Here's how it all began. There was a man. His name was Nick. Nick Slater had me on his radar. He reads Click Opera (hello, Nick!). He also runs an art project in Loughborough called Radar. There you are.
Now Loughborough (not a lot of people know this) is Britain's biggest university campus. And, as it happens, the uni there is well-equipped with sports facilities. They're all over the place -- pretty damned impressive. That -- not the Toyota plant at Burnaston, though that's massive -- is why the Japanese team chose it as their base for training for the 2012 Olympics. So here's the plan; here's where the art fits. While they're there, the Japanese Olympic team, training in the rain, jogging in the cold, slogging for gold, we'll be training brains with cultural campaigns. We'll be pumping England's heart full of Japanese art.
It won't be art about sport. Don't make me snort, son! Don't be heretical! Culture's complementary, dialectical. Here's the title: AFTERGOLD. Every curator needs a concept, a catch-all, theme, meme, something to hold. That's mine: the AFTERGOLD. What's in a name? What book is dressed up in this gold lamé jacket? Let me explain. Let's unpack it.
Whatever you're after -- gold medals, gold coins -- there's going to be a time after, right? That's as clear as day follows night. When the competition's over, when you've won, your javelin didn't put out the sun, right? That's elementary. There'll be another day, a different you, another thing to do. That thing might be celebration, sure, or some new you consumed by a stranger, subtler lust than winning. It might be some new project, some new beginning. Do you see what I mean, mate? Where this is going, mate? It's about what happens after the win. Stick that in your pipe, mate, and curate it!
This is where we have to get historical. Pardon me while I wax metaphorical. Britain and Japan are both nations that have won at life. They made it, they scored the gold, they arrived. They're on the podium, by money, by GDP. They got there, but -- don't stop me, I'm just getting into my stride -- they didn't stop there. It can't be denied: something must come after gold. Not just the golden years depicted by Miwa Yanagi in "My Grandmothers", those chicks with silver hair. No, something else, some bigger fever must take hold. The time, the state of mind, they call "the AFTERGOLD".
Post-gold means post-bling. Post-materialist, by any other name. It's not that money doesn't mean a thing -- it does. It's that determining the things that matter after money matters is what culture's -- in all senses -- all about. It's then -- the big ambition and the big expenses set aside -- that all the interesting questions arrive. Who am I? What does all this signify? Who are we, the national tribe alongside whom I strive? What makes this life worth living, beyond the win we deem worth winning? And how do you close car doors?
It's the big question for contemporary art: what are we, who are we, what now? Some "thing" just happened, see, and now the me I knew is no longer the same me anyhow. That "thing" may be success, or some catastrophic big financial crisis. It may just be the slow tick tock of history, whose hands traverse the track of a great atomic clock. Within the art world, think of Superflat. It blew up big, defined a certain sort of Japaneseness for a while. But what came after that? Where do we draw the line, to Micropop? Or the Kotatsu School? Or did art stop?
No, art can never stop. Contemporary Japanese art cannot wither, gather moss, grow old. I hope to show what happens next, and what matters most... in the AFTERGOLD.