa the 1960s. Here kids could experience sitting at a low table on floor cushions, turning the dials on a black-and-white TV, many of them likely for the first time. They could also see what it was like to use an old rotary phone, a foot-pedal sewing machine and even a few pairs of take-uma, bamboo stilts, a popular amusement from an era of few luxuries.

For kids weaned on mobile phones, there may be no greater novelty than the past. They can also get an inkling of how different their world is from that of previous generations.

While the Mito event has already ended, there are plenty of other places where the family can get a taste of Showa life. At this summer’s Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale, in rural Niigata prefecture, visitors can eat and sleep inside country homes and schoolhouses dating from the early to mid-20th century.

Many such structures outside of cities around Japan have lost their original usefulness on account of the country’s aging population and lack of attractive job opportunities there for young people. Countless such sites have been lost forever; however, there is a growing trend to label them heritage buildings and turn them into museums or hands-on learning centers.

Continue reading about the Showa nostalgia kick →

Today’s J-blip: rrrrrrrroll

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

roll lightpost

Have you seen these  hypnotic, strangely beautiful GIF images yet? At a rate of roughly two a week, they’ve been appearing on a Tumblr blog called rrrrrrrroll that is dedicated to the project and run by a group of friends.

roll_umbrella

Sometimes it’s a young woman spinning on an axis, at the unhurried pace of a ceiling fan set on low.  Other times it’s an object — an umbrella, or an electric rice cooker, for example — set in motion. A simple concept, yet undeniably captivating.

roll_rock

According to the group’s Facebook page, the blog has attracted more than 10,000 followers. Not too shabby for a group that only started uploading photos in April.

And a hat-tip to Tofugu for the find . . . though it was Huffington Post  that first shined the big light on the rrrrrrrrollers.

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