This is Kaori, and this is Kat. I first met Kaori Mitsushima at a Tokyo concert I gave in 2004. She was working at the time at Onsa Records in the Roppongi ThinkZone, and that's where she first met Mika Johnson, the tall, talented and handsome Finnish-American boy who would later become her husband. At my gig she told me she was moving to Berlin, and gave me a homeburn CD of her music, which was like a Japanese girl's take on Harry Partch. When she arrived in Berlin, I asked Kaori to join me in making incidental music for a production of Martin Crimp's play Attempts on her Life. Later, Hisae and I took over Mika and Kaori's flat in Friedrichshain and lived there for a year, while they decamped to Prague. There they started making films, the latest of which is in the early stages of production. It's called Amerika: A Notebook in Three Parts, and it tells the story of Kat, a seductive young Japanese club hostess who treks across the States following a postcard trail left by her father, who disappeared when she was young. Kat is played in the film by Kaori. The soundtrack will be by Colleen.
I asked Hank Williams how lonely does it get. Mika and Kaori anticipate that it will cost $775,000 to make their film the way they want to make it. They're currently trying to raise the money themselves, and are living at Oberlin College in Ohio, Mika's old alma mater, making use of the resources of the film department there. As for the film's budget, well, Mika and Kaori are hoping it will come from Yoko Ono. If not directly -- Yoko is, after all, rather rich -- then from private donors impressed by an endorsement from Yoko Ono. To this end, they've launched a blog called Amerika Wants Yoko, created a set of postcards to Yoko Ono, made a short film in which Kaori plays Kat (you can see it on the blog), written an open letter to Ono (Japanese version here), started a dedicated Twitter feed, made bags and t-shirts, solicited donations, and begun an online petition to get Yoko's attention. Their campaign has attracted some press coverage (Art Couple Obsesses Over Yoko Ono) but so far Yoko Ono has remained silent.
Imagine Peace. Yoko Ono has remained silent, that is, about Mika and Kaori's film. In other respects, the 76 year-old is making quite a lot of noise at the moment. She's just released a new Plastic Ono Band album entitled Between My Head and the Sky. You can hear clips here. Sean Lennon is involved, and Cornelius has contributed to the production, which is quite a career jump for him; Cornelius' big dream was to produce Michael Jackson. That clearly won't happen now, but Yoko Ono is a big consolation. Yoko's voice is still surprisingly youthful, and the record sounds quite good to me. I'm a fan; I have the Yoko box set.
You keep a-knockin'. Now, I love Mika and Kaori dearly, and I know they'll create a great film. But something about their Yoko Ono campaign disturbs me slightly. It's not something I would do myself. It seems a bit like doorstepping, or shaming, or pressurizing, or challenging Yoko Ono. There's really no reason why Ono should finance this film, or endorse it. It seems that if she were going to respond, she would have done so by now. Then again, having read biographies of John Lennon, I get the impression that the young Yoko Ono might have acted exactly the same way; she strikes me as a determined, dogged, ambitious and relentless person. Even reviving the Plastic Ono Band name (which I'm sure some purists think should only be for records John Lennon was involved in) shows that side of her.
White courtesy telephone please. What's more, I've heard of Yoko encouraging young artists to get in touch with her; when she had a show in New York a few years ago, Ono installed a white telephone in one room, a sort of hotline to Yoko. She'd call this phone from time to time and talk to visitors to the exhibition. My friends Travis and Phiiliip happened to be visiting when the phone rang, and both ended up speaking to her. Ono asked Travis what he did, and he said he wrote novels. "Oh," said Ono, "you should send me a copy." When Travis asked where he should send it, Yoko said: "You know the address. The Dakota Building." He duly sent a copy, but never heard anything back.
There is somewhat of a tradition in Japan of young Japanese artists being nursed and fostered by established artists in exchange for free labor, yet there are times when the attitude of the younger generation towards the established artists seems to take on a tone of entitlement, "you are richer than I am so you owe it to yourself and to me to help me out" - I notice this particularly in the dance and theatre world of Tokyo. Yoko Ono has always stepped outside the norms of her birth culture, so it seems a little strange to hold her to these ideas, though I suspect that it might just be tit for tat.
As an aside...
I often feel that young Japanese artists concentrate so hard on the packaging or exterior ("omote") of an artwork that only sometimes do the contents (naiyou) get any critical attention from viewers. Of course, there is a long established tradition emphasizing omote (like in Tea ceremony), but in traditional Japanese arts, the omote *becomes* the naiyou - as in Noh theatre where the exterior movement details matter greatly - but in modern terms the omote seems to be applied more to the promotion and press posters of an art work rather than its contents.
sounds a bit like two projects. 1 the movie 2 the yoko thing
If they succeed in getting a positive connection w yoko... then of course it all makes sense and everyones happy... even if the financing isnt actually solved.
if they dont succeed in getting a response from yoko then it all seems a bit odd, thay have to find another process to finance the film...
now, you clearly stated you dont know why she should involve herself (yoko)... and with the details you provided.... I cant see any either... so... that makes for a dead-end right there for me. Wheres the spark?
I do like the oddball-ness of it all.
I really love Colleen's music...
I also, always enjoy your snapshot portraits. What a charming pair.
Pretty much the main thing I like about Cornelius (I like his music) is his production. It seems like its 'the' thing he is doing. I like the way a lot of Japanese musicians do their production... it often has a very clean crisp sound.... not surprising I know.
i love love love yoko; i'm firmly in the john&yoko camp (but i've forgiven paul for being a hard ass holdout vis a vis allen klein; and to all the beatle's credit, they've all said in one way or another that the breakup wasn't yoko's fault).
and i'm with you about the film thing; yoko isn't really obliged to respond at all; god knows she's got enough on her plate, and still carrying a lot of karmic weight, etc. god bless her and poor sean--who lost his father--and keep them safe.
It's not something I would do myself. It seems a bit like doorstepping, or shaming, or pressurizing, or challenging Yoko Ono
So it's not all right to publicly pursue obscenely wealthy Yoko Ono for a bit of funding, but it is OK to publicly criticise one's friends on Livejournal? You have a real tin ear for this kind of stuff, Momus!
On the contrary, I think it's you who have a tin ear for nuance. Why must the fact that people are my friends make a 100% positive, puff-style approach obligatory? If we all gave friends a free pass to do anything just because they were friends, we'd live in a world where all statements were positional -- determined not by people's actual perceptions of a situation, but by their relationship to the actors involved.
I was mailing with Mika while preparing this entry, and he's fine with it being a dialectical and nuanced account. It's not as if he hasn't thought about some of the issues I raised, after all.
If your friend is fine with it, then fine! But you can't say your public, passive-aggressive dressing downs have always gone down so well. Ask Marxy about it. Or Alan McGee. There's a difference between private criticism and just putting out there in the public domain - I'm not at all sure you understand that difference.
No, as I've said many times, I appreciate anonymous comments.
Basically, the reason you get nuanced Click Opera entries is the same reason the debate in the comments section can get lively; ie that some of the most interesting topics are those we have mixed feelings about.
My options for this entry on Mika and Kaori's film and their fund-raising were to blog about it in a totally supportive, PR-puff-type way, to blog about it and include my misgivings (which, by the way, I rhetorically overcome by saying that Yoko would have done this kind of thing herself when she was younger, and that Yoko has welcomed approaches from young artists in the past), or not to blog about it at all.
I chose the second of those three options. That's the kind of blog this is, and that's the kind of friend I am. I will tell you the downside as well as the plus points. I would hope this makes me a useful friend rather than an automated back-scratcher.
You know, this isn't Facebook (where the etiquette seems to be phatic positivity at all times), and I'm not just re-writing people's press releases, even when I'm trying to help their causes. But of course if I have the right to a checkered response to something, so do my commenters, even when it's a checkered response to the mere fact of giving a checkered response (slightly ironic, but perfectly legitimate).
momus is spot on about reserving the right to be honest with his friends, much less about what he posts here. if it wasn't complex around here, it would be too mickey mouse, like he said--that is, like facebook. again, being a challenging friend is being a real friend, in fact.
But would you really want momus any other way? He is just as honest about himself. He mentions his golfball chin and tombstone teeth, his narcissism and passive aggression. I personally find it one of his best qualities and one I value very highly. It is one of the reasons I trust his judgement so much. ( I sometimes find myself irl wishing I could ask for his reaction to something.) He doesn't give out easy compliments or false flattery, but honest assessments. It's remarkable really, that a man who makes his living spinning lies is so ridiculously honest.
I had the same mildly disturbed reaction when I saw the photo of the petition, t shirts etc. Don't like the US political campaign style aesthetic. Reminds me too much of the cranks I saw in Washington on sept.12th!
The premise of the film (" a seductive young Japanese club hostess who treks across the States following a postcard trail left by her father, who disappeared when she was young" ) sounds rather vague and pedestrian to me, but that may just be due to the limited info to hand. I'd also dispute that to make a good film you need bundles of cash and sponsors. Great movies (and music for that matter) have been made on a shoestring, in fact they're the ones I tend to go for, those which shun attachments to wealthy sponsors and make use of adversity. If i were them I'd turn things around, give up waiting for Yoko, hike around the USA with a mini DV or S-VHS camera and make something bloody weird and fascinating!
It's a bit "unfortunate" that their movie script takes them on a tour through the USA, since apparently you can make full feature film movies for a relatively low budget in Japan (at least according to filmmaker Kiyoshi Kurosawa (http://www.midnighteye.com/interviews/kiyoshi_kurosawa.shtml)). I do wish they get their funding sorted out, either by Yoko or on some other way!
mind you, a film's (or novel's) premise/story line doesn't necessarily have to sound/be complex to be interesting. how about beckett's waiting for godot: "two guys stand around and talk about doing things and going places, but never do. eventually another guy shows up."
Alas I agree, it does seem suspect and a bit like a publicity stunt. I don't think Yoko has ever done any real art, she was always a 'wanna be', this got her into trouble on occasion but using her like this is tacky. Also the idea for the film sounds deathly dull and artistically earnest. So much conceptual art looks like a bad parody these days, it's sad.
I'll still miss yr blog, I thought I'd come to terms with losing you but I'm still crying into tyhe pillow each night. What will I do when you are gone ? ( Sniff sniff, wipes eyes. Camera draws back and pulls focus to show a head stone in the fore ground. Flowers are cast into the Yawning chasm. 'Goodbye momasu, goodbye !' Everyone starts to cry. Roll end titles...