Sunday, 19 July 2015

Indefinable Cities → Japan : Day 5

A fairly momentous event, all in all, as Indefinable Cities became transnational, with the first exhibition of the Japanese touring part of the project, opening at Atelier Sangatsu, with the works of Rebecca Chesney - Melody 1,2,3&4 and Wildlife Observations, 2013-2015.


   The sound of blackbird song (Melody 4) reverberated around the space all evening mixing with the guests' chatter, and in quieter moments you could also hear the fainter refrains of the 3 other melodies - Robin, Wood Pigeon and Mistle Thrush, coming from the headphones attached to Melodies 1, 2&3
Rebecca had said about this work, that 
"we don't need to see the bird to know it's there - you could be in a building and the song will enter the space"
and tonight that was certainly true at Sangatsu. It was fascinating to watch people become aware of the blackbird song, unsure of quite where it was coming.

At the midpoint of the evening, there was a discussion based on a brief introduction I gave to both AirSpace gallery and Rebecca's works. Koh Yoshida's translation meant that we could have a good exchange of views and experiences. It was interesting to learn from the group - which contained several artists, curators and musicians, about their slight dissatisfaction with the Japanese (Osakan) public's response to the Arts - they found it difficult to raise significant audiences, despite the population of Osaka reaching nearly 2 million, and often saw the same faces at their exhibitions.

They talked of limited opportunities for artists - one of the reasons that Sangatsu owner, Hara, opened his studio up to offer gallery space, was to try and create some exhibiting space for fellow artists - and having to rely largely on goodwill, and some sales to finance their activities. There was a sense of some shock when I talked about the Arts Council, the level of money that AirSpace - a small to medium arts organisation in the UK context - has received in the past, and funding for the arts in the UK in general. I got the feeling that there is a level of artist-led activity here, but the artists don't get paid beyond any sales they make, and the exhibitions are largely non-conceptual in theme, and traditional and craft-centred in content.

Earlier in the day I had had to go on a last-minute install shopping mission for a data cable, to one of the many electronics stores in Osaka - this one - Yodobashi - was huge - 5 floors with row upon row, aisle upon aisle, of every conceivable electronic product - as far as the eye can see - and each floor was packed with people - packed to the point that you couldn't walk freely. It's interesting to think that this - shopping and technology-aspiration -  is the leisure the cultural-leisure activity of choice. Yodobashi obviously had no problems in attracting its audience, and its audience were more than happy to pay for the entertainment on offer.

In Hara's upstairs studio, he presented 3 works by himself and two invited Osakan artists, expanding the offer to visitors and really maximising the limited space.



It was a really enjoyable opening - the guests engaged well with Rebecca's works, and largely understood the ideas behind them - the discussion, aided by some great Sake and snacks, proved to be informative and interesting and we're looking forward to seeing the accumulated comments at the end of the exhibition.

As a side note, it was interesting that several visitors' first action on entering the space was to "sign in/up" - leaving their name and email address - something we generally have to ask gallery visitors in the UK to do.

So a really tiring but successful day and tomorrow we head north to Shiga Prefecture to the city of Hikone on the banks of Lake Biwa, to the modernist architecture of Art Takahashi, to install Ben Cove's Modernist-Provocation, "Look-See".

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