July 30th, 2005


Milky faces and Shoboshobus

Hisae has gone to Prague this weekend to hang out with her friend Kaori and natter in Japanese. I've had to stay behind in Berlin finishing off a major article on VJing which is already past its deadline.

Kaori is the musician I collaborated with on a theatre production last year. She uses Ableton Live to make very interesting, abstract music. I also like her graphic design very much: above you can see a layout from her website, Mon Minou, advertising the homemade books she puts together. The music and the design Kaori makes have a scratchy, messy, charming yet "naughty" feel to them. Here she's incorporated "sperm portrait photos" by an American artist. Googling to try and find his name drew a blank (anyone know?), but I did come across an interesting work by Taiwanese artist Tseng Yu-Chin in the process. Who Is Listening? was made in 2003. It's a video piece in which a milky fluid is thrown into children's faces. In an interview with Yu-Chin, Taiwanese critic Ying Shang writes:

"The first video depicting the children splashed with milky liquids on their faces strongly suggests that semen has been sprayed on the children, yet the children's reactions toward this sudden attack of fluid are childish. Each is excited by the event, which seems neutral to them. For an adult, to be splashed by any form of liquid is unpleasant and possibly degrading. This action performed in the video becomes even more complicated when the fluid may be part of sexual excretion. However, Tseng's choice of children responding to this action subverts how one may initially respond to this concept. Tseng thus is making a social commentary on how adults can implicate their own ideologies in the interpretation of sexual acts upon children."

So the work seems to be about two themes I keep coming back to: the pathetic fallacy / anthropomorphism (the tendency to project our own ideologies onto the things observed, and assume that our interpretation is the unavoidable, universal or correct one), and "moronic cynicism", an assumption of the worst which actually helps create the worst (because all interpretations are also productive). By projecting interpretations, we are also "throwing milk".

I'd like to draw your attention to a most extraordinary tour that's going on in Japan right now, and being blogged in an excellent collective blog. Shobus Diary documents Shobo Shobo artists O.lamm, Domotic, Davide Balula, and Minifer during their "Shoboshobus / Mobium Japan Tour 2005". (Ishida Daisuke is the Japanese host.) Since these are highly original people, this is a bit different from your average rock or laptop tour. Instead of playing concert halls, the French artists have opted to busk. They've built portable speakers which hang from their necks, each one supporting a laptop. They're playing on the roofs of buildings, at the Tsukiji fish market, in malls and car parks, anywhere. The blog is brilliant, and expanding rapidly with photos, sounds and videos. The Shoboshobus are quite aware of the problematical issues their guerilla tactics raise about disruption, noise pollution and their status as guests in Japan. There's a lot of noise pollution in Japan already, but it tends to be in commercial or industrial areas; areas zoned for residence are hushed. Rehearsals on the roof of Yahiro Factory, where the Shoboshobus are staying, were stopped, for instance, when an employee of the Austin Mini dealership next door shouted that he couldn't stand it any more.

I'll be following the Shoboshobus Tour with great interest. Something about its brave originality and its concern to get new art out to the people rather than preaching to the same old tiny choir reminds me of the 1913 train tour by Russian Futurists Mayakovsky, Burliuk and Khlebnikov. They jumped onto trains and took their avant garde art directly to the people, performing in public places, ready to debate, rebuff resistance, and charm their way to acceptance. After all, isn't that what "avant garde" literally is: the front carriage of a train bound for the provinces?