Takashi Murakami – Birth of Superflat

*my opinions written in blue

This is a channel 4 documentary on Takashi Murakami, the founder of ‘Superflat’.

Key notes:
-Highly theoretical
– Jelly fish eyes 2001 & Jelly fish eyes wallpaper: “An instillation about the concept of a hallway”
Pop Art
– Warhol – Images from mass media, reproduced and enlarged them.
– Jeff Koons – Kitsch and Pop culture.
– Murakami – Japanese cartoons & enlarging them.
– Childlike but repulsive. On first sight it’s pink, then it’s a fleshy pink.
– Flower artwork, critique of contemporary Japan, culture is childish and empty,
– Superflat – Dark vision of contemporary Japan
-Paul Schimmel, Chief curator @ MoCA Consumerist Aesthetic – Dirty words,
– Tom Eccles, Director of Public Art Fund, New York – Murakami celebrates consumerism, Warhol showed campbell soup cans, he didn’t actually design them unlike Murakami.
– Artists usually see art and business as two separate things. Murakami doesn’t. – “New form of Art” – Murakami

Superflat – “It’s a catch phrase” – Murakami
– Japans loss of national identity
– “The Otaku are grown ups who act like children” – says the presenter. Completely disagree, getting into the debate of what is Otaku is a different research project, but I am not taking this stance for my research project. My opinion is Otaku’s in Japan are looking for escapism  they hold well paid jobs and are very intelligent, but the pressure of society is too much for them so they enjoy adolescent things like anime and games.

Hiroki Azuma- Writer on Otaku culture
– Murakami’s used of big eyes reflect on the dark side of animation

David Elliot – Director, Mori Museum
– Everything has an emblem, a police station has a mascot. Murakami’s Mr. Dob is one of those, but he’s nasty, “he’s a rouge
muppet”

“After 1945 America swamped Japan with it’s consumer culture, Japan became the worlds best consumers.” Not sure it’s fair to say “best consumers” – like it’s a competition, in my eyes they are the “worst” consumers, they have fallen for consumerism which isn’t a positive thing.

Since 1990’s Japanese economy has been flat – terrorist cult with otaku links hacked the subway with poison gas, an Otaku killer was on the loose. Animation before this showed a hopeful future. Now they are a social malade [malade meaning – someone who is crazy, a patient]

“Society has become superflat”, David Elliot – Director, Mori Museum,”things get dumbed down”.

3 dimensions to Superflat
– Sociological
– Historical
– Aesthetic

Murakami appropriates others work, traditional Japanese art & Wester culture. Mr. Dob – Like Mikey Mouse with the stylish of traditional Japanese paintings.

Any irony involved? making the finest Japanese tradition of art (scrolls) to make a print of flowers? – doesn’t really give us an answer

Little Boy
Japans childish culture & the name of the bomb dropped on hiroshima.
Time Bokan – Murakami – 2001 – name taken from the animation – every week the bad guys would get defeated and a mushroom cloud would appear at the end in the form of a skull.

Murakami talking about “Time Bokan” – “This is typically Japanese, we have taken the worst tragedy that ever befell us and turned it into a joke”… “Just 30 years after the war, this fascinates me” “In the west Skulls are dark symbols of death. In japan they are not so negative. We in Japan have no awareness of our cultural identity. There is a reason Manga obsessively shows images of the atomic bomb. We are the only people who have experienced the atomic bomb…. thanks to man-made forced more powerful that gods. This has made us numb, past feeling and caring.”

The smiling flowers are like surrendering. In the future it will be hard to tell the difference between art and other commercial materials. Art is becoming simpler but toys are becoming sophisticated.

This documentary has been very informing, yet it tends to do what I hate, there is no conclusion, the narrater simply states the future remains to be seen and how we read Murakami’s work, ironically or not is a choice. I suppose as a BBC documentary it has to remain balanced as a PBS.

However it has made me think about my project. Why am I trying to use Murakami as an example of Kawaii culture? when he is a mesh of both, his art comments on this work, whilst making money from the consumerists. This could be something to explore, does Murakami’s work oppose Kawaii culture as much as photographers does?

One word I need to explain more is Irony, a word I hate to use in general because it’s so difficult to explain, but is unavoidable, and is a pivoting aspect to this project, consumerism and irony.

Pop Psychosis: the Influence of the Bomb on Superflat Art

Pop Psychosis: the Influence of the Bomb on Superflat Art

April 19, 2010 By 

http://postbubbleculture.blogs.wm.edu/2010/04/19/pop-psychosis-the-influence-of-the-bomb-on-superflat-art/

Japanese artists of the Superflat movement use the language of this pop culture iconography to explore what kawaii says about the Japanese people and their history. Takashi Murakami, founding member of the Superflat movement and author of its manifesto, views the development of kawaii as Japan’s response to World War II and the atomic bomb.

Murakami, “Mushroom Bomb Pink”

Although this article is about an Art movement rather than photography it is a really good piece of text which helps analyse when this escapist, Kawaii, Otaku culture derived in Japan and the reasons for it.

The first section of the article is called…

The Neutered State

When the Americans rewrote the Japanese constitution after World War II, they included a clause prohibiting Japan from using its army for anything but self-defense, and demanding that it remain a “peaceful state.” Some historians see Article 9 as a symbolic castration, forcing a policy of nonaggression and stripping the country of its right to express dissent through military action. In 2005, Murakami curated a show of Superflat art called “Little Boy,” also the codename for the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The show’s catalogue directly faults Article 9 for the infantilism and willful innocence implied by the kawaii aesthetic, as it “forced the Japanese people into a mindset of dependency” and cast Japan in the role of a “child” obliged to follow America’s “adult guidance.” The New York Magazine review of the show notes that “Japanese pop represents the strange, even psychotic response of a population traumatized by World War II…from this vantage point, the firebombing of Tokyo evolved into the city stomp of Godzilla. The mushroom cloud became a pretty flower rising into the sky at the conclusion of a children’s TV show. Fantasies of power are irresistible to the impotent…” The sweetly naïve youthfulness of kawaii may well be attibuted to a sense of emasculation in Postwar Japan.

Finally I have found a piece of text which justifies my thoughts. I never thought about the use of childhood imagery as a metaphor for Japans surrender but that makes perfect sense. The superflat movement comments on this and often explores the world of “Kawaii Noir” a sub category of Kawaii (Cute) culture which has a dark undertone.

The Escapist Mentality

The growth of kawaii corresponds to the growth of otaku culture in Japan, and both kawaii and otaku provide a means of escape. Otaku can become engrossed in anime, manga, or other hobbies, sometimes to the detriment of their ability to interact with the outside world. The world of kawaii is a fantastical one by nature; where loaves of bread talk, cats wear pinafores, and children frequently possess special powers. In “Plumbing the Depths of Superflatness,” Michael Darling cites anime legend Yoshinori Kanada as an inspiration for Murakami, and notes the escapist atmosphere of his work: “Kanada’s fanciful images of destruction serve to distance the viewer (and the creator) from the real horrors of war, and can be seen as a symptomatic retreat from an honest reckoning with the ravages of World War II and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” Murakami also filters confrontation with the war through a cartoonish lens, but is aware of the dynamic and deliberately plays with it, as in “Mushroom Bomb Pink.” Here the mushroom cloud has formed the shape of a skull with two big eyes, painted against a fluorescent pink background. Mushrooms recur in many of his pieces, as in “The Army of Mushrooms.” The connection between the image of the mushroom and the miliaristic reference of the title is impossible to ignore, but the implications are obscured by the anthropomorphization of the mushroom and the sunny, springlike palette.
From an academic standpoint, Superflat art and the kawaii aesthetic it reappropriates is a means to examine many aspects of Japanese culture and self-perception. But forefront in the work of Takashi Murakami is a preoccupation with the past and how the Japanese choose to view and confront it.

Murakami, “The Army of Mushrooms”

Although short, this article gets right to the base of japanese pop culture and it’s reference to the war. Thankfully the references are listed, so I can explore this area more.

Sources:

Darling, Michael. “Plumbing the Depths of Superflatness.” Art Journal 60.3 (2001): 77-89. JSTOR. Web. 8 Apr. 2010.

Holmberg, Ryan. “Little Boy: the Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture.”Artforum International (2001).

Stevens, Mark. “Toxic Cuteness.” New York Magazine, May 21, 2005.

External links:

Video: Murakami interviewed by Jonathan Ross

Trailer for Murakami’s new animation project:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yg1RP_eaoRM

Another interview with Murakami:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJw8U9yMFZ4

Murakami’s official site: http://www.takashimurakami.com

The fan site! http://www.takashimurakami.net/

Wired Magazine profile: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.11/artist.html

An Editorial: The Bomb in Popular Culture

JAPAN 101

An Editorial: The Bomb in Popular Culture

Posted by  × August 6, 2011 at 09:23

http://www.axiommagazine.jp/2011/08/06/an-editorial-the-bomb-in-popular-culture/

This article is a great summary on texts influenced directly by the bombing. However I am yet to find an article which actually says how Japanese stroytelling through various methods changed after the bombs, in a way that’s good it means my idea is original, but it also makes my research 10X harder.

However this article is useful for references and quotes.

The nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were events which became the focal point for popular and high-brow culture alike in Japan. Artist and author, Takashi Murakami stated:
“The two atomic bombs have left a permanent scar on Japanese history; they have touched the national nerve beyond the effects of the catastrophic physical destruction.”

I have looked at Murakami’s work, it’s impossible not to when looking at Japanese culture and art. The article then goes on to explain Godzilla’s roots which I explored in my post on John Rocco Roberto’s essay but it also offers a different reading of the text.

But some also argue that Godzilla is the true victim in the story, Prof. Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) even says so in the movie. The monster was laying peacefully dormant on Japan’s seabed and was rudely awakened by a nuclear blast. When it came to land, its skin was hard and covered in boils, an observation that author William Tsutsui believes links Godzilla with the 被爆者 (Atomic Bomb Victims). Godzilla is also extremely isolated, although poisoned with radioactivity, people run in fear and ultimately want to eradicate the “monster.”

Yatta Man
Yatta man is a childrens TV series which takes direct influence from the bombing.

In the show, the protagonists, Tanpei and Junko are relentlessly pursued by Doronjo, Boyakki and Tonzura, who have a nuclear bomb dropped on them at the end of every episode, from which rises a skull embossed mushroom cloud. Despite this, the dastardly trio reappear next week, back to full health and full of mischief.

Barefoot Gen
This is a short film I have seen before. It approaches the effects of the bombs head on, which is strange for a Japanese anime, usually the influences are subtle. This just adds to the effect it has on emotions even more.

What makes the film even more harrowing is that it is based on the autobiographical manga series by Keiji Nakazawa. Having witnessed the effects of the bombing first hand, Nakazawa exposed the full extent of the damage unflinchingly. It is extremely difficult to watch, even though it is an animated movie, and it could well be a representation of any war, or any country, as the message that seems to seep through is that of humanity and how delicate it is.

Daicon 4

the annual Covention held in Osaka, Daicon, celebrated its fourth year in 1983. At the opening of the convention, a small team of artists put together a short film depicting a bunny girl fighting with the best known “otaku” characters of the past decade, (that small team went on to produce a little TV show called Evangelion). After cruising through the pop-culture world, the woman witnesses a huge atomic explosion, from which plumes of cherry blossom fly, tearing down buildings, leaving a barren wasteland. Afterwards, the Daicon spaceship shots a powerful ray that restores life on the planet and popular characters eat rice-balls together.

The most interesting piece about this animation and Adam Millar’s interpretation of the text is this…

Although the spectacle of the artwork may well be its biggest draw, many believe the Daicon spaceship restoring life is a thin-vieled metaphor that otaku-culture is one way of coming to terms with the subject.

This is something I have been trying to explore for a while, in my head I know that Japanese Otaku culture is about escapism and the amount of references made to the atomic bomb in the Manga I read and Anime I watch is outstanding. However with months of research this is the first example I’ve seen of someone else acknowledging this fact.

A finishing point from Millar, which resounds within me and speaks truth about how a certain group of people cope with the idea and effect of nuclear warfare.

Although these cartoons and comics may seem unimportant, they are a window into the fears felt by Japan, and the deep scar that has yet to be healed.

Japan, Godzilla and the Atomic Bomb by John Rocco Roberto

Japan, Godzilla and the Atomic Bomb

A Study into the Effects of the Atomic Bomb on Japanese Pop Culture

by John Rocco Roberto

Before I delve into this essay I want to provide a bit of context. I am starting to finally realise the importance of when and where essays were written, we are told to challenge everything we read for the symposium, but it’s silly to challenge a piece of writing you haven’t done any research into.

John Rocco Roberto

While John was not well known with some of the newer members of the fandom, his influence was far reaching. He was the true mover and shaker of the old days when fans didn’t have the internet to connect with one another. His articles, as well as the articles of his contemporaries in the old issues of G-Fan and later in Kaiju-Fan set the standard for serious analysis of the films (“Godzilla in America” anyone?)

– ‘Special Tribute’ By John “Dutch” DeSentis

He [was] one of the founding fathers of modern Godzilla fandom, helping establish G-FAN and G-CON.

– ‘Remembering John Rocco Roberto’ by BRETT

It’s safe to say from these account that John Rocco was a key player in the fandom world of Godzilla and was active in his passion. Therefore I can accept that this isn’t a half researched essay. Founding conventions and fan bases for one film takes a lot of work and dedication, and the success for G-Con reflects on his knowledge of not only the film but it’s surrounding debates.

Let’s get started on the essay…

The section I am particularly interested in is titled ‘From Desperation to Insperation’

However, one could argue that the true date of Godzilla’s birth was not November 3rd, 1954, but August 6th, 1945, the day the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima.

I had my suspicions before that Godzilla was a representation of the Atomic bombing, purely because of it’s release which was just after the bombings. However John Rocco Roberto explains this with more substance.

“On the plane ride back to Tokyo, I was desperate,” Tanaka recalled.“  I was sweating the whole time.”  The year was 1954, and the film he intended to make was to have beenIn the Shadow of Glory, co-produced in cooperation with the Indonesian government.  The plans for the film, however, fell through when Tanaka could not get work permits for the film’s stars.  Having a budget for a war film, but having no film to shoot, Tanaka agonized at the prospect of losing face in the eyes of his company.  But it was during that plane ride that, as Guy Tucker argues, “desperation became his friend … and would lend him an idea that would develop into something far larger and more enduring than the project he left behind.”

At the end of the Second World War Japan was devastated; physically, politically and financially.  The people of the nation were starving and homeless, and their spirits had been broken.  There was an atmosphere of hopelessness, known only too well to Haruo Nakajima, who served in the Imperial Army during the war, and who would go on to play Godzilla in eleven films.  “There was a feeling of great despair [all around].  It was very difficult for people to find work at this time,” Nakajima recalled. The intensity of the Japanese reaction to their defeat, and the devastation brought on by it, is evident in their present anti-nuclear policies. Their inner feelings towards this defeat, however, have never been fully examined.  But one place to start that examination could be through analyzing two important Japanese films in the context of their times.

Quotes by the man inside the Godzilla costume and Tomoyuki Tanaka himself define the idea of the bombs not only having an effect on Japan physically and financially but also culturally, inspiring the iconic character that is Godzilla.

Under SCAP guidelines Japanese directors were to stress how all Japanese “were endeavoring to construct a peaceful nation [and] how soldiers and repatriates were being rehabilitated into civilian life.”  The result was a series of poor films half-hearted in their execution.

We can clearly see that there was a massive reaction to the bombing in the film industry. John Rocco Roberto goes on to explain this in the section section…“Gorja”

In Gojira, the monster Godzilla is the United States’ atomic bomb, devastating Tokyo and reducing it to a radioactive cinder all in one night.  Originally conceived by Tsuburaya as a giant mutated octopus, producers Tanaka and Mori felt that a giant dinosaur-type creature (mutated through the effects of atomic testing), would have more appeal and be more threatening to land-based civilizations… In Honda’s conception, the monster Godzilla would not merely be awakened by the bomb; instead “He would be twisted and mutated by it, into a rampaging uncontainable force; the A-bomb made flesh.”

“Japan and the bomb in the 21st century”

Dropping the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of the Second World War has remained a heated and controversial debate in the United States to the present day.  Whether the Japanese were about to surrender; whether the Soviet Union was about to enter the war; all remain good, but academic points in the 21st century.  The bombs were dropped, and Japanese culture changed forever.  On the surface, there is very little sign of pre-war Japan.  American influence has completely embedded itself into every part of Japanese society.  In fact when one travels to Japan, one is immediately taken with the lack of any sign that Japan suffered from nuclear attack. In fact there are very little signs that Japan ever lost the war.  The average Japanese citizen drinks Coca-Cola, eats breakfast at Dunkin Donuts, eats lunch at MacDonalds or Kentucky Fried Chicken, enjoys American sports such as Baseball and Bowling, and flocks to their local theaters to watch big-budgeted Hollywood films.  There is no sufficient way to describe the experience of traveling in Japan unless you have actually experienced it.  The best description would be to imagine Times Square in New York City multiplied by 100.

“Japanese Pop Culture and the Bomb”

Beginning with the lifting of SCAP restrictions in the 1950s, several films began to address the issue of the atomic bombings

Read the full essay here

Whilst this essay has been interesting and informative, and have allowed to me form a strong group of quotes, it reminds me again of the importance of titles, The sub header suggests this essay explores how the bomb effected Japanese popular culture, when instead it only explores Godzilla. It is still, however an insight into post Bomb Japan, and worth referring to in the future.

Ishiuchi Miyako – ひろしま Hiroshima

Ishiuchi Miyako

ひろしま Hiroshima is a series by Ishiuchi Miyako, is consists of 45 large scale photographs of clothing from the victims of the 1945 atomic bomb at Hiroshima. The series was made in 2008 and has been exhibited worldwide. The depiction of the clothing brings an emotional feeling to the viewer, it makes us think about who used to occupy these clothes and what they must have gone through.

 

 

 

Photo by Vitor Munhoz – http://satellitegallery.wordpress.com/2011/11/26/art-history-and-hiroshima/