Posts Tagged ‘art’

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: 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.

Pulsations (06.23.12)

Saturday, June 23rd, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • How to Spend 3 Nights in Tokyo All Included on ¥10,000 ($US125) (from Tokyo Cheapo): While some tourists in Japan spend at least ¥10,000 a night for a hotel alone, others prefer to spend the same amount for their entire stay in Japan. Impossible? Well, these guys claim they have a plan for spending three days in Tokyo for just ¥10,000, everything included!
  • 1929 Japanese animation “Kobu tori” (from Japan Sugoi): Here is your chance to see the 1929 Japanese anime “Kobutori” by Chozo Aoji and Yasuji Murata. It is a 10-minute piece featuring two old men with large lumps, the “kobu” in the title, on their faces. They encounter similar situations, but one has a good temper while the other has an evil one.
  • Pots made from radioactive soil collected from within the Fukushima exclusion zone (from Spoon & Tamago): That’s the fascinating but radioactive idea Hilda Hellström had for her senior thesis show at the U.K.’s Royal College of Art. The project indeed is historical as the artifacts will always remind us of the most serious nuclear disaster in human history.
  • Lesbian invisibility in Japan (from Japan culture blog): Lesbianism is not as widely discussed as male homosexuality in Japan, where women are expected to be primarily good wives and wise mothers. Ramona Naicker explains how three decades ago, plenty of lesbian activist groups emerged seeking change but were forced to shut down due to lack of support.
  • Why Do Japanese People Wear Surgical Masks? (from Tofugu): I have been asked several times why so many Japanese people wear masks in public spaces. I did not know how to answer this question until I stumbled upon this post on Tofogu. Find out if you should be wearing one, too.

A former Australian rugby captain puts his unique skills to use on a rush-hour Tokyo train.

Pulsations (06.08.12)

Friday, June 8th, 2012

Here are the latest Pulsations, links to fresh stories and visuals about Japan, shout-outs to fellow bloggers, and highly clickable stuff that we think you might enjoy.

In no particular order, they are . . .

  • Kikuchi Naoko’s sarin (from Mutant Frog): In honor of Aum Shinrikyo fugitive Kikuchi Naoko’s arrest, blogger Roy Berman shares gripping excerpts from “Aum and I,” a book by former cult doctor Ikuo Hayashi. Berman was part of a collaboration that translated the text into English. The quotes are chilling.
  • Japanese artist Takeshi Miyakawa on his time in jail (From Spoon & Tamago): Takeshi Miyakawa, a Japanese-born artist who now lives in New York, talks about an installation mix-up that got him thrown in jail and his surprising approach to locked-up life.
  • Iseya, an old Tokyo establishment, set to close this month (From Tokyo Times): Amidst the multitude of chain restaurants and bars, Iseya stands out as being laid back and lacking requirements or expectations of its guests. The restaurant is slated to be closed this month in the name of progress, but some wouldn’t call it that.
  • Thoughts on the life and alcoholism of Prince Tomohito (from Shisaku): Japan politics blogger Michael Cucek offers a critical reflection on Prince Tomohito and his struggle with alcoholism. He also highlights some of the Prince’s positive contributions to Japan during his life.
  • The future of disaster relief (from Asiajin): A new technology to aid in disaster relief may soon be available to anyone with a smartphone. Augmented reality shows  real-time data on a user’s mobile device about potential dangers and how to avert them.

Video blogger ‘BusanKevin‘ talks about the tsunami protection in Kobe.

Kokeshi back in style with a new look

Friday, April 20th, 2012

Visitors to Roppongi Art Night at the end of last month were greeted by Hanako, a 13-meter-tall kokeshi doll who towered above the crowds. Despite its size, the doll’s happy, smiling face with its pink cheeks was cuteness incarnate and exemplifies how this traditional wooden doll has been given a kawaii (cute) makeover to appeal to a new generation. Once thought to be rather sinister-looking, out-of-date souvenirs, kokeshi, according to an article in Nikkei Trendy, are now trending among young women.

Hanako holds sway over Tokyo Midtown during Roppongi Art Night

Armless wooden kokeshi dolls, with large heads displaying rigid expressions and bodies decorated a little more cheerfully with floral designs, have long been sold as souvenirs in hot spring resorts throughout the Tohoku region. However, a few years back, the lack of interest among the young in these dolls  meant they began collecting dust on the shelves. An aging population of kokeshi artisans did nothing to cheer up the features of these wooden figures.

The Great East Japan Earthquake, of course, has shaken things up further. While the number of souvenir-shopping tourists in Tohoku has dropped, public consciousness of the crisis has stimulated interest in the dolls. To do her bit to lend support, Genki Numata, a representative of Kokeshika Kamakura, launched the magazine Kokeshi Jidai. Even though it’s only available to order on the net and a few select stores, sales of the magazine have been brisk.

Kokeshika Kamakura, located far from Tohoku in Kamakura, Ishikawa Prefecture, sells kokeshi and attracts a lot of custom from women in their 20s to 40s. But to appeal to this new market, many kokeshi have been given a cute facelift, that make their features somewhat resemble the jolly matryoshka dolls that are also sold in-store. This kawaiification appears to have started before the quake with the modern illustrated “Kokeshi Book” being published back in 2010. But cuteness isn’t the only way to ensure the traditional craft does not die out. Artist SUZUKIKE has created abstract renderings of the doll with fluffy, spiked or totally blank heads, called COKESHI.

Highlighting the fact that kokeshi are back in style, the “Kokeshi Pop” exhibition took place in Shibuya’s Parco department store last month. The aim of the exhibit was to further fuel interest in the craft amongst the fashionable young set and also to encourage people to visit the beleaguered Tohoku region and give local economies there a much-needed boost.

15th Japan Media Arts Festival

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

The 15th Japan Media Arts Festival showcased award-winning international works in the categories of Art, Entertainment, Animation and Manga. Click any image below to see a slideshow of photos from Japan Times Arts editor Mio Yamada.

Taro Okamoto towers above 2011

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

Taro Okamoto's struggle to complete the "Tower of the Sun" is the subject of a new NHK drama.

Last year was samurai Ryoma Sakamoto’s year, as a huge surge of interest, largely generated by an NHK dramatization of his life, lead to countless product tie-ins. This year the dead celebrity du jour looks set to be artist Taro Okamoto, who will also be getting his own NHK show in celebration of the 100th anniversary of his birth. A slew of exhibitions are also sure to revive the public’s interest in this iconoclastic painter and sculptor.

The NHK drama is titled “Taro’s Tower,” in reference to “Tower of the Sun,” which Okamoto created for Expo ’70 in Suita, Osaka. The first episode, which aired on Feb. 26, focused on the period between 1967 and 1970 when Okamoto battled to complete the tower in time for the World’s Fair. The structure is one of his most iconic works, and though it’s rather weather-worn, it still stands in the Expo Commemoration Park in Suita, Osaka.

Inside the “Tower of the Sun” there used to be a structure called “Tree of Life,” which represented the strength of life heading toward the future. Staircases winding round the inside of the “Tower of the Sun” allowed you to view it up close. Since “The Tree of Life” no longer exists the Taro Okamoto Memorial Museum has commissioned a 1:20 scale model of the art work. Standing just 2.5m tall, the replica, made by model shop Kaiyodo, allows visitors to see details that you couldn’t with the 50-meter original.

Other museums are also holding special events in memory of Okamoto. The National Museum of Modern Art will be holding a 100th anniversary exhibition, which kicked off March 8. The show’s theme — confrontation — references the fact that Okamoto challenged the values of traditional Japanese society. About 130 works, including paintings, sculptures, photographs and design, will be on display.

At Taro Okamoto Museum of Art in Kawasaki, an exhibition titled “100 years old Admirable Taro” will run until April 3. The curators have chosen 27 items from their collection of 818 works. Of particular note is a primitive shrine that Okamoto crafted out of traditional materials in celebration of folk art.

Though the art world is buzzing with Okamoto-related exhibitions, the craze for the artist hasn’t yet shown signs of reaching the same dizzy heights of last year’s Sakamoto boom. As yet we haven’t found any anniversary tie-in products, we did stumble upon these rather groovy Okamoto Children’s Day koinobori (carp kites), which were on sale as limited editions last year. Let’s hope they re-release them in time for this year’s Children’s Day.

“Tower of the Sun” photo by Ryan McBride [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Techno Shugei weaves craft into circuitry

Friday, February 25th, 2011

Techno Shugei's New Year's Rabbit, background knitted by 203gow

Meet Hebitsuke, the friendly felt snake whose eyes light up with joy when he bites his own tail. The snake is the work of the Techno Shugei (Handicrafts) group who published a book in November 2011 containing instructions on how to construct Hebitsuke — a combo of circuit boards with fluffy materials — and much more. The book, which bears the same title as the group, is proving to be a surprise hit, enjoying steady sales with people keen to try their hand at sewing, knitting and simple circuitry.

Hebitsuke's eyes light up when it bites its own tail

Techno Shugei was formed back in 2008 by Kyoko Kasuya and Tomofumi Yoshida, a pair of engineering students who shared the vision of combining handicrafts with circuitry. Their simple witty pieces were pretty popular back in autumn 2009 when we visited the Make: Tokyo Meeting at Ookayama campus of the Tokyo Institute of Technology, and since that time they’ve been busy programming and sewing to bring together this crafty collection of electronic objects.

The book contains instructions on how to program the Arduino circuit board used in their works as well as how to sew and fit together works like felt LED broaches and winking fox gloves. They’ve even thought up a fix for the glove/touchpad problem by sewing crosses of conductive thread on the pads of the index finger of a normal glove (quite possibly a cheaper solution than buying touchscreen gloves).

Techno Shugei is affiliated with Make Magazine that runs great events showcasing the work of amateur scientists and crafty types. At the last Make event, their book was in demand and sold out quickly, according to Nikkei Trendy. Another artist who exhibits her work at Make events is guerrilla knitter 203gow who has some works on display at the Make: in Hands event in Shibuya (on until Feb. 28). The knitting artist, whose own octopus-inspired work is currently making waves, has also collaborated with Techno Shugei to produce this cute scene for their New Year’s rabbit.

Unfortunately Techno Shugei won’t be at the Make event in Shibuya, but you can catch an exhibition of their works on the 6th floor of Junkudo book store in Ikebukuro till Feb 28.

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