John Olson worked with LIFE magazine to smash all the preconceptions and “coolness” of rockstars – photographing them with their parents at home – we see independent, iconic and untouchable idols brought down to a human level, no longer rock gods. This project is very humbling and despite being made in the early 70’s is a theme that is still current and interesting.
Urbandictionary.com defines “fangirls” as “young fanatical females… (who) suffer an absurd affinity for a randomly chosen object of obsession and base their life/daily schedule around it.” But we think of them as the girls who line up for hours and even days before meet and greets, book or CD signings, ticket sales openings, or some such event where their dearly beloveds are involved. Armed with homemade signs, T-Shirts and brain-splitting screams, fangirls can turn critically un-acclaimed albums double platinum and make shakily written fiction into a worldwide phenomenon. I can’t help but feel that if these girls gathered at the edge of the Red Sea, it would part.
What distinguishes a fangirl from the average fan are unrivaled displays of devotion and a willingness to spend countless hours and dollars paying homage to those they love. Fangirls are typically ages 12 -18, or as The New York Times put it, “old enough to be culturally aware but not old enough to second-guess themselves.” (“Cue the Shrieking Girls for the Band of Their Moment”, by Jon Caramanica, 10 August 2008) Mostly from suburban middle-class homes, they have the time and the disposable income to devote to their chosen stars. It may start as a crush or admiration, but what these girls end up being are the best publicists any celebrity could hope for. They will spread accolades all over the media free of charge. And to top it all off, they (or rather, their parents) will fund an artist’s big fat paycheck just by purchasing everything they put out on the market.
We don’t typically credit fangirls with being an astonishing breed of Super Fan – they’re not quite in the same category as people who dress up like hobbits or attend Star Trek conventions. Usually, we just roll our eyes at them, get annoyed when they occupy a row in the movie theater in front of us and “oh-em-gee” at trailers, and yes, we get upset when musical artists we like endorse things they like (cough) New Moon soundtrack (cough, cough). But take a quick look at fangirl history and you will realize that fangirls’ devotion has “made” some of the most significant players in pop culture history.
Consider the very first modern pop superstar: Frank Sinatra. Sinatra was the one millions of hearts beat for. Today, Michael Bublé’s crooning voice is a pop rarity, but in the ‘40s, the big band style wasn’t a genre that you had to look very hard for. Because popular music had until then been targeted primarily at adults, Sinatra and his teen fans offered up a previously untapped market. This is arguably what earned Sinatra his contract as a solo artist with Capital Records. Today, we remember him for Fly Me to the Moon, or My Way, but it was the intangible quality fangirls eat up like chocolate, that made Frank Sinatra become Frank Sinatra. Just take it from The New Yorker:
“Most of his fans are plain, lonely girls from lower-middle class homes. They are dazzled by the life Sinatra leads and wish they could share in it. They insist that they love him, but they do not use the verb in its ordinary sense. As they apply it to him, it is synonymous with ‘worship’ or ‘idealize.’” —E.J. Kahn Jr. (“Here’s to Sinatra and the Ladies who Lust”, 1946)
Even the Beatles quit touring after their third album because the fangirl frenzy around them made their live performances so difficult. Pat O’Day introduced the Beatles at what was then the Seattle Center Coliseum in August of 1964. He recalls catching a glance from George Harrison, “George looked at me and he reached down and pulled the electrical plug out of the bottom of his guitar for a minute. And then he put it back in and kept playing, and he shrugged like ‘What difference does it make? No one can hear us anyway.’”
The Beatles had the type of following that today garners more eye rolls from those with “refined” taste in music. But we can’t just dismiss the validity of something merely because the initial fan base is female and has a mean age of 14. After all, that would mean throwing out your copy ofThe White Album.
Even Johnny Depp, the eccentricity King himself, started out as a teen heartthrob on 21 Jump Street. Now he’s an Oscar nominated, highly respected actor and Hollywood icon of all that is badass. We just choose to forgive him of his previous dealings with tweens. But why is that even something that needs forgiving?
The same goes for Elvis. According to Rolling Stone, “it was Elvis who made rock ‘n’ roll the international language of pop.” (This quote is so commonly used on a range of online bios of Elvis, its proper citation is uncertain.) Yes, I’m sure that’s exactly what all those girls were “tweeting” about back in the day. I’m going to go out on a limb here. At the time, the Elvis phenomenon wasn’t just about his music. The great icons of pop may be remembered for their music now, but it was largely a fangirl thing at the time. Today we don’t take things with a fangirl following seriously as high art.
So, what I’m proposing here is that we separate the phenomenon from its following before forming an opinion about its validity. I’m not saying that everything fangirls like is fit to be legendary, but historically speaking, fangirls have been largely, if not wholly responsible for cementing the status of many, many, cultural icons. Which begs the question: without them, where would all those icons be?
And what makes a fangirl tick? If there is a formula, it is deep in the minds of teenage girls. Oh, we females can be a fickle bunch. We can talk about why we like what we do, but can that then be applied to production and marketing? Eh, maybe not so much. Amy, the owner of the largest fan site dedicated to Robert Pattinson, was asked simply, “Why Robert?” And she responds, “Because he’s gorgeous.” Yep. That’s all.
Looking for more answers, I set to figure out the Fangirl equation. This past summer I went to a Jonas Brothers concert, and about halfway through it I became distracted from worrying about if I’d ever be able to hear again when I noticed something, or rather someone. Who was that dude on the bass? Out came the Blackberry. Google “Jonas Brothers bass player” and BAM. Greg Garbowsky. Hails from New Jersey, is allergic to peanuts, and is two days younger than I am.
Not that I expected to be the first to have noticed the guy, but I was a little surprised to find he has over 60,000 followers on Twitter (that’s more than Al Roker, people). Having learned from Garbowsky’s fanpage that he was going to be in Bass Player magazine, I proceeded to the bookstore to buy it.
If a wee crush had driven me to seek out needless information and to buy a magazine I would have never even glanced at before, this estrogen flowing through my body had more power over me than I was willing to admit. This was as close to being a fangirl as I had ever been. “You play bass?” the check out guy at Books-A-Million asked me, “Um… no. My little brother does.” Well, hedoes.
Imagine it as unbridled devotion floating around the atmosphere just waiting for a subject to fix itself upon. Therein lies the real power of fangirls. No subject is too small to be deemed worthy of obsession. That’s one really fascinating part about the Jonas craze. The brothers each have their own base of manic fans down to their little brother Frankie (the “bonus Jonas”).
In an essay entitled “1,000 True Fans” Kevin Kelly, one of the founders of Wired magazine, defines a true fan as “someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce.” (The Technium.com) Kelly’s theory is that all any artist needs to survive in the “long tail” environment of the web is a core of one thousand true fans who will spend one hundred dollars on the artist’s products each year. That’s about one concert ticket and a couple of CDs, which by my calculations would put a fangirl at least one notch above a “true fan” in the hierarchy of fanhood. And that is precisely why the earth shakes when girls decide that something is likable. Greater than just buying power, true fanhood is about participation, and the web presents a multitude of fangirl opportunities both to consume and produce idol information. Of course all this includes a willingness to follow a band, artist, or celebrity until they are no longer working in the industry – well, maybe even a little after that too.
Hoping to find out more, I asked girls who ran fanpages how long they saw themselves being active fans. And acting a little taken aback, they had to pause to think, but then they all said something to the effect of, “until the artist makes it known that they don’t want to be in the spotlight anymore.” In fact, my favorite quote was, “I guess until (he) gets married and has babies or something.”
Fangirls are one of the primary drivers in popular media and today they are more empowered than ever before. History suggests that appealing to this special type of super fan and their unparalleled loyalty is one of the best ways to achieve superstardom (even if the mania doesn’t last, your retirement is funded). Yes, fangirls can be loud, perhaps obnoxious, and not all their picks end up at exalted heights in the artistic pantheon, but it is unfair to dismiss fangirls merely as a gaggle of girls suffering from puppy love.
They raised the likes of James Dean, Heath Ledger, Michael J. Fox (who interestingly enough, changed his middle initial from “A” to “J”, because he didn’t want teen magazines referring to him as “Michael, A Fox!”), Leonardo DiCaprio, Johnny Depp, Frank Sinatra, Elvis, the Beatles, and kept them in the spotlight long enough for the rest of us to fall in love with them too. Thank you, fangirls.
On project reflection I’ve started looking at character development. I felt as though my project was missing something so going back over my research and past projects one theme jumped out at me. Popular culture iconography and the adaptable/ interchangeable nature of transmedia pop icons. Below are the three biggest examples interchangeable icons and unsurprisingly they are all based in Japan.
Hatsune Miku is a Japanese computer generated pop star. She is the perfect example of a transmedia pop culture icon. Even the use of calling her she, proves just how integrated she is into my world as a real icon. Essentialy Hatsune Miku is a piece of software developed by Crypton Future Media. Everything about her is computer generated, her voice her image and her character. Unlike I first assumed when I saw her she is not voiced by a real person, her essence is the software that created her. She is a millionaire virtual pop icon, and her rein transcends into every platform, music, film, advertising, toys, food, clothes. In regards to this project I call her an interchangable icon. Like a doll her clothes are changed to fit the product, she is plastered on advertisements and products from cars to pizza boxes.
Hatsune Miku’s iconic hair is her recognisable atribute, sometimes it may change colour for a product or a theme but it always remains in the same style.
The 60’s version of Hatsune Miku, she is still a global icon today but could be seen as a bit too traditional in comparison to Miku. A different version of a virtual character, she is an icon in her own right and again an interchangeable icon.
Kitty’s face is her recognisable point, it’s key to have something familiar in every adaption so the audience can relate back to the character.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
So what about a real life Interchangeable icon? Keeping in theme with our Japanese girls I present you Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, pop star and trend setter in Japan.
So why Interchangeable? I use the term interchangeable because it reminds me of the dolls I used to have when I was little, for example you would buy a barbie but she would then have interchangeable outfits, maybe one to make her a rock star another to make her a princess. The interchangeable nature is all about power over the character, you (or companies) control what they look like but only to some extent because you still had to buy into the extensions packs.
When I heard about a collection of illustrated t-shirts and mugs based on the brazilian Youtube vloggerand MTV presenter (who happens to be such a character), I couldn’t wait to find out what they’ve done. Surprisingly the material wasn’t very interesting, so I decided to make my own version of it, with a series of illustrations that can have everything, or nothing, to do with the guy.
This series is based on MASPOXAVIDA a pop culture youtube vlogger.
Despite the great use of gif imaging which I have rarely seen in a creative project, the popular culture iconography and styling is really coherent with consumerism. Wether this project is making a positive or negative comment on popular culture and consumerism isn’t really the point, I suppose it could be read either way.
Mariko Mori has a vast collection of work which you can see samples of below. Most of her work concerning identity and gender in Japan. There is also a common theme of science fiction. On a surface level I would say influenced by Japans geek culture or Otaku culture and technology. I want to dig deeper into the meaning behind the images. Is she using her work to make people question the society they live in? or is it more of a personal protest, being different because no one else dares too.
In the best works, like Subway (1994), the public reaction to Mori’s performance adds the realism that I so desperately crave whenever I find myself inundated by the in-again-out-again world of fashion. In Subway, Mori found herself having to utilise a fish-eye lens because the commuters who thought they would be in the frame sheepishly slid out of the camera’s view. Interestingly, despite the fact that there is a woman in a Space 1999 suit signalling to some far-off planet, nobody on the train is looking at her; instead they prefer to avoid involvement through consumption of more staid media (like newspapers or adverts).
She is a fine artist making politically motivated commentary but the outcome was beautifully ‘Pop’ and accessible in its dreamy, colourful, cartoony sheen. Her futuristic plastic doll costume complete with Manga blue hue hair is perfectly put together.
The theatrical setting and costuming of her early photographs undeniably reflect the trends in Japanese popular culture, especially that of adolescent Japanese girls, known as shōjo culture.
In each of the Tokyo photographs Mori is a self-constructed idol, or idoru, ubiquitous in the world of J-Pop,anime or digital gaming. These idols reflect the pastime of cosplay (kosupure, or costume playing) that has been popular amongst Japanese urban youth since the mid-1990s.
In Love hotel (1994), a uniformed schoolgirl kneels on a circular bed in a themed room. Concealed inside a silver unitard with angular ears this idoru is suggestive of Tezuka Osamu’s universal robotic hero Tetsuwan Atomu, or Astro Boy (1951–1967). The mise en scène is potent with ambiguity as Mori’s idol asserts a youthful naïvety and vulnerability. This Lolita does not recline submissively on the hotel bed nor provocatively engage with the viewer. In Red light (1994), the idol wears a shimmering pink dress and pointy-eared silver unitard. Standing amidst the neon lights and signage of Kabuki-chō back streets (a well-known ‘pink’ or red light district of Tokyo) the idol takes a call on a mobile phone. Like the photographs of Yanagi Miwa, Mori’s generic settings and cute idoru are dramatic and relatively formulaic. In retrospect, we can see that the work of artists such as Yanagi and Mori coincided with the global promotion and popularity of Japanese subcultures, in particular anime and manga. Mori’s cyborg lovers appear to perpetuate the entertainment industries’ use of the female body as a site of desire and pleasure—a stereotype that many young women photographers challenged throughout the late 1990s as social conditions in Japan changed.
In Tea Ceremony III (1994), Play With Me (1995) and Subway (1994), Mori makes use of traditional female roles and then adds non-traditional details in order to critique the positioning of women within Japanese culture.
According to Mori, her earlier work concentrated on social criticism, addressing issues
of modern-day Japan.
Mori’s work has been written about a lot, her visual interpretation of Japanese culture seemed to be shocking and new at the time of production. It’s interesting that one text compares her work to that of Miwa Yanagi, another photographer I have been looking at recently. I feel with relation to my project Mori’s work could take me down a hole new route, tackling identity and pop culture idols. But her work doesn’t openly tackle ideas of sex and cuteness which is the area I have decided to focus on.Perhaps the only image that does is Love Hotel (see below) however I will continue my search for other photographers as I am not keen to clutch at straws.
Cuties in Japan
by Sharon Kinsella
This text was referenced in Emily Jane Wakelings writing “Girls are dancin“. In that text Kinsella’s writing is reference in relation to “Kawaii style, mentioned briefly above, has been analysed as a female-centred rejection of adulthood.” I intend to explore this, it is an area I am already aware of, however for academic reasons it would be good to read other peoples take on the idea, and see if their are any key quotes that could be used within my presentation.
Word definition( Collins English Dictionary)
Quotes are screen grabs from the document.
Other peoples References & theories
pp221 This is the first time I’ve seen an argument which opposes Murakami’s idea that kawaii is a reaction to the war.
Cute handwriting and slag
After reading chapters titled, Cute goods, Cute food, Cute, clothes it seems that this article is the go to place in describing Kawaii culture. However I don’t want to get to carried away with this as I have to define the culture within minutes, I don’t have time to explore each avenue. I know in the future if I need to know anything about cute culture to come back to this article, but unless that time comes it is not relevant.
*my opinions written in blue
This is a channel 4 documentary on Takashi Murakami, the founder of ‘Superflat’.
– Jelly fish eyes 2001 & Jelly fish eyes wallpaper: “An instillation about the concept of a hallway”
– 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
“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
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
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.
James Hamilton Butler X Georgie Ichikawa AKA JHB/GI is a collaboration project between the two fashion designers. The collection draws inspiration from Tokyo Pop culture, Otaku in particular.
(All Images & text / COPYRIGHT © JAMES HAMILTON BUTLER & GEORGIE ICHIKAWA 2011)
RESEARCH INTO WESTERN OTAKU (OBSESSIVE GEEKS) AND THEIR SOCIAL HABITS, FORMED THE BASIS OF THIS GRAPHIC DRIVEN CAPSULE COLLECTION, WITH A FOCUS ON A T-SHIRT BASED LINE THAT IS WEARABLE BUT STRIKINGLY ILLUSTRATIVE. NIGHTLIFE SCENES IN AKIHABARA LED TO A SPECTRUM OF COLOUR PALETTES TO USE, DRAWING ON CONTEXTUAL REFERENCING FROM CONTEMPORARY OTAKU ICONS TO PROVIDE INSPIRATION FOR PLACEMENT SHAPES. JAPANESE ELECTRO-POP MUSIC VIDEOS AND DANCE ROUTINE CHOREOGRAPHY INFLUENCE THE BEAUTIFULLY INTRICATE IMAGERY OF A FANTASY WORLD THAT FORMS THE BASIS OF THIS CONTEMPORARY STREET STYLE COLLECTION.
Thinking I had to rule out Takashi Murakmi’s work as he isn’t a photographer was really starting to stump my ideas, how can I cut out the founding practitioner of the Superflat movement? But I have just found a series of photographs he made.
Miss Ko2 Project
As part of his ‘Miss Ko2 Project’ these c-prints by notorious Japanese Pop artist Takashi Murakami warp living beings into his anime based art. Saturated with the sex appeal so often found in Japanese animes, this scantily clad woman rendered with animated characteristics perfectly captures Murakami’s contemporary approach to Pop Art style of work.
Murakami was also Art Director for this shoot with Britney Spears and photographer Richard Prince.
Created in collaboration with Takashi Murakami and shot by Richard Prince, it features Britney done up manga-style – complete with Japanese photo booth images and Murkami’s signature smiling daisies. (Word is that the issue will also include cartoon stickers throughout.)
So, what did Britney think of the experience?
“I loved working with Takashi, I especially liked how he took high-end fashion and incorporated it with Japanese manga.”
With my newly focussed idea I decided it would be best to look for articles and essays written on Japanese Escapsim and see other peoples take on this aspect of Japanese Popular Culture.
This article starts off by talking about how Japan is the place to go if you are looking to escape, whether it’s through video games, manga and themed restaurants. It then contradicts this with a link to Japanese suicide rates and pressure to create perfection and be the best you can. Linking these two juxtaposed aspects within Japanese Culture to explain why there Popular culture is so connected with escapism and is so intense. The same ethics are used in the work place and in entertainment. All or nothing. It then goes on to explain about the culture of Otaku (Geeks, Freaks, Obsessed), men (predominantly) who work hard a are well educated and have good jobs, but who then have an alter ego, obsessed with teenage girls and anime. A great social group example of both worlds.
“I’m not aware of any other nation where fantasy, escapism and the cyber world have fused with such intensity.”
“As Japan is very regimented and cold. So, pop culture, is everything but regimented. Pop culture in Japan is all about creating a world where anything is possible.”
“could it have anything to do with the great despair the Japanese live in? There is no country where there are so many complaints about the great expectations every one has to live up to. Maybe these expectations are just too much for many and they seek enjoyment in the alternate universe of Otaku.”
Oddly enough this article begins at a Japanese Gym, where the writer Roger Cohern see’s images of food whilst on a treadmill. he began to be mesmerised by this strange addition to workouts which he had never seen.
The exploration of Japans intense popular culture is broken down into 4 sections in this article.
Wealth- Japans economy is strong, but whilst they are one of the wealthiest countries they have not gained the leading position in exports and products that was expected, China has that role now. So Japan is left somewhere inbetween America and China, with lots of money and no heavy restrictions on where it should be spent.
Conformism – The individuals need to escape from millions of other doing the same thing in the same country.
Dispair – Natural disasters and economies all around collapsing.
“I’m not aware of any other nation where fantasy, escapism and the cyber world have fused with such intensity.”
“My sense is that four factors have contributed to this: wealth, postmodernism, conformism and despair.”
“Japan is also moderately bored. The days of rising Japan Inc. when the former U.S. ambassador in Tokyo, Mike Mansfield, could speak of U.S.-Japan ties as “the most important bilateral relationship in the world, bar none” and fears of a Japan takeover were rampant — those days are gone. China has occupied that space.”
“So what’s left for this comfortable, perfectionist society of narrowed ambition is otaku escape, the games I found myself playing to fool exhaustion as Chinese dumplings adorned the treadmill. “What’s all this food?” I finally asked a man on the neighboring machine. He had no doubt: “Things you should not eat.””
Tokyo clash was published in 2010 by h.f.ullman and is written by Ralf Bahren. Ralf explores the mass culture in Tokyo and depicts through images and writing how we are “exposed to sensory stimulation beyond anything you have ever experienced”. I ordered this book when i was considering just looking at Japanese pop culture, obviously I have widened my ideas back out to Pop culture in general but that doesn’t mean this book won’t be useful. let’s see what it has to say.
Its multitude of parellel cultures and styles blurs the boundaries between colourful chaos and retained tradition. It is a culture of NOW, an immediate presence that often lasts only the blink of an eye, changing faces as you advance, with yesterday and tomorrow somehow condensed into the moment.
Each exploration of the city comes under a title, I will look at these individually.
Massive, earthquake-proof buildings cover up almost all the finer, flourishing details that make up its lively spirit.
Cute does not only apply to living beings, but even more inanimate objects.
Print Club p98
Like our photo booths but the booths allow you to add cute decorations and effects to your images.
Cos(tume)-play and masquerade are widely accepted as expressions of personal and emotional freedom.
If you can’t get it in real life, just get it in plastic.
Escape is not an option. Commerce is lurking everywhere and it’s by far the major cause of colors stimulating your retina… It brightens up the daily grind
I found this book a decent brief look at all aspects in Japanese culture, however I was expecting it to be a depper analysis/look into things like otaku, colour, packaging manga and consumerism. And whilst it did cover these topics it didn’t explain anything about them, just a short paragraph about what they are. There was no context or information, it just showed me about Japaense culture rather than explain it to me.
In 2010 Lady Gaga took part in a photoshoot to celebrate Hello Kitty’s 35th Birthday. Photographers Markus Klinko and Indrani shot Gaga in a Hello Kitty stuffed dress and combined the image of 2 of the biggest female icons in Popular Culture.
The power of Sanrio’s branding in regard to Hello Kitty is outstanding.
In the US alone, Hello Kitty has expanded into 4000 stores nation wide with more than 200 Sanrio specific shops. Created as a gift item to be exchanged between families, Hello Kitty now adorns more than 22.000 products across categories and contributes more than half of Sanrio’s USD 1 billion annual sales.
JeongMee Yoon’s ongoing series ‘The Pink & Blue project’ explores gender association within children and how we can be manipulated by consumerism.
My current work, The Pink and Blue Projects are the topic of my thesis. This project explores the trends in cultural preferences and the differences in the tastes of children (and their parents) from diverse cultures, ethnic groups as well as gender socialization and identity. The work also raises other issues, such as the relationship between gender and consumerism, urbanization, the globalization of consumerism and the new capitalism.
The Pink and Blue Projects were initiated by my five-year-old daughter, who loves the color pink so much that she wanted to wear only pink clothes and play with only pink toys and objects. I discovered that my daughter’s case was not unusual. In the United States, South Korea and elsewhere, most young girls love pink clothing, accessories and toys. This phenomenon is widespread among children of various ethnic groups regardless of their cultural backgrounds. Perhaps it is the influence of pervasive commercial advertisements aimed at little girls and their parents, such as the universally popular Barbie and Hello Kitty merchandise that has developed into a modern trend. Girls train subconsciously and unconsciously to wear the color pink in order to look feminine.
Whilst the idea that each gender of child is almost obsessive with one colour is a really interesting idea, the thing that engages me with JeongMee Yoon’s work is the idea of popular culture and consumerism, within each of the girls image we see barbies, hello kitty and the boys we see thomas the tank engine and superman it shocks me how consumerism effects children. From a young age we are exposed to branding and advertising and it’s becomes second nature to want what the TV tells us is good. Popular culture icons are part of our life from a young age and these images represent the variety of cultures and ages and that need everything fast and in mass like popular culture today, it is sickly, and over the top. The children placed in the middle of their belongings represents how they are almost trapped by there belongings.
Joshua Scott’s website doesn’t provide any information on his work or whats it about which is slightly annoying. However it does allow me to read his images without being positioned by the text. (It’s interesting how lost I feel without any information)
Locker notes is a very kitsche series, saturating us with colour and aesthetics, unrealistically portraying the contents of an American (we asume from the style of lockers) teenagers locker, but the over done use of objects and colour makes a comment on the mass consumption of popular culture and modern society.
Other Still Life
These pieces by Joshua Scott remind me of Andy Warhols work on marilyn. Representing the less pretty, more destructive side to celebrity and the ageing and death of icons which are considered modern day gods.
“I like the visual language of my images to appear hyper real, as if they could exist but a second take reveals something amiss or askew. The perfection of a single detail or the impossibility between elements is what I continue to find fascinating.” Walker is influenced by photographer David Lachapelle, “I’m interested in his ability to iconograph a scene from popular culture and to make it look so real that it is contrived. I would say our processes are similar, I use a lot of concept sketching as my works are highly manipulated.”
Brian Walkers work is everything I am trying to encapsulate within this research project, the reference to popular culture, and using it’s aesthetics within photography. The fact that he ays his main influence is David LaChapelle re confirms my mind that I am on the right track. i still feel that my project idea doesn’t quite sum up what I’m trying to say. I think my next post will be bringing together all the photographers work I have found and looking at what key things relate them, although I’m sure this will lead me back to popular culture I will still be able to gather my thoughts.
Walkers work has an obvious underlying tone regarding pop culture, like David LaChappelles work, and Photographer Hal. All the photographers I am interested in, however there work makes a comment on pop culture it doesn’t present it as a positive or negative thing, it puts the audience in a position where they cant reflect on consumerism and popular culture.
‘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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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
As well as photographers who use Japanese Pop Culture for artistic influence, there are also those who physically photograph the popular culture, creating iconic images that are hung up on hundreds of teenagers walls all over Japan.
Masayoshi Sukita has been photographing David Bowie for over 40 years, Bowie is a huge Pop sensation in japan even today, and Sukitas images of him have been reproduced thousands of times and helped define an icon.
2012 marks the release of Bowie and Sukita’s collaboration book. “Speed of life” a photo book with a journey of 40 years of photos.
In their fine bound edition, the authors have opened up Sukita’s archives to assemble a 300-page photo essay which, captioned with their own recollections and memories, traces the development of Bowie’s remarkable career from 1972 to the present day.
The exhibition of prints form the book is being held at Shibuya Parco Museum, in Tokyo Japan, Aug 25th – Sep 17th.
You can read the catalogue is online here
Beautiful New World is an Art exhibition that focuses on the idea of a new world, along with the 21st century came a great expectation of peace and growth in Japan, but it soo became the most violent and destructive time in recent history. Whilst WWII was harmful, post war provided great growth for Japans economics. However in the last 30 years Japan has suffered from some horrendous events such a earth quakes, tidal waves and economy crashes. Influenced by the theme of a new world which is so current in Manga, the world being destroyed and trying to rebuild itself is featured in thousands of manga stories, these art pieces comment on the lust for a better place, an escape from reality which is so predominant in Japanese pop culture. (off the top of my head I can think of 3 or 4 manga series I have read where creating a new world is the main theme.)
The exhibition itself features the work of 34 creative people, spanning across all art forms, and is divided into 3 sections, Beautiful real world, New media world and End of the world and future world.
Beautiful Real Wold @ Long March Project
The main theme of this section is understanding beauty and reality. Question both of their meanings and re-exploring how we understand them. The pieces are based on the representation of females in Contemporary advertising and fashion shoots. It also takes direct influence from manga..
Japanese manga and animations that illustrate gender-specific features in the boy’s world / girl’s world; and works that focus on “kawaii” culture, as well as the personal world-view of hitori-asobi(solitary play) that deviates from this culture.
Some of the exhibited work:
This piece by Kaneuji Teppei has a direct reference to Japanese popular culture, using the brightly coloured structured hairstyles which feature in anime and manga to create a Big foot type creature.
Paramodel is an “art unit” formed in 2001 by Yasuhiko Hayashi (2001 Fine Art graduate from the Kyoto City University of Arts) and Yusuke Nakano (a Nihonga [Japanese-style painting] graduate from the same university). Their title comes from the combination of the words, “Paradise” and “model”, and the fusion of these two concepts is essentially the launching point of their creations. Although the unique talents and interests of these two individuals hardly ever intersect, they manage to work in parallel towards the same vision of constructing intricate models of Paradise using toy parts, like plastic train tracks and mini-cars. Engaging in this poetic, yet paradoxical practice of remodeling paradise, this art unit presents their visions in a variety of media, including installation, objets, animations, painting, sculpture, and photography. –www.azito-art.com/paramodel/
These pieces by Paramodel play on the miniature culture within Japan, the sushi presented on the truck plays on the idea of Kawaii culture within Japan, the need for everything to look cute and sweet.
All featured artists:
Aida Makoto, exonemo, Kaneuji Teppei, Konoike Tomoko, Kusama Yayoi, Murayama Ruriko, Nishiyama Minako, Odani Motohiko, Okazaki Kyoko, Paramodel, Sawa Hiraki, Shimabuku, Takamine Tadasu, Tanaka Koki, Ujino Muneteru, Watanabe Go, Xijing Men (Ozawa Tsuyoshi, Chen Shaoxiong, Gimhongsok), Yanagi Miwa
New Media World @ Inter Arts Center
The art of new media has changed the ways in which we view the world. The works that tune into the new possibilities of communication and physical sensibilities are becoming ever important in considering contemporary society; such works take interest in what effect technological development in images and sound has on human sensations. The idea that perceives human relationships, or relationships between human and the environment as fluid, rather than predetermined, could be the driving force behind such developments. The works to be on exhibit in this section encompass a broad range of works, including not only those works that incorporate new technology, but also those that relate to the urban environment, fashion, and objects. – Taken from the online catalogue
some of the exhibited work:
Hiroshi Fuji’s work looks at consumerism and a culture who chuck out anything that isn’t up to date. His sculptures are made from discarded items, he tries to take unwanted objects and turn them into something interesting. All the parts are childrens toys.
All featured artists:
Atelier Bow-wow, doubleNegatives Architecture, Tsumura Kosuke, Fuji Hiroshi, Ikeda Ryoji, Oshii Mamoru, Yokoyama Yuichi, National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (Miraikan)
End of the World and Future World @B.T.A.P.
This section touches on the deep-seated apocalyptic world-view in Japanese society and culture, together with the visions for the future that are projected as result. The apocalyptic world-view is shaped by the disintegration of society and the collapse of urban cities, caused by natural disaster, war, and genocide as such, as well as death and the fear of facing death, while the visions for the future are projected in forms of cities in rejuvenation and futuristic cities. Some of the works in this section signify eternity and sustainability in relation to these themes. – taken from the catalogue
some exhibited work
Hatakeyama Naoyas stunning landscapes toggle between the destruction of the world, juxtaposed with landscape photos with no sign of human life, making us think about the beauty of the world, and putting us in the position of imaging a new world.
– Project Viva Riva – Sutanda
2001 200cm × 200cm × 300cm
aluminum, brass, motors, other monuments (Revival) Play arose from the “ruins of the future.” Work was born doll suit atom was picked up in the ruins of the nursery of Chernobyl, the sun that had been painted on the wall has become a group. Doll rises senses radiation 20 times, objects located beyond the line of sight of the sun shine at the same time. Stand up on two legs is also a big step in the process of human growth and human evolution.
Tomoko Yoneda’s photographs of an end is seem less kitsch and colourful as some of the work in the exhibition, however it’s message is strong. Unless accompanied by it’s title the photo holds no real connection to the idea of a new world, but with the title we imagine we have reached an end of a story, perhaps a family or couple fleeing to the new world after a long series of events.
All featured artists:
Fujihata Masaki, Hatakeyama Naoya, Miyajima Tatsuo, Miyamoto Ryuji, Ohmaki Shinji, Urasawa Naoki, Yanobe Kenji, Yoneda Tomoko
The exhibition as a whole
There is no doubt that this exhibition would have been one worth seeing. Rarely are so many forms of art in one place, the interesting idea is that all artists work is based along the idea of a Beautiful New world, but each result is completely different, and that the repetitive use of a new world narrative within Manga has a big enough influence and has become such a big part of japanese pop culture that many artists are using it as their influence for work.
weheartit.com is a great website to find research images, it is hard however to find the original artist, but for a mood board of general images it is a great resource. A quick search of Japanese Pop Culture on weheartit provides this…