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Let's make stuff cute, funny, weird! - click opera
February 2010
 
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Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 04:24 am
Let's make stuff cute, funny, weird!

When I was living in New York in 2000, a magazine called Idol (which never launched, but that's another story) interviewed me. John, the editor, wanted the feature to be illustrated with drawings as well as photographs, so one day in June he brought along to my Orchard Street apartment a 22 year-old Japanese girl he'd found selling tiny dolls at the corner of West Broadway and Prince. The girl was quirky, fearless, funny. She made sketches of me in which I'm a mushroom man in a t-shirt that says MOM and a kind of naked homunculus with big feet:



This was Misaki Kawai. In the eight years since then Misaki has done very well. She no longer sells her wares on the street, but shows with galleries like Kenny Schachter and Clementine in New York. She's even had a solo show at The Watarium in Tokyo.



Vice TV -- VBS -- dedicated an episode of their art show Art Talk to Misaki, and her Bushwick apartment looks huge, stocked up with the big, colourful abject-cute paintings she now makes (you can see a selection on her website). As she told Ashley Rawlings, Misaki's aesthetic is based on the idea that "when something looks cute but has a funny or weird aspect to it, I think it’s really special. That kind of cuteness has a very strong character." She also likes anthropomorphised turds, idiotic-looking animals, and fart jokes.



Misaki (an Osaka girl who went to art school in Kyoto) mentions during the Vice show that she's a big fan of an old NHK kids' show called Dekirukana (できるかな), which translates as Let's Make Stuff or Can You Do It. There's almost nothing online about Dekirukana, but here's a clip of the opening and closing titles:



I'm not sure if NHK do anything that cute-funny-weird these days, but if you want to see for yourself, I highly recommend KeyholeTV, an internet TV application which allows you to watch many of the Japanese mainstream TV networks in real time, free. They just released the Mac version last week, and it works really well. Here's a screenshot from a calligraphy special I saw the other day:


20CommentReplyShare

dabroots
dabroots
dabroots
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 03:52 am (UTC)

I appreciate that you put much of your writing and interests here, rather than simply promoting them. That's a refreshing change from what I see from most other artists, performers, and writers.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 10:10 am (UTC)
Re: SAKU SAKU

Well, it's always good to hear about new shows, but this Saku Saku strikes me as very much just applying puppets and processed voices to the rather stale evening TV formula of scripted (but improv-style) comedians, celeb guests, "laugh pyramids" (ie the boss comedian or host has a group of lower-status, younger comedians who laugh in exaggeratedly loud voices at his jokes, as part of their apprenticeship), etc.

It's not about making stuff or using your imagination. The only thing it trains you to do is appear on one of those comedy variety shows, really. Or be grilled by a boss whose jokes you're obliged to laugh at.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 11:38 am (UTC)
Re: SAKU SAKU

BTW the "laugh pyramid" phenomenon is by no means confined to Japan -- British comedy entrepreneurs like Chris Evans use it.


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jermynsavile
jermynsavile
jermynsavile
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 08:57 am (UTC)

I'm interested. Why does she equate "simple" with "honest"? I realise that it's a common perception, but why can't honest be complicated?


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 03:32 pm (UTC)

I wouldn't prod too hard here. It's a cute Japanese girl working in the art world. What more needs to be said?


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 10:01 am (UTC)

Thanks for introducing me to KeyHole TV!

-r


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petit_paradis
petit_paradis
erik
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 11:13 am (UTC)
kawaiiii

is kawai her real name? cute.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 11:54 am (UTC)
Re: kawaiiii

It is, but strictly speaking to mean "cute" the word has to be spelled kawaii.

Kawai is a fairly common family name -- and also a brand of piano / synth (I used a Kawai K4 in the 90s).


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cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 05:23 pm (UTC)

Her work reminds me of Jockum Nordström. Although she got way more colours in there.


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)

I've stumbled upon her site before. Her work has a Finsterian / Scharfian vibe to it. (When I was there Scharf had taken over an old news kiosk, also I think on Spring, selling his art on the street. I still have some of his refrigerator magnets.)





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pay_option07
pay_option07
Sun, Mar. 15th, 2009 01:22 am (UTC)
has a Finsterian






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w_e_quimby
w_e_quimby
hobbes
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)

YUCK


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(Anonymous)
Sat, Mar. 14th, 2009 09:47 pm (UTC)

Move back to New York. By the end of the year it'll probably be cheaper than Berlin with the way things are looking. Yikes.


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hello__________
hello__________
love you more than yesterday
Sun, Mar. 15th, 2009 09:42 am (UTC)
love and mango

misaki is too cute
she left this note for me at her recent solo show here in toronto

she decided that we should sign each other's books - my boyfriend and i made a book of drawings for her. i just really wanted her to see our doraemon drawing

in hopes that it would prompt her to perform her "kitty robot" routine from the vice interview

misaki very kindly let me take a picture of her and my boyfriend warming their hands at her papier-mâché campfire, and we talked about beat happening with her boyfriend (i have a difficult time imagining her with a boyfriend -she is so child-like! maybe they just hold hands?). it was a very cute night.

p.s.
her drawing of you reminds me of this shonen knife song. misaki kawai and shonen knife make a good match:


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Sun, Mar. 15th, 2009 02:47 pm (UTC)
Re: love and mango

Yes, this comment is almost a whole blog entry in itself!


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Mar. 16th, 2009 04:16 pm (UTC)
Jay (her boyfriend)

Actually, her boyfriend Jay is one of my favorite friends. And an equally positive, laid back artist. I think you are like his photos:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaywaldron/page1/

- Shawn / Lullatone


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Mar. 16th, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
Re: Jay (her boyfriend)

Yes, those are pretty good photos. He's definitely been "Japanized" in the best possible way.

http://justinwaldron.com/


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(Anonymous)
Fri, Mar. 20th, 2009 09:54 am (UTC)
Dekirukana

We grew up in Peru in the late eighties and early nineties watching avidly Dekirukana, known to us as 'Puedo hacerlo yo' (Can I do it?). Noppo was awesome and Gonta was the cutest thing ever, always crazy about food and specially onigiri.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6F8SfibLCc
http://www.nopposan.jp/


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misa172010
misa172010
Fri, Sep. 17th, 2010 04:22 am (UTC)

I found your blog through Google and I just wanted to say that I think your writing is simply stunning! Thanks again for providing this content for free.


comedy


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postsquotes
postsquotes
postsquotes
Thu, Jan. 21st, 2016 01:50 am (UTC)
that's nice

that's nice


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