So that would be Twelve Good Reasons to go to Japan.
In no particular order of preference and no particular order of importance. I suppose they could all be summed up simply by saying: “We want to go – just to see it all.” All of it – the Art, the Clay, the Painting, the Zen, the Films, the Clothes, the Landscape, the Design, the Street Culture, the Food, the Tiny Things and the Gadgets amongst a whole heap of other things that we cannot even hope to name as we have not seen them, yet.
So what are we looking for out of this trip? To be able to have the rush of the new experiences, the excitement of seeing a wholly different culture, the knowledge that one is involved in a very special and privileged experience, the comprehension of understanding new things, the anxiety of realising that its actually happening and the richness of lasting memories.
A lot of our reasons are visual – we continually say in our blog that we want to see things. With this act of viewing hopefully will come understanding and a raised awareness not only of differences but also of similarities and shared experiences. Its hardly surprising that two artists would fixate about the visual – perhaps even seemingly at the expense of other more participatory activities. Artists are voyeurs after all. But within the looking is a very sincere attempt to understand a complex thing like another culture – something that was not made overnight and certainly cannot be comprehended overnight. But through that attempt one builds greater awareness and comprehension of how others live and function and that filters slowly into the art that one produces. So, on one very obvious level, the trip would be research – a once in a lifetime (perhaps) attempt to do real hands-on research in the land that has affected one very deeply generally through the pages of a book or a magazine or latterly through the internet.
It would be amazing to be able to film the countryside, the people, the sights and sounds and the places. Looking for those iconic moments that sum up the experience of being there. Being immersed for a small time in a different environment and being asked to consider that experience is a stimulating challenge.
The discipline of having to write about it each day would be a great way of being able to quantify those experiences and also to address important questions like – “Well, is it as good as you thought it would be?” or “What are you going to do now?” or the ever popular “What do I do now?”
So I hope that sums up our 12 Good Reasons to go to Japan. I hope you have enjoyed reading them and looking at the various artworks and images – ours and those of others we have chosen. We would like to leave you with possibly the most Japanese painting by Jean and the most Japanese inspired video by Ian – until we get to go to Japan, of course.
Fragile Memory from Ian Henderson on Vimeo.
As we have stated elsewhere in this blog our intention is to illustrate and speculate about why we would like to go to Japan. That is the plan. Along the way we are undoubtedly going to say things or surmise about things that are not correct. This is inevitable since we have not yet been to Japan. Everything is always clearer if one has direct, practical, hands-on knowledge of something. I suppose the basic premise regarding everything we have said is that we would love to go and see it all in-stu. It would be such a blast to be able to turn the suppositions and speculations into real, first-hand knowledge.To test whether the ideas and notions developed over the years – in libraries, from books, television and films,actually add up to an approximation of the real thing.
That would so enriching for so many reasons – some of which I hope we have already communicated. It could also be quite challenging. What if its all very, very different from how I want it (or think it) to be? What do I do then? Am I ready to have my presumptions exploded by the rush of first-hand, undeniable, potentially shocking or disappointing reality. Ummm… yeah, I think I am. That, as they say, would be very good for me.
So today’s ramble is about the landscape. I suppose due to the power of the inter – webby thing we all can now conjure images of what a place looks like almost instantly. That’s what Google Maps is for, isn’t it. Choose a place, search for it and see what it looks like. What it really looks like – their little car with the cameras has no doubt been there and taken its pictures and posted them so we can all know. Wonderfully entertaining. And also slightly disappointing. Disappointing in the sense that it seems to take just a little bit of the magic away and replaces it with a rather cooler logic; “Want to know what it looks like? Okay – it looks like this. Not any other way – this way and only this way.” Slightly takes the edge off, I think.
For me, my speculation of what Japan looks like hovers between two unreconcilable poles. There is the Google map reality where I can dial in a location selected from a map and see what the actual scene will be like and then there is another Japan – a far more mythical place that has never actually existed but which hovers in the back of my mind like some extravagant film set filled with wondrous, mountain landscapes, wreathed in mist and history. Where the iconic image of Fuji-san rises majestically above the clouds, groves of bamboo and hot springs clothe temples and timeless cherry blossom mixes with the ultra slick downtown neon illumination that looks like an adaptation of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Where it has always been raining and the neon adverts reflect in black puddles. Where oddly traditional video imagery of ladies in kimonos projected above street level turns upside down and shatters and reassembles as the puddles are disturbed by homeward bound office workers. Where urban street markets pile exotic foods and plastic Hello Kitty dolls, raw fish heads gape and rice straw covered bottles stand in neat rows.
Ahh.. the power of the poorly researched imagination. It is small wonder that ancient travellers wrote “Here be monsters” on maps where they had not ventured; But I think there is a very important point here. This is the allure of the exotic, fragrant, dynamic East. A thing that has always beguiled in the West. The changes in the landscape are reflected by changes in culture, language, food, thinking, philosophy and habit. All of which cast a beguiling attraction. It is an almost physical sensation trying to guess what the landscape feels like, what the food tastes like and what the streets sound like.
Undoubtedly a lot of this eulogising about the landscape comes from the art- the too much art I look at! But it does make a wonderful fantasy place to escape to. There is a lot that is attractive about the medieval pastoral landscape presented by Hiroshige. It looks so calm and inviting. Bet it wasn’t in reality – but that is another story.
Lastly an intense appreciation of the changing moods and textures found within the landscape has affected a lot of the cultural and philosophical approach in Japan. Here there are many different factors at work; Buddhism, Zen and Shinto observance and veneration of nature and all of the aesthetic sensibilities developed over centuries. Today I will leave you all with a small video work I made about two years ago that attempts to present something of where I stay. Scotland – not Japan. It is a collage of images and sensations and it forms part of a suite of videos recording impressions of the changing seasons entitled “Annum.” Since it is summer here I have chosen Summer to share with you all. I would be very interested in making a similar video about the ultra modern Japan – Shinjoku, etc. Now there is damned good reason to go….!! Enjoy.
Summer from Ian Henderson on Vimeo.