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Mukokuseki diasporans - click opera
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Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 07:34 am
Mukokuseki diasporans

Mukokuseki: the Japanese word for "without nationality".
Diaspora: an ex-patriated or exiled population, spread through the world.

Marxy has an interesting piece up just now on the new Japanese Tokion. It's very much an insider's perspective, since Marxy was once an editor at the American Tokion. He runs through the confusingly complicated permutations of the magazine's various owners, editions and editors on two continents (this new Tokion is the Japanese one, and is now owned by INFAS, who publish my favourite Japanese magazine, Studio Voice).

Marxy concludes: "The new Tokion is not so much about this messianistic mission of exporting Japanese cool, but looking at the local culture arising from the contemporary mix between foreigners and Japanese."

Now, this is a program I can get behind. While I'm very much into exporting Japanese cool, I do think a goodly amount of it is created by the Japanese who've left Japan to study abroad, and who've miscegenated, culturally and biologically, with foreigners, as well as by foreigners who've been drawn to Japan, "Japanizing" themselves in the process. Sure, I love the pure stuff too, but I'm definitely into bastard chic.

This celebration of the mukokuseki chimes with something I said the other day on Click Opera, when talking about Donald Richie's long and lonely Tokyo exile. Anon commented: "It's not that you want to live in Japan but can't afford to. You actually don't want to live there, only visit once a year. Just like people who live in England but who like to visit France once a year, to eat nice cheese and practise their rusty French. And on top of that, you actually find the intellectual climate there frustrating, and anything but invigorating."

I responded: "I'd say it's more like preferring "the Japanese diaspora" to Japan itself. The Japanese diaspora is multi-culti, and contains many of the most creative Japanese people as well as those foreigners who love Japan. It contains the best of both worlds, and leaves all that's provincial and stifling in both the West and Japan behind."

It seems to be very much this "Japanese diaspora" that the new Tokion will concentrate on. Issue 2 will focus on Tokyo-based Japanese-French couple Yoshi and Audrey, who run cool music / fashion magazine OK Fred, and in many ways they're typical Jap-diasporans, collaborating across racial boundaries, as post-national as Shibuya-kei seemed to be back in the day.

Marxy has some well-founded doubts, though: "My only concern is whether "we foreign Tokyo residents" are actually so interesting or dynamic to warrant such coverage. Tokion Japan does not ignore Japanese creators to solely focus on the ex-pat fashion world, but the latter may end up providing a baseline view of the "glocal" culture... The success of Tokion Japan will eventually depend upon how interesting Tokyo inter-racial, inter-national "glocal" culture actually is."

I think that's the key question, and a very interesting one. Nowhere more than in the style press does the question of "who's interesting, who's dull" feature so centrally. It's all about "who's hot, who's not", and "who's in, who's out of the clique". It's also "who has the right to decide these things", and on the answer to that hangs a self-appointed would-be style authority's success or failure.

There's no doubt that the mukokuseki creators being spotlit in the new Tokion's features have the necessary self-confidence. Last week, for instance, Audrey Fondecave ruffled a few feathers by telling Martin Webb of Japan Times that "when we take our daughter Liliyo to parties, like the opening of an exhibition or shop, and it’s full of people that are unbelievably dull, I see some of them really change when looking at Liliyo’s smile."

This prompted one "Fletcher" to comment (on Jean Snow's blog): "This woman comes across as somewhat pleased with herself in a less-than-modest way... Audrey ...you and your family are among the Beautiful People. Gag me." (I responded by citing a much nicer quote in which Audrey said Tokyo had made her "a better, more tolerant person".)

But it's not enough for we diasporans to be confident, bold and narcissistic, or to bring sunshine into a grey, racially monolithic world with our mukokuseki children. We need an audience, darling, and they must not only be dull, but see themselves as dull before they'll shut up and pay attention to us, or smile back at our gurgling, gurning trans-national babies.

The thing is, it's by no means certain that Japan in 2006 is the right place to find such an audience. Recently the Japanese, once in thrall to all things foreign, seem to have discovered a self-satisfaction worryingly congruous with our own. It's not just evident in Shinzo Abe's "Make Japan proud!" slogan; it runs throughout the whole culture. Switch on TV and it's very hard to find anything non-Japanese at all. The archipelago curves towards itself in an arc of narcissism.

In this climate, a magazine like the new Tokion may have to content itself with a pretty small audience. How many mukokuseki diasporans are there in Tokyo, anyway, to read in Japanese about people pretty much like themselves? And how much disposable income do they have, after their Tokyo rents get paid?

23CommentReply


(Anonymous)
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 08:48 am (UTC)

Yes I definitely agree there is an infolding underway. The rush to make Japan proud is so much nonsense ... much like the neo-cons in the US and the rise of the right throughout Europe. The fear is attracting the fearful and things are getting scary indeed. It seems the truly talented of Japan only come home to dream about their history or profit from their fellow citizens.

I feel there will be a good shot of that in the art world at the Mori next week too. I'm betting the odds that after his ouster this month, David Elliott's replacement will be someone far closer to home and more in tune with the mythical japan of contemporary nihonga.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 08:57 am (UTC)

Did David Elliott get ousted? Gosh, I didn't hear about that. Yes, it really is the end of the 90s, that vision of globalism, isn't it? Africa Remix sounded like the kind of fashion spread Studio Voice used to run in the 90s...

It would be interesting if Mizuma got the job, he's got quite a roster of Neo-Narcissists.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 09:03 am (UTC)

Ah, a quick google tells me:

"The announcement of his successor -- Fumio Nanjo, the museum’s deputy director, is thought to be a shoo-in by some -- is expected by the end of the month. Elliott had a five-year contract that is not being renewed."

Fumio Nanjo has just curated the Singapore Biennial with the assistance of Roger McDonald of AIT / Tactical, an online ally of mine, so I'm rather pleased at this development.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 09:13 am (UTC)

Well there you have it.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 09:12 am (UTC)

Yes, the David Elliott news is hot off the presses. There is a press conference scheduled next week, and he is apparently heading off to Istanbul. There is a bit of buzz that it isn't the happiest of partings as The Mori apparently refused to renegotiate his contract. So that sounds like ousting to me.
Africa Remix was pretty fantastic I thought, an mind-opening exhibition to be sure.

Mizuma would be great, but I would say the good money is on Fumio Nanjo or Fram Kitagawa. But I am hoping its a surprise.
And its struck a chord with me, as does your post today about a sense of loss I have been having in JApan these days. The global vision? yeah I guess its being lost... Even the korean dramas dont shine so bright these days do they?Sorry I can't post links not usually a LiveJournal user...just enjoy your blog.


ReplyThread Parent
svenskasfinx
NOT Greta Garbo
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 09:17 am (UTC)
thinking about this in the context as an immigrant


But it's not enough for we diasporans to be confident, bold and narcissistic, or to bring sunshine into a grey, racially monolithic world with our mukokuseki children. We need an audience, darling, and they must not only be dull, but see themselves as dull before they'll shut up and pay attention to us, or smile back at our gurgling, gurning trans-national babies.



But still, I wonder if Tokyo is so closed in the artistic job market as Sweden can be, there is a protectiveness to the art world here... even if you have a degree from an internationally acclaimed art school, and there ARE in fact jobs (as in the UK) within "ART" however there is a catch, in spite of the so called "left-leaning" the art world here lays claim to, there is a certain threat being foreign has, so much so that one must work in the "area" for 3 years inside of the country before one can become part of the "protected job market".. a kind of "catch 22" situation, as you need access to what their closed market offers in order to really get a job, other wise, there is a dishwashing job available there..and you never get into the art market after 3 years of dishwashing.

Foreign-ness in any place which finds the appeal of "those others" exciting, often has a back lash, somewhere, because it is about being "too interesting" and even a threat.. I understand that when I go to a party, and people find out where I come from.

It gets that way just taking my son to school, as he is bilingual and very "different", perhaps he would be this way even if he wasn't multi-national, or lacking of nationallity. I wouldn't think it was based upon any difference of features, characteristics since physically, we don't really "stand out", as a foreign person in Japan would.

We speak the language, we do all the "Swedish" things, but we are still neither here, nor there. And this can not be blamed upon any sort of right/left thing happening here at the moment... as most immigrants were very supportive of the "socialist" right, party. (all are socialists, and will never be more than various shades of that, which suits me fine as they are nothing like Thatcher or Reagan or Bush)which is probably how they got elected in the first place after being so disapointed by the system in place.

I in fact see in other areas that Sweden embraces the foreign and this is why they close their job market to me (and others)... still struggling to find a way in, via the other methods, but starting your own buisness just to extend your employment opportunties is not an option at this time.

Maybe the whole problem with the back lash in the Tokyo thing is just that very same thing, just the difference is exciting and people are questioning themselves "why should it be that way?" and often it is about finding self confidence and excitement in one's own culture.. but often this is at the exclusion of other's culture.

Yesterday's paper had a comic strip in it focusing on the letter "X", and said "X" is for "Xenophobe" in Swedish.. it was just an illustation of how small and frightning the world is when you see everyone who is not like you as a threat.

Is the appeal of the foreign who leave their country for another more of a particpant observer showing a country what is so wonderful about themselves, or is it really about the difference, like monkeys in the zoo, "look how they are like us, but yet so different"-difference?

There are more than 1,000,000 immigrants in Sweden at this time so I assume that the market, although only 12%, for the most part, when it comes to jobs, is still that of a threat. Even outside of the art world.. and people have mentioned that they do feel discriminated against... in spite of our very open policies, anti-discrimination laws and other things in place.

I can't assume that Japan has such rules - nor as many immigrants.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 09:29 am (UTC)
Re: thinking about this in the context as an immigrant

I think the shift in attitudes to immigration, globalisation and so on over the last five years has been very tragic, and I don't know what could reverse it. Of course, in the 90s people were shouting that it was a fig-leaf for imperialism, but now they'd be happy to see that "soft power" again, rather than today's terrorism, paranoia and closing down of options.


ReplyThread Parent
mcgazz
mcgazz
McGazz
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 10:05 am (UTC)
Re: thinking about this in the context as an immigrant

Well, everyone connected with art in Liverpool seems to be a foreigner, so maybe you're looking in the wrong places for jobs.


ReplyThread Parent
svenskasfinx
NOT Greta Garbo
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 11:09 am (UTC)
well sure if I lived in the UK

it would actually work, in fact I have family that moved from Hamilton, Scotland to Liverpool.

But don't you get it? That's exactly why its harder, a protected job market within Sweden when it comes to areas of Culture. The KAF (Kulturarbetsförmildingen) web site I am not allowed to be a part of has a huge data base which promotes visual artists of all kinds and has enough memory to upload video, and all out of my access! But yet I understand, they have to protect the market from the "exotic" influence such as myself.. as we are far too strange and interesting..


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 09:45 am (UTC)

Switch on TV and it's very hard to find anything non-Japanese at all.

I have to disagree, insofar as there's currently a strong Japanese obsession with Korean popular culture right now (dramas, variety shows, music, food, etc.). To an outsider, it may not look like imported foreign culture, but it definitely is.

Perhaps it's a sign that Japan is re-asserting its Asian-ness. The foreign influences the Japanese are choosing to absorb these days, perhaps, are from their neighbors.


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 12:04 pm (UTC)

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/52703


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 01:45 pm (UTC)

For those of us hoping to create Utopia here on Earth in the next 15-20 years, each right wing politician elected seems like another death blow.

But we can relax, because when we go back and read history, we realize that the Greeks and Romans faced all the same issues that we do now.

A country shifts a little left, a country shifts a little right. A culture looks outward for a little while, then looks inward, then repeats. The pendulum swings back and forth, and has an equlibrium effect.

National boundaries are not going to disappear in our lifetimes. Utopia cannot be achieved by adopting socialism or any other revolutionary doctrine fashionable among half-educated college-aged kids with lots of time on their hands. One president or PM doesn't have the power to destroy a country or turn it into a paradise. Whether you know it or not, by clamoring to set up one-size-fits-all unifying bodies like the EU, you are helping to further advance the monoculture of McDonalds, Toyota and khaki pants. National "self-satisfaction" helps preserve cultural difference. Balance is the key. Paradoxically, a group of people who are frightened into respecting "diversity" over everything else end up becoming bland and homogenized, unified only by the consumer culture they share.

-henryperri


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(Anonymous)
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 02:07 pm (UTC)

http://www.yanous.com/news/editorial/img/Royal.jpg


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norsteinbeckler
Norstein Beckler
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 03:53 pm (UTC)

You betray your roots!

"For those of us hoping to create Utopia here on Earth in the next 15-20 years, each right wing politician elected seems like another death blow."

You make a good point in general. It's amazing how terrified people are of George W. Bush, mostly out of their own bigotry & incredible cowardice, instead of pertaining to actual reality. Things have never been better for Beckler, & the Beckling is good! Ultimately, my feeling is that one must continue to persevere with one's plan regardless of the political climate.


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norsteinbeckler
Norstein Beckler
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 03:49 pm (UTC)
Jewpanese?

Jet-setting Communist sympathizer artists who just leave the proles behind & meet in the pages of magazines? What happens when they decide to make their own country?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 04:26 pm (UTC)
Re: Jewpanese?

Our promised land would certainly be bombarded daily by the Philistines.


ReplyThread Parent
ajbossa
decal
Wed, Sep. 20th, 2006 04:11 pm (UTC)

always a worthwile read


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ssslithe
ssslithe
ssslithe
Thu, Sep. 21st, 2006 02:20 am (UTC)

Are you living in Japan at the moment, Momus? I moved out here a few months ago. I bet you don't remember the song you wrote for me in London...


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Sep. 21st, 2006 02:24 am (UTC)

I'm in Berlin, Germany. I'll next be in Japan next spring or summer, I think. Are you a star forever?


ReplyThread Parent
ssslithe
ssslithe
ssslithe
Thu, Sep. 21st, 2006 02:26 am (UTC)

Haha, you keep pretty up to date on Koizumi for a foreigner...

I was in Berlin a few weeks ago. My girlfriend took me to the Ampelmann shop, but I found it hard to get excited about a crossing lamp.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Sep. 21st, 2006 04:05 am (UTC)

Ah yes, Ampelmann.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Sep. 25th, 2006 08:25 pm (UTC)
Audrey Quote, Tokion

Martin Webb from The Japan Times here.

That quote from Audrey should have read "when we take our daughter Liliyo to parties... and it’s full of people that look unbelievably bored," rather than "...unbelievably dull."

I was leaving for London soon after it went to press, so the piece got slapped onto the page in quite a hurry and that editing glitch ended up going to print. My bad.

Audrey is being misrepresented: I didn't catch the slightest whiff of arrogance from anything she said in the interview.

Anyway, what a fascinating few days in the Tokyo-centric blogosphere I've been missing out on whilst on the shores of Great Britain.

And oh, how monocultural Tokyo seems when compared to London - endless material for a magazine about cool immigrants there. Tokion, though, seems likely to run out of cool collaborators pretty soon.

Whether Tokyo suppresses the creativity of its denizens or whether, as supposedly is the case in Sweden, the system prevents outsiders from competing on a level playing field remains to be seen. It is certainly not an attractive environment for international creators to base themselves in, though, principally due to its marginality on the global creative scene as a result of linguistic and geographical handicaps.

In fashion, at least, you've got high-profile Tokyo-based gaijin like Sonya Park, AVGVST, Han Ahn Soon, Yab Yum, Christopher Nemeth and Patrick Stephane.

But are there any Tokion-worthy gaijin in other fields?

I hear there are a couple of decent musicians about, but there certainly aren't any cool writers, apart from Marxy, of course...

Will they feature Japanese people engaged in creative pursuits overseas? Do creators who've spent a couple of years at a foreign college count as mukokuseki?

I perceive a continued interest in things foreign, and especially Japanese bicultural, among Japanese media consumers. Look at the popularity of Anna Tsuchiya and model Jessica, for instance. Mass circulation men's fashion magazines Men's Non-no and Popeye feature almost exclusively half-Japanese models. Top-seller LEON has bilingual Italian Girolamo Panzetta on its cover every month.

As one of the diasporans at whom it is targeted, I'm very excited about the Tokion project. Let's hope that it does strike a chord with the public.


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(Anonymous)
Thu, Oct. 5th, 2006 02:48 am (UTC)

New York Press

"In the post-year 2000 New York City, the notion of the artist-driven metropolis has slowly given way to the rising tide of the corporate imperative...While some local artists continue to stick it out...a startlingly large number of artists have opted to move out of the country to cities supposedly more friendly to cost-of-living concerns...Japan has emerged as a newly attractive locale in which to feed one’s artistic muse while managing to get in three square meals-a-day and keep a roof over one’s head".

http://www.nypress.com/19/40/news&columns/feature.cfm

Mulboyne


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