?

Log in

No account? Create an account
Tokyo-as-highly-viral-third-culture-style-lab - click opera
February 2010
 
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
 
 
 
 
 
 
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 12:56 pm
Tokyo-as-highly-viral-third-culture-style-lab

My Pecha kucha is dead piece a couple of weeks ago was a facetiously premature obituary for a meme which is still very much alive, as I explain rather more straightforwardly in the Wired News column that went up this morning, Pecha Kucha: Design Virus. One of the more surprising responses to the Click Opera piece was a mail from architect Mark Dytham, who, with his partner Astrid Klein, started the pecha kucha virus back in 2003. "Pecha Kucha is dead?" he spluttered. "Phew - glad I read down the blog thread [to the comment where I admit I'm just kidding] I was just about to flame you... But all is cool now!! PS - any ideas how we can cool the fire?"



The difference between the Click Opera piece and the Wired News one isn't just a question of tone. In the interim I actually attended a pecha kucha night here in Berlin and found it highly entertaining. Berlin "franchise operator" Luka Hinse explained to me how he'd got the pecha kucha "religion" during a stay in Tokyo interning for Panasonic. He'd visited SuperDeluxe, Dytham's club in Roppongi, seen a pecha kucha event, and decided to set one up when he got home to Berlin.

That got me thinking about my Mukokuseki Diasporans theme again -- thinking of Tokyo as a mecca for a certain kind of international creative, as a place where a sort of "third culture", a blend of East and West, gets fused in "style labs" and exported all over the world in the form of digital products, ideas, music, memes. It's certainly happened with pecha kucha, and SuperDeluxe is certainly one of the places where this "third culture" congregates in the city. If Tokyo-as-highly-viral-third-culture-style-lab had a logo, it would be Klein Dytham's SuperDeluxe logo.

There are a few things to say about this viral third culture emanating from Tokyo. First of all, the creative people working within it are highly privileged, a kind of brahmin class amongst global creatives. Tokyo is still the world's most expensive city. If it takes ambition to move to New York to try and make a living from art or design or music, it takes even more gall and guts to move to Tokyo to do the same. Secondly, they're very much visually-oriented people. We saw in The trip inside how Richard Lloyd Parry puzzled, in the London Review of Books, over why foreigners would stay in a place "with no intellectual climate at all". The conclusion was that people like Donald Richie are lifelong sex tourists -- they stay there for Asian bodies. But Parry's perspective is a fusty one; as a literary intellectual he's attuned to a literary and political culture which is all but dead in the West as well as in Japan. The foreigners in Tokyo are not so much a literati as a designerati; they're primarily visual people. And Tokyo's visual culture -- an intellectual climate of a textural rather than textual kind -- is a very rich one. It's the culture on display daily in blogs like Jean Snow, Pingmag, or Shift, and represented in international events like Tokyo Design Week. Anyone who thinks that Tokyo is off the boil is deliberately snubbing this visual culture.



One question we might ask ourselves is how Japanese this emerging visual "third culture" is? And one way to answer that is to look at what the creatives involved are saying. The picture of the digital bathhouse above is an installation Klein and Dytham made for London's Architectural Association in 2005. Mark Dytham tells me he and Klein "have just finished a large bathouse in Japan's Southern Alps", a real-world extension of the fun digital bathhouse they put together for the AA. Meanwhile, over at Wieden and Kennedy's Tokyo Lab Eric Cruz (in a promotional film made for Apple) puts it this way:

"One of the biggest influences, to us, is the city of Tokyo itself. The Tokyo youth culture always demands innovation. We pay attention to the visual landscape. And then we approach it from a sense of 'How do we introduce something that they've never seen before?'" Since W+K's lab is dedicated to the fusing of music and visuals, that means finding new fusions on the level of sound too. You can hear some of that going on in the podcasts labber Shane Lester does. But you could as easily hear it in the work of Digiki, Lullatone, Marxy, or any of hundreds of non-Japanese stationed in Japan. It's also, of course, implicit in the Mukokuseki Diasporan idea that there's a network of non-Japanese Japanese-influenced people in other countries too. And one thing I've noticed is that my lifestyle -- living outside Japan, participating in "franchise" events which originated there, making regular trips to Tokyo to recharge my creative batteries -- is becoming much more normal. For instance, Helsinki teens on the Hel-Looks website are now as likely to say they go shopping in Tokyo as that they merely buy clothes mail order from Japan. Let's listen to them:

"I visited Tokyo last January and fell in love with Japanese street fashion, language and culture. My style comes from Japan." Nina (17).

"London and Tokyo are the best cities for shopping." Aino (17).

"The whole set is from Tokyo. There's nothing else to do but shop there. Laforet sales – I had never seen anything like that before. What a hassle!" Teemu (29).

The inside of Laforet is of course also a Klein Dytham design, which brings us full circle back to pecha kucha, and the peculiar viral global reach of the Tokyo designerati.

27CommentReplyShare


(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC)

as a literary intellectual he's attuned to a literary and political culture which is all but dead in the West

This is a bit premature, isn't it?

I'm not sure I buy this division between an old "literary" intellectual/text-based culture and a new "visual" culture. In some ways, new technologies have even led us back to text-based experiences (this blog for example). Also, are artists less inclined to talk in a theoretical/intellectual mode than before? Is there something outmoded about the theory-laden musings of, say, the Chapman brothers? I'm not so sure. I think there have always been artists whose "way in" to their art has been intellectual, and others who have been non- or anti-intellectual. I'm not at all convinced that the non-intellectual approach more prevalant in Japan is something new or different.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 02:26 pm (UTC)

Well, let's be very specific. The context there was a discussion of Richard Lloyd Parry's "fusty" conception of culture -- that it has to be literary / political or it's just not there. So let's take a look at Richard's blog, shall we?

This Tokyo-based Times journalist has a visually very shabby blog filled with talk radio-level debate on topics like feminism, censorship, prime minister Abe's resemblance to Tom Conti, and the like. It's presumably the absence of such chatter that makes him think of Tokyo -- his adopted town since 1995 -- as such an intellectually arid place. Some of us, however, would call his blog arid, as depressing as the Murdoch newspaper he writes for.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 03:08 pm (UTC)

So let's take a look at Richard's blog, shall we?

Lookalikes... "the inexorable logic of late capitalism"... looks pretty much like Marxy's blog!

I certainly agree that Tokyo is no less of a creative place because of its relative lack of an intellectual culture, just a different sort of place. Actually I was taking issue with your literary/visual binary. A lot of "visual" people - perhaps most - will take an intellectual approach to their art. (After all, conceptual art was the paradigm in the YBA world of the 90s.) You seem to be talking about a subset of "visual" people who don't, rather than visual people as a whole.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 03:21 pm (UTC)

I think I'm just saying that visual thinking is thinking too, and that you can be a textural intellectual as well as a textual one. For some reason textural intellectuals thrive in Tokyo, whereas textual intellectuals wilt on the bough.


ReplyThread Parent
akabe
akabe
alin huma
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 03:29 pm (UTC)

seen from within i don't think the dychotomy is that sharp. a lot of visual stuff, say the photography of araki or masafumi sanai, is usually (self-)described as literary (文学的) - in contrast to say takashi honma who, with more or less succes, is deliberately trying to avoid that by going for a certain 'western'-like conceptualism.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 04:21 pm (UTC)

Sounds like they're trying to cover up their creative inadequacy through pseudo-intellectual blather. Real artists can never speak about their own works - it's like being blind, deaf, and dumb.


ReplyThread Parent
akabe
akabe
alin huma
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 04:24 pm (UTC)

eh ??


ReplyThread Parent
akabe
akabe
alin huma
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 05:08 pm (UTC)

anonymous , by your standard probably the hero of akutagawa's jigokuhen might be the only true artist in japanese history.

Also i think the literary/critical tradition is far from dead here. there's a ridiculous amount of good novels published and read all the time (i don't know what random generator decides what's to be translated for the west) . same with critical stuff, bookshops are always packed but i guess that's a world the metro-visual gaikokujin usually doesn't dwell in.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 08:23 pm (UTC)

Alin, would you care to mention what a couple of the more interesting recent novels have been? just curious what your suggestions would be - I've been interested in finding a good Japanese novel lately, but I'm not sure where to look.. (I'm outside Japan now but read Japanese)


ReplyThread Parent
akabe
akabe
alin huma
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 04:47 am (UTC)

uhmmm, busted, i havn't actualy been reading that much fiction recently, been busy going through the colected works of Kojin Karatani, a lovely old musty yellow set of collected Kafka in the old kanji for that bit extra entfremdung, a translation of Mille Plateux ...
... actualy i have just read something called Body Rental by 佐藤亜紀子, だれかのことをつよく思ってみたかた by 角田光代 with photos by Masafumi Sanai, some manga by Yamada Naoto (荻窪夫婦 etc)-  the last two being perfect examples of what i said earlier about there being no clear gap between the literary and the visual. 阿部和重 is quite interesting though probably already entered that over-productive stage the japanese literary machine tends to foster.

one thing after the Murakamis is that there are no more giants it's all minor in a good sense .. a lot of girl fiction etc. There was a literature issue of Studio Voice a few months ago that would have plenty of recomandations if you could get your hands on it.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 09:05 am (UTC)

thanks! those sound like interesting starting points. i'll see if maybe i can track down the Studio Voice issue, too.


ReplyThread Parent
desant012
||||||||||
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 03:10 pm (UTC)

Visual art and music has always been more popular modes of expression than anything high literary - that's always been confined to a certain subset of people. Design and music are more immediate and pleasing than, say, reading a 150 page novella on mystery and imagination - it takes more time to create it well and to consume it correctly. What's more deeply gratifying is up to each person, but I don't think there's too much new under the sun about the human experience.

Personally I like design, but the ultimate end of the ID kids from Pratt (whether in Tokyo, Berlin, San Fran, or NYC), is to sell crummy plastic Panton-style chairs out of boutiques to those boring, khacki-wearers you criticize. I wish I could live in your world.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 05:03 pm (UTC)

It's interesting to see Shane Lester, from W+K Tokyo Lab, endorsing Sean Talley on his blog:

"October 29, 2006

Scarcity

I don’t find that many people in the world are very similar to me. But chances are that Sean Talley and I are very similar, though we haven’t talked much. Sean found me through my podcast, and then there was the realization that we had met before; he was once a roommate of one of my best friends and favorite human life forms, Ricky Rivas, during their San Francisco Art Institute days. Anyhow this is perhaps of no interest to anyone, but what is of interest is Sean’s beautiful new blog, and gentle, lush, and lively new podcast, the inaugural episode of which has just been released. Oh yes, and furthermore you should listen to it. Thanks."

If you go to Sean Talley's blog you'll see that he's made an entry which very much highlights exactly the contrast I'm making between the textual and the textural. He's got a "visual poem" there by Florentin Smarandache which is just the shape of a poem, drawn in lines of varying lengths. It's just the texture of a text, in other words. Now, no doubt Richard Lloyd Parry-type textually-oriented people would see that as the voiding of content, a process of emptying out. People who'd be likely to see it as a making-visible of a new and very interesting textural content are also, I'd suggest, people who will thrive in a place like Tokyo.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 07:39 pm (UTC)

Will you ever write / are you writing / have you written a novel? Would love to read it.


ReplyThread Parent
charleshatcher
charleshatcher
charleshatcher
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC)

Tokyo surely can't be as dull as you make it sound.

Can it?


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 09:26 pm (UTC)

Well, it's not a patch on Hatcherville, naturally.


ReplyThread Parent
charleshatcher
charleshatcher
charleshatcher
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 09:38 pm (UTC)
Hatcherville...

Someone show me a way to get outa here,
'cause I constantly pray I'll get outa here
Please, won't somebody say I'll get outa here
Someone gimme my shot or I'll rot here.


ReplyThread Parent
intergalactim
intergalactim
intergalactim
Tue, Dec. 19th, 2006 10:26 pm (UTC)

"Yeah, I'm actually going to New Zealand next year, to live there for a while, and I will do the Pecha Kucha Night in Auckland. I talked already with Mark Dytham about that. There's none in New Zealand so far. I think it's the right format for the right time, you know."

Ok, i'm going to email Luka right away and get involved in this Auckland Pecha Kucha branch.


ReplyThread
jack.dahlgren.myopenid.com
jack.dahlgren.myopenid.com
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 03:31 am (UTC)
Surely it is all due to kanji...

"Tokyo's visual culture -- an intellectual climate of a textural rather than textual kind"


ReplyThread
akabe
akabe
alin huma
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 05:02 am (UTC)
TEXT - TEXTURE

Funny you call that texture whereas a japanese (kojin karatani or arata isozaki, can't remember) speaks of Japan as PURELY TEXTUAL , pure text running without discourse.
it does kind of ammount to the same thing but the difference in perception is illuminating.


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 09:16 am (UTC)
From Richard Lloyd Parry: The Fusty One Responds

I was pleased to see my piece in the LRB discussed - seriously and sensitively - on this blog a few weeks ago. So it's puzzling to return here, and find myself suddenly identified with a string of unexpected labels - "fusty", "literary intellectual", and the archetype of "textually-oriented people" in opposition to the visually alert designerati of the "third culture".

It's difficult to know how to respond. I don't regard myself as any of those things. I don't think there's any evidence for attaching those labelsto me. Momus' chracterisations of my opinions are based on assumptions about a person he does not know and has made no obvious effort to learn much about.

My piece about Donald Richie did make the point that, in contrast with other comparably important cities, foreigners in Japan have produced no lasting works of literature (the words "no intellectual climate at all" are Richie's, by the way, not mine). But to conclude that I must therefore be visually impaired, insensitive to design, texture, the look and taste and feel of Tokyo, exclusively "attuned" to a "dead" culture, blind to anything but the literary/political, is to make a large and unwarranted leap. Perhaps I am - but you don't know that. You know almost nothing about me at all. There may be people out there who believe that "culture ... has to be literary / political or it's just not there", but I am not one of them. Where did you get the notion that I am?

I'm sorry that you don't like my blog - but it doesn't matter, does it? Like everything I write for The Times, print or online, its basic design is predetermined by people in London. That's the thing about newspapers - because they are produced in haste, they have to be formulaic, to a certain extent. I fail to see what the "aridity" of my blog's design tells you about my views on Tokyo and its visual culture.

As for its content, you don't seem to have done more than browsed a few of the more recent entries and scanned the comments. As for being at the level of a shock jock: I hope I'm a bit subtler and more humorous than that, but people will make up their own minds. Some of the comments are a bit loony, but that's another feature of newspapers - they attract all sorts, and the people who go to the bother of writing in are not always conventionally original or articulate. My policy is to put up everything unless it's libellous or grossly offensive. Not many citations of Koji Karatani on my blog, it's true, but I don't regard them as a particular mark of distinction. The jibe about Murdoch is pure laziness, by the way -if you have criticisms of The Times (and there are plenty to be made), then spell them out. You're not making any kind of point by merely invoking its proprietor's name.

Richard Lloyd Parry


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 10:42 am (UTC)
Re: From Richard Lloyd Parry: The Fusty One Responds

Hello Richard, and thanks for responding. I had no idea you read this blog!

First of all, I think you're right that I've made a bit of a snap judgement on you, without gathering tons of empirical detail first. I make no apologies for this, though. It's all part of the very thing we're talking about. As a bit of a Malcolm Gladwell fan, I agree with what he says in his book "Blink"; we all make snap judgements, but snap judgements are often highly informed, cannily intuitive ones. For instance, your blog photo already carries vast amounts of textural information about you, as mine no doubt does about me.

Of course, Gladwell's thesis is very much at odds with the standard Anglo-Saxon emphasis on inductive argument and empiricism. This takes us right to the nub and crux of the issue, because it takes us to this question of the textural and the textual, and my feeling that people who "understand" Japan best are those who respond to the textural, emotional, intuitive and even sexual aspects of it. This is why I think your dismissal of Richie in the LRB was unfair. Or, shall we say, came from the other side of a particular culture war I feel implicated in, a side in which sexual motives, for instance, are suspect and textual ones respectable. You implied that Richie should have been in Japan for its intellectual culture rather than his apparently sexual motives (amongst other textural ones). What then do you make of a figure like Jean Genet?

Did you cover Tokyo Design Week, a very important international event this autumn? Have you covered the pecha kucha phenomenon? Are these visual culture events less important than noting the resemblance between Shinzo Abe and Tom Conti? What I'm saying is that your blog, your photo and your employer -- and yes, my prejudices about them -- suggest to me that you have some important blind spots regarding Tokyo. I do too -- vast ones. I don't even speak Japanese competently, and I'm as uninterested in party politics as... well, as most Japanese people I know are.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 01:33 pm (UTC)
More from the Fusty One (RLP)

Words like "empirical detail", "standard Anglo-Saxon emphasis" and "cannily intuitive" do not excuse you here. You rushed to conclusions about me based on one book review, a five minute trawl of my blog, and - it turns out - my byline photograph. Your surprise that I read Click opera rather gives you away - would you have written what you did if you had known in advance that I would see it? I'm not demanding apologies, but they wouldn't be out of place.

You know nothing about how I "respond to the textural, emotional, intuitive and even sexual aspects" of Japan, because you don't know me or my work. Pondering my little photograph doesn't make up for this.

I didn't "dismiss" Donald Richie. I wrote a 5,000 word essay on his life and work. What is all this about "textual" motives and "sexual" ones? What gives you the impression that I suspect one and glorify the other? I sound tetchy, because your sloppiness smakes me impatient - but I would genuinely like to know the answer.

I didn't cover Tokyo Design Week - because it's not my job. I'm a foreign correpsondent for the international pages of a general, daily newspaper. My partner, also a journalist (she works for Wallpaper) wrote at length about Design Week - although she neglected the election of prime minister Abe, the coup in Thailand, and the North Korean nuclear test. Is any of this really surprising?

No, none of these "culture events" are more or less important than one another. Really, this is is too obvious to be worth pointing out. But please take it from me - there are plenty of Japanese people passionate about politics, whether you know them or not. Let's agree that (being human) we both have blind spots. (Isn't this just a way of saying that we are interested in dfferent things?) I'm happy to let yours go, as long as you refrain from showering me with epithets when I express my own.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 02:20 pm (UTC)
Re: More from the Fusty One (RLP)

Well, I will apologize if you like, Richard. I'm growing up in public here; I listened to a BBC radio programme you were on and have to say I admire your bravery in visiting the various war-zones you've been to, and written about. Also, I liked the "culturalist" way you were describing the impression, for instance, the Borneo jungles left on you. Your take was highly "textural", in fact.

My worldview is basically an aesthete's, and to that extent I'm probably closer, culturally, to your partner, who did write about Design Week. I'm glad one of you is covering this stuff, anyway, because, in a society at peace rather than one in the throes of a civil war, it's important and, I think, central.


ReplyThread Parent
imomus
imomus
imomus
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 04:34 pm (UTC)
Re: More from the Fusty One (RLP)

And, having read Smilingly Excluded again, I will say I think it's a terrific piece of writing. The binary I remembered between Tokyo's intellectual provincialism and Richie's sexual exploits is really only hinted at in the final sentence:

"In 150 years, foreigners in Japan have produced important works of history, political science, anthropology and journalism, but no lasting work of literature. Perhaps Donald Richie shows us why."


ReplyThread Parent
akabe
akabe
alin huma
Wed, Dec. 20th, 2006 04:14 pm (UTC)

wow, this is intense .


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Wed, Jun. 13th, 2007 02:38 am (UTC)
Falloimitation - New Trends, New Brands

Imitate your fallos within 5 minutes from here. Perfect solution for part-time prostitution. How many times was it very lines? In your pockets are empty rockets.

------------------------

[url=http://www.7.teenoteen.com/62.html]details here[/url]


ReplyThread