Japanese Schoolgirl confidential – How teenage girls made a nation cool

‘Japanese Schoolgirl confidential – How teenage girls made a nation cool’ – Brian Ashcraft with Shoko Ueda

I bought this book at Hyper Japan in February 2012 just out of interest to read. However there is one chapter in particular which is very relevant to my symposium research project. The Japanese school girl is at the center of Popular Culture and has helped to define Japan as the eccentric, youthful and energetic nation it is today.

Chapter 6 – Art

This chapter gives an insight into the way Japanese school girls are represented within art and photography, including themes of sex, innocence and violence.

The chapter starts by talking about one of Japans most famous modern artists “Mr.” and his role with the school girl.

‘Nobody Dies’ is a short film which embodies all the aspects of the school girl. Teenage girls with airsoft guns depicting war as fun, cute and harmless. It is based on one of his paintings from 2007 called ‘It hurts when it hits the bare skin’. Directly influenced from the role of young women in Anime Mr.’s work has helped push the assumption that the best age for a woman in life is 14/15, no children, no work and no husbands, an idea that to us might seem absurd,  but in Japan the pressure of marrying and having children for young women equivalents that of 50’s Britain.

‘It hurts when it hits the bare skin’ – 2007
‘Nobody dies’ 2008
‘nobody dies’ 2008

Time out new york describes Mr.’s work and ‘Nobody Dies’…

Mr. is an unabashed fan of otaku, a geek-driven fantasy world whose denizens include pubescent girls with saucer eyes engaging in Lolita-like scenarios. His first solo exhibition portrayed these doll-like cuties as giant candy-colored sculptures that exaggerated their peekaboo innocence. Perhaps to distance himself a bit from Murakami, Mr.’s second solo exhibition, “Nobody Dies,” presents a video starring live girls “discovered” on the streets of Tokyo, along with a series of related photographs and a panoramic acid-hued painting, which seems to depict Akihabara, the massive, arcade-filled Tokyo neighborhood that is otaku’s subcultural epicenter.

The video follows the story of five tween schoolgirls who plan their revenge against a team of punk chicks who beat them in a mock survival game reminiscent of paintball. More than a half hour long, the tedious narrative weaves together silly flashbacks with a plethora of crotch shots. The accompanying photos depict the girls in front of various locales in elaborate costumes—from gingham uniform skirts to fashionista camo—designed by Mr. and Kaikai Kiki. What the viewer is supposed to get out of “Nobody Dies” is anybody’s guess, but if Mr. hopes to entice more than just otaku geeks, he’d better start giving a clue, or his own career may expire.

The next artists which is discussed in the book is Makoto Aida, who’s work I had come across before but only on anonymous bloging sites. As an adult man Makoto Aida is fascinated with the idea of the Japanese school girl.

These artists had grown up after the war, while the process of rebuilding Japan was in full swing. they experienced the rapid ascent of the japanese economy during the heady 1980’s, and came of age surrounded by pop-culutre. They drew inspiration form this-using the language of manga and anime to convey their message.
-page 128/129 Talking about Makoto Aida, Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara.

Makoto Aida. Azemichi (a path between rice fields) 1991

The book continues to write about how Aida uses the combination of innocence and sex to make his subject feel uncomfortable,.

“At the age of fourteen, I became obsessed with the magical quality young girls have,” he says. “As I get older, the age difference gets wider, and yet the almost magnetic attraction to these girls gets stronger and stronger.” But the artist emphasises  it’s not a romantic interest. Rather, it is a reminder of his youth and his ageing.
-page 129

Tomoko Sawada is a key photographer is understanding life as a Japanese School girl, understanding the abilities appearances can have for young girls. Individuality is a huge problem for Japanese school girls, living in a country with so many people how do you stand out?

In the late 1990’s Sawada used subway station photo booths to take passport-style portraits of herself. In each photo her hairdo or expression was different. Ultimately, the four hundred monochrome photos she took made us her work entitled ‘ID400’. The point was that although these were ID photos, none of them identified Sawada.
-Page 132

The passport-style photo is a key part of japanese life, it’s sent along with job applications, used for marriage match making, and remembering the “best” part of their lives, School.

Sawada then went on to create a ‘school days’ series which pushed her identity project further.

At first is appears that this is a normal school photo, but when you look closely you see that each character is the same person, Sawada. This is her exploration of individuality and shows how teenagers have the ability to be individual in the most structured environment. Maybe that is the appeal of teenagers, the freedom and individuality they possess.

Sawada, Koide, and Aida, and many other Japanese artists today, use schoolgirls in their work much in the same way French Realists like Millet and Courbet painted pheasants – schoolgirls represent the common people, they are the soul of the country and bear the brunt of society, they are the ones who keep it going. And sometimes that stress can take its toll.
-Page 135

Photographer Motoyuki Kobayashi also uses the school photo to present his thoughts on society, but in a different way.

‘I feel that if society looks at the purity of schoolgirls, it can see the future,” says Koboyashi. There’s hope. These girls represent the Japan of tomorrow. “The purity of young girls’ hearts is a common theme in Japan.”
-Page 136

Roughly half of Japans 120 million residents either were, are or will be school girls. They represent the mass. “Schoolgirls are a symbol of Japanese culture.” – Says Kobayashi

His books depict innocent, hopeful images of japanese school girls.

Keitai Girl is an image made by photographer Noriko Yamaguchi it looks at school girls and their relationship with  “Keitai Denwa (portable phone)”. Her photos are self-portrait, she has covered herself in hundreds of mobile phone key pads which concern the desire to touch.

Chapter 6 End

Larry Carlson

I have blogged about Larry Carlson so many times before, but he is so relevant to these sets of images I can’t resist doing it again.

Larry Carlson is a Digital Artist who uses photomontage, videos and web art to take us to his digital wonderland. Using psychedelic colours and shapes Carlsons work is visually stimulation and completely original. Not much more can be said to do justice to his work, so take a look for yourself and enjoy.

Carlson also does non-digital work which you can see on his website.

Writing a Creative CV

Creative CV’s – General guidelines

  • Don’t let the medium interfere with the message. You need to balance eye-catching/different with a sharp and professional promotion of your style. Presentation is particularly important but that does not necessarily mean an unusual CV.
  • Start by producing a standard CV. Only when the wording is excellent consider something that is a bit different: get the content right before focusing on the design.
  • Once you do start introducing more of a design element to a CV you have to recognise that this is more of a high risk strategy. Some recruiters may love your design, others may hate it, so show your CV to other people first.
  • The same will go for many big organisations.  Where they have specialized recruitment functions, a well formatted CV will always work better.  One large advertising agency recommended a standard CV.  Some smaller companies may like a more individual approach. They may be more impressed by an unusual CV because they have fewer to look at.  It’s the content, practical skills, and work experience that employers are particularly interested in and evidence of what you have created: listings of exhibitions etc and work experience can sometimes take priority over education.
  • If in doubt call the employer and ask them what they would like you to send. You don’t even have to leave your name!
  • Provide a link on your CV to a web site with examples of projects from your portfolio.
  • Use your logo if you have one and ensure your CV and portfolio is the same stylistically.
  • For most roles the content will most likely stay the same for both your creative and corporate CV – unless of course the design of your creative CV limits what you can write OR if you are applying for a part time job in which case the content will be considerably different.

Note for artists – when contacting galleries and exhibitions for the purpose of showing your work you will need to send an Artists CV. A photo of an example CV is included in this pack but in summary the headings to use in your CV are:

    • Personal Details
      As described in a standard CV
    • Artist Statement
      this should be a short and clear statement of your work and thoughts as an artist. Feel free to use relevant industry terminology as you will most likely be dealing with industry professionals. Statements can include information on the themes of your work, the direction it is heading in, its meaning, etc.
    • Professional Artist Training
      Include information on relevant artist specific education and training such as your BA or Foundation Degree.
    • Artistic Achievement
      List your achievements, starting with the most recent including things such as awards and reviews.
    • Art Related Employment
      List your related employment such as teaching and commissions. Include any placements if you do not have any employment.
    • Agent
      If you have one.

Produced by Seema Tailor, Careers and Employability Adviser 

Last updated – August 2010

Facebook This.

Samuel Schimek is and Artist and Designer who sets up a Social Media Booths at events, which allow users to take and upload pictures to facebook and tag them, his website ’15 min’ explains why…

SOCIAL MEDIA IS AT THE TOP OF CURRENT TRENDS FOR CREATIVE PROFESSIONALS TO GROW THEIR FOLLOWING AND PROMOTE THEIR WORK, AND EVENTS ARE USING IT AS A MEANS TO BRING IN MORE PEOPLE. FOR THE SOCIAL MEDIA PHOTO BOOTH PROJECT I USE THE LATEST TECH AND CONTEMPORARY BOOTH CONSTRUCTION. THE GOAL IS TO CATALOG VIEWER PARTICIPATION AND PROVIDE A NOVEL PLATFORM FOR INTEGRATION OF NEW MARKETING TECHNIQUES IN LIVE EVENTS.

My favourite collection is the Harajuku Japanese Street Fashion Party, mostly because i’m partial to a bit of Japanese Culture. But also because most other cosplay images i have seen lack the energy of the characters and presumably the eccentric people wearing them, but maybe because the subject is in an enclosed space and taking the images themselves which then by being uploaded to facebook makes them feel like they have ownership and control, they start to relax.

to see more of Samuel Schimek’s Social Media Booth work click here