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February 2010
 
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Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 08:07 am
Naoshima Bathhouse "I ♥ Yu"

"I Love Yu" is perhaps the most interesting thing I saw in the thoroughly interesting exhibition in the Paris Palais de Tokyo's mezzanine exhibition about Naoshima, the "art island" in Japan's Seto Inland Sea.



Yu in this case means hot water; I♥湯, a project on Naoshima, is a bathhouse. Conceived by the artist Shinro Ohtake and built over the period of a year or so with the help of graf, the Osaka-based designers who often work with Yoshitomo Nara, the whole thing was financed by beneficent Benesse, a corporation dedicated to language-learning, nursing, birth control and pregnancy, and education, and whose CEO, Soichiro Fukutake, takes a particular interest in developing the Seto archipelago with art museums and installations.



The Paris exhibition, which continues into November, is a development of a show that opened in Venice in June. It was particularly evocative; near the section dedicated to Ohtake's bathhouse a distinct smell of temple incense had somehow been conjured, and in the video box dedicated to Rei Naito's restoration of the Kinza House there was a comforting smell of clay and wattle. As a result I will definitely try and make a trip to Naoshima this winter during my Japan trip. The propaganda worked!



The Shinro Ohtake sento project is particularly interesting because it does something very Japanese, erasing the distinction between art and practical daily life (the bathhouse can be used by locals, who pay just 300 yen rather than the standard 500 yen entrance fee to use it), between private corporations and public works, and between inside and outside.



Speaking to The Japan Times when the bathhouse opened in July, Ohtake said he put mirrors and tiles on the outside of the building to make it look like an inside, and allusions to the outside -- including a stuffed elephant from a closed-down hihokan or sex museum -- inside.



I find the fantasy-collage clutter on display inside and outside the bathhouse particularly inspiring; left to its own devices, architecture tends to the sterile, but Ohtake's artist's eye brings exactly the sort of eccentricity and personality most architecture lacks. One Ohtake biography traces his eureka moment to an encounter in London in the late 1970s. Ohtake was doing painting and sculpture until, one day, he met an old man who obsessively collected matchbooks and glued them into the pages of a notebook. Ohtake bought the collection and began making his own books of ephemera collected on his travels.



The "collage" Ohtake has stuffed into the bathhouse (which already has a Showa-era nostalgic feel to most Japanese, because sentos were at their peak during the Showa years when people were less likely to have their own baths at home) includes an aircraft cockpit, the bottom of a ship, the stuffed elephant surmounting the division between the male and female bathing areas, pine trees planted on the rooftop, shunga erotic prints, stills from 1960s Roman Porno movies, vintage Thai record sleeves, a cactus-filled greenhouse, a jukebox, milk-vending machines, and stained-glass on the sliding doors.



The magnificently cluttered structure, which stands on a 326 square meter site, boasts a pellet boiler fuelled with wooden pellets, a smokeless biomass fuel that doesn't pollute.



The bathhouse will take its place in the Setouchi Art Festival, which begins in earnest in 2010, and covers several islands in the Seto archipelago. I feel it beckoning me; I too love yu.

14CommentReply

brokenjunior
brokenjunior
Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 09:55 am (UTC)
I love Yu also!

Saiko was at I♥湯 recently. And I think I'll also go there next week while visiting Naoshima.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 10:25 am (UTC)
Re: I love Yu also!

Yes, Mr Jan Lindenberg, you must go!

By the way, did you see your name on the cover of the new Apartamento magazine?



It says "Jan Lindenberg post-sex and relaxation"!

Edited at 2009-10-29 10:25 am (UTC)


ReplyThread Parent
brokenjunior
brokenjunior
Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 10:58 am (UTC)
Re: The Post-Sexialist

Yes – love that too! Once in Kyoto, I'll have a look at it at Keibunsha!


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 10:49 am (UTC)

Shinro Ohtake is amazing. Mutant Sounds has a couple of great fun records he did with Eye of the Boredoms-
http://mutant-sounds.blogspot.com/2007/03/shinro-ohtake-yamantaka-eye-pipeline-24.html
http://mutant-sounds.blogspot.com/2007/04/puzzle-punks-budubcd1996japan.html


ReplyThread

(Anonymous)
Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 11:37 am (UTC)

If you do go to Naoshima, you should try to make it up to Kamiyama, in Tokushima, too: http://www.in-kamiyama.jp/en/gv/
It's a little mountain town that is trying to revive itself by becoming a sort of artist's village and it's doing it with a fraction of the money that Naoshima has. It's very sweet and very grass roots. If you let them know you're coming, they'll help you find a place to stay and show you around.


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 11:43 am (UTC)

Sounds very interesting! Could you mail me a contact name / email address, please?

momasu at gmail com


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 11:54 am (UTC)

will do!


ReplyThread Parent
sarmoung
sarmoung
The Empire Never Ended
Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 08:54 pm (UTC)

When I was in Japan last year, I came very close to staying a night in Naoshima, but was put off by the cheaper accommodation looking a bit too much like a business hotel and not having any internet access! I did visit though. I liked it and I didn't, the occasionally overbearing good intentions of Benesse made the place evermore like some unsettling Ballardian plot as the day wore on. Might be me just mind!

Destination art might be a good outing, but I'd suggest heading to Okinawa and Yaeyama if the book profits are rolling in… (?!) I was surprised how cheap internal flights were, having flown in on a Japanese carrier and having access to discounted tickets. I spent an exceptionally slow week around Ishigakijima.

I'm in Osaka at the moment and just bought this nice book about Kansai sentos.

Photobucket

Most of my random conversations occur with chefs and fellow counter-diners though and talk is mostly about (well, aside from everyone saying business is down, it is Osaka after all) the just-published Michelin guide to Kyoto and Osaka and, thankfully, that talk is mostly dismissive. The guide has a little flip animation on the corner of the page: Michelin man does tea ceremony for the Kyoto section, flips okonomiyaki for the Osaka part. Of course, there's not a single okonomiyaki restaurant to be found in the guide and Michelin Man's spatula skills are rather lacking. That's no way to treat a pancake…


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 09:07 pm (UTC)

Interesting... is talk dismissive because Osaka and Kyoto have received fewer overall stars than Tokyo? I haven't seen the rash of Western press articles this time that appeared when Michelin declared Tokyo a better gourmet city than Paris or London.


ReplyThread Parent
sarmoung
sarmoung
The Empire Never Ended
Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)

Some Tokyo chefs Tokyo chefs were rather indifferent - if not hostile - about being given stars, since their reputations had been established outside of the arriviste Michelin system and were not in need of increased custom or external recognition. Possibly they thought it meant they might now have to field more calls from English-speaking gastronomes making reservations and it would all be a bit of a taihen for them!

The book is well-displayed around Osaka bookshops and certainly in terms of Kansai/Kanto competition, it resolves this area having been passed over previously. The dismissive nature of comments, in my sample anyway, is "What the eff do these people really know about Osaka food culture anyway?" but then I'm not eating in the said Michelin starred restaurants. But I am eating deliciously and cheaply! Michelin doesn't care too much about the diner's economy and that's going to rub some people up the wrong way around here. All the more change for us to spend elsewhere and upon other fleshly pleasures! Or, in my case, bookshops.


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 10:27 pm (UTC)
how boojwa

how can you write about this stuff when japan is testing anti-ballistic weapons off of hawaii at the moment???


ReplyThread
imomus
imomus
imomus
Thu, Oct. 29th, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
Re: how boojwa

How can you write that comment while I crush innocent baby spiders to death with a pair of airline earplugs?


ReplyThread Parent

(Anonymous)
Fri, Oct. 30th, 2009 04:46 am (UTC)
Re: how boojwa

you've been reading too much kafka, i suppose...


ReplyThread Parent
garta5
garta5
Tue, May. 4th, 2010 10:01 am (UTC)
Re: how boojwa

Im off to Oshima at the end of July for Setouchi Art Festival. What other islands would be good to visit? I dont think i would have time to visit all of them as im only going for 1 week. Locksmiths


ReplyThread Parent