:: 3:AM Asia

Excerpt: Butoh War Games published 05/04/2017

After passing the derelict wooden structure of the immense Koma cinema that Richie loved and would be demolished soon after, the cacophony of Shinjuku faded out and we entered the near-darkened, near-silent and dense alleyways of the Golden Gai area, almost untouched for 50 years, and arrived at the discretely signposted bar, ‘La Jetée’, owned by Richie’s friend, another obsessive agent of memory, the French film-maker Chris Marker, possessed by his own memories of the future, which Tokyo above all other cities disgorges, annulling or reversing linear time, oscillating between future-directed political contestations and now-lost corporeal gestures, transforming the megalopolis’s facades and the imprinted bodies they momentarily contain.

By Stephen Barber.

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The Many Self-Reinventions of Toyo Ito published 22/11/2016

Ito’s design pointed ahead in two ways. On the one hand it realised the modernist principle of transparency, exposing certain structural elements, but it did so with a hint of contradiction, by advertising its content like a boutique window: the inside was brought out into the city, but it was also encased as a display, with a glassy façade that looks like one of Jeff Koon’s readymade vacuum cleaner installations. A kind of high street modernism, it disrupted the canon in a second way by estranging the controlled, homogenous rationality of the grid.

By William Harris.

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The Olympic threat to Tokyo’s ‘Citizens out of sight’ published 23/05/2016

As quickly as the bubbles went flat on the celebratory champagne toasting the news of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, doubts set in. Many Japanese believe the benefits will be negligent given the country’s recession-hit economy. Others are of the opinion that money invested in the games would be better spent aiding those whose lives were destroyed in the Fukushima disaster. Sadly, it seems like in other cities that have played host to the Olympics, those who will suffer first are those already at the very bottom of society. They are the most disenfranchised social group who would never reap any benefit from the tourism or injections of corporate sponsorship promised. In Tokyo, as everywhere else, this means the homeless.

Chris Low looks at hidden poverty and Tokyo.

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Shamans in the Creative City: An Autumn in Korea published 22/04/2014

It is a city that had grown from half a million to 18 million in 60 years. The 1960s mayor, Kim Hyeon-ok called it “aggressive construction”: the development of the Metro system; the sequenced opening up of areas to develop as the population grew; how attention was turned to south of the Han river in the 1970s; and the impact of both the 1988 Olympic Games and the 2002 World Cup. It also showed how the late 19th century opening up to being a cosmopolitan city was cut off before it started by the military take-over of the country by Japan during which many of Korea’s own historical buildings were destroyed. This made sense of another of the tangles of ultra-modernity and the past, the need to recreate facsimilies of much of what had been destroyed.

John Barker reports on art, architecture and modernity from the post-dictatorship International Business Zones of Seoul and ‘Dynamic Busan’.

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The Big Forgetting published 05/08/2013


Not so long ago, I asked a Beijing friend of mine if she thought his portrait might one day be taken down from Tienanmen Square. She smiled wryly and told me that it would be utterly unthinkable. Imagine if Hitler’s portrait still stared down at you from the Brandenburg Gate — that too is unthinkable. It would defy all moral sensibilities and common sense; yet Mao, the demigod, watches over his people, above the gates of the fallen “Emperor’s” Forbidden City. If you wouldn’t know better you’d think there was some kind of a sick inside joke going on.

Tom Bradley interviews Marc Vincenz about Mao’s Mole.

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3:AM Asia: Like Someone in Love published 29/06/2013

Akiko, a student juggling money problems, exams, a visiting grandmother and a clinging boyfriend, is reluctantly persuaded by her bar-proprietor boss to go and spend the evening with an elderly man of some importance. She expects him to expect sex… This being a Kiarostami film, however, things aren’t that simple. Consistently engrossing and intriguingly ambiguous […]

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Japanamerica: Female auteurs published 14/02/2013

In the production of anime, Japanese women may also be liberated by changes in the creation of the medium. Just as self-publishing models are enabling writers to reach readers without the third-party involvement of publishers, computer software provides artists in anime the means to craft their art outside of studios, which remain largely male-dominated environs.

By Roland Kelts.

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Hijikata in Astrorama published 25/10/2012

Several years later, the site was almost entirely razed and converted into a suburban ‘commemorative’ park for the citizens of Osaka, with Expo 70’s emblematic ‘Tower of the Sun’ allowed to remain standing at its entrance. Astrorama, too complex and cumbersome for commercial exploitation, also became redundant, and the original celluloid film-cans containing The Birth were stored-away without being documented, and forgotten, until researchers from the Hijikata archive at Tokyo’s Keio University re-discovered them, forty years later, in the Osaka storage-facilities of the Sanwa Midori-kai alliance of corporations whose previous incarnation had sponsored the Midori-kan pavilion.

Stephen Barber writes on the re-discovery of a lost film of the legendary Japanese artist and choreographer, Tatsumi Hijikata.

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Japanamerica: Anime & Rock published 21/02/2012

hydeosakaJ-pop and J-rock’s connection to anime has long been both a burden and an opportunity. In the 1970s and 80s, anime soundtracks were heavily localized to attract American viewers, just as anime scripts were butchered to fit expectations shaped by Hollywood and television.

But in the late 90s and early 2000s, the Internet connected global fans to Japanese creators with an immediacy that transcended distance. An edited Pokemon or Naruto episode was no longer acceptable. And original songs, written and sung by Japanese artists, were prized as a sign of authenticity.

Roland Kelts on L’Arc~en~Ciel in New York, London & Paris.

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Japanamerica: Cosplay in the USA published 16/12/2011

jeye2The appeal of cosplay outside Japan is a perfect example of the transcultural boomerangs that characterize much of contemporary popular culture. As Japanese otaku of an older generation will tell you, cosplay, and the devotional fandom behind it, came from the United States: photos of costumed fans at North American sci-fi conventions, such as those revolving around Star Trek, appeared in magazines imported to Japan in the 1960s and 70s. Japanese readers adopted the practice, using characters from their homegrown anime and manga series. As the popularity of manga and anime spiked outside Japan, fast-evolving Internet access provided overseas fans first with a peephole and then a massive window onto what looked like an enticing made-in-Japan phenomenon.

By Roland Kelts.

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