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.

Relevant past research

A lot of my Symposium research is relevant to this Phonar task as I have been looking at Otaku culture and photographers for that too. So I wanted to a summary of the work which I think is relevant and expand on it more in relation to Phonar.

(click titles to see original post)

Noritoshi Hirakawa – The reason of life

This is the view of what men dream of but can never be at the point to see. Many men have a lot of desire to see the underwear beneath a woman’s skirt. At the same time, many women think about having their underwear looked at by men. This desire is never spoke of in public. The woman is photographed by the artist at the same moment as the woman photographs herself. The camera can be a very good excuse to connect men’s and women’s desires.

– Noritoshi Hirakawa

Ryoko Suzuki – Anikora Kawaii

Japan is a country submerged in“cuteness”.
I have been surrounded with“cute”things since childhood and thus they seem natural,but I have come to believe this“cuteness”is unique to Japan.
ANIKORA series Three takes“cuteness”as a sub-theme.
Along with ANIKORA series 1 and series 2,the purpose of these works is to investigate the desire of men to see“anime”or cartoon characters of young women with child-like face and improbably voluptuous bodieis. It is easy to see how men’s desires are reflected in these characters, but less so how this way of seeing women is expressed in Japan’s culture of“cute”things.
Women who are immersed in the culture of “cuteness”define themselves and present themselves to society as objects of “cuteness”. Being“cute”is the most important value for Japanese young women. But aren’t they losing themselves and their own identities and personalities by trying to become objects of masculine society’s desire for“cuteness”?

– http://www.ryokobo.com/contents/anikora3.html


Otaku by Charinthorn Rachurutchata

Takashi Murakami’s photography

Although he is known for his sculptures and paintings, Murakami has also dabbled in photography.

 

He also collaborated with photographer Ricard Prince on this image for the cover of “POP”.

Little Boy: ‘The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subculture’

I have written before about ‘Little Boy’ an exhibition compiled by Takashi Murakami in which a number of artists explore how the Atmoic Bomb made Japan take on the role of a child, hence their Kawaii culture, obsessing over Hello Kitty and anything cute.

On reading the book I have managed to find the original quote which Mirukami suggests this…

It would not be an exaggeration to say that the American-made constitution prevented the nation from taking an aggressive stance… it cast Japan in the role of a “child” obliged to follow America’s “adult” guidance, and the nation willingly complied.

pp08 “Little Boy” by Takashi Murakami

 

Takashi Murakami the photographer?

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.

– http://www.artnet.com/auctions/artists/takashi-murakami/miss-ko2-fluffy-2

Takashi Murakami
Miss Ko2-Fluffy, 2004
Chromogenic Print (C-print)
28.5 х 19 in. cm.
Takashi Murakami
Miss Ko2-Nurse, 2004
Chromogenic Print (C-print)
28.5 х 19 in. cm.
TAKASHI MURAKAMI
“Miss Ko2 – Devil” 2004
Photograph, frame / Photographie, encadrement
37 x 27 1/2 Inches / 95 x 70 cm
TAKASHI MURAKAMI
“Miss Ko2 – Uniform” 2004
Photograph, frame / Photographie, encadrement
37 x 27 1/2 Inches / 95 x 70 cm
TAKASHI MURAKAMI
“Miss Ko2 – Satoeri” 2004
Photograph, frame / Photographie, encadrement
37 x 27 1/2 Inches / 95 x 70 cm

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.”

– http://www.thevine.com.au/fashion/news/britney-spears-and-takashi-murakami-collaborate-for-pop-magazine/

Toxic Cuteness

Toxic Cuteness

At the Japan Society’s “Little Boy,” Hiroshima leads directly to Hello Kitty.

By Mark Stevens. Published May 21, 2005

http://nymag.com/nymetro/arts/art/reviews/11707/

On display are dozens of sappy-sweet toys, examples of anime and manga, and many depictions of monsters and adolescent cutie-pies. Works of art based upon this material are also on view, but no strong distinction is made between art and artifact. The key argument here is that, far from being just sugary kitsch, Japanese pop represents the strange, even psychotic response of a population traumatized by World War II, and then made impotent and infantilized by occupation. Fantasy can provide an escape from history. Art averts. Art anesthetizes.

Another example of how modern art and culture has been directly influenced by the bombings. The problem I am facing at the moment is that it’s easy to find Super Flat art but not so much photography, living in the UK means it’s hard to find access to japanese photographers work, other than online, After finishing reading this article my next mission will be to stray away from the artists and instead look at photographers who play part of this extreme escapism method in reaction to the actions of America.

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. Little Japanese boys (of all ages) love robots and space suits, and have a kinky obsession with girls who play peek-a-panty. Fashion and shopping provide bits of distracting and addictive glitter. Murakami calls this culture “superflat,” by which he means, in part, that the interior life of the nation has been ironed into an ahistorical and decorative field of games, melodrama, apocalypse, shopping, and cuteness. Everywhere in Japan, for example, you come upon that appallingly cute little figure called Hello Kitty. It has no mouth and no developed limbs—an image of powerlessness and, Murakami suggests, sublimated hysteria.

An interesting take on the meaning of Hello Kitty, I have heard before that she is emotionless therefore you can reflect your ideals and emotions onto her. I have never heard that she is “an image of powerlessness before” it’s a strange thing to suggest as she is one of the most powerful brands in the world. It might be interesting to research deeper into Hello Kitty’s origins, again she is not a photography area but all of this research is providing me context for my project. Giving me that knowledge it’s so important I have before I even start talking.

Also I want to find to superflat manifesto, get my around what it is and decide if it relates to photography or not.

The title “Little Boy” is brilliant: It conflates cuteness with the nickname of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

A major artist would have to reach in a powerful way into the sexual, emotional, and historical fear that gives rise to an impotent infantilism. But the show is utterly convincing in one important respect—this isn’t just Disney.

Unfortunately the references aren’t listed, so I can’t find out where Murakami said that Hello Kitty is “an image of powerlessness”.

Little Boy has also been made into a book, one in which I am seriously looking into finding.

Google Books offers us the synopsis

Yale University Press, 11 May 2005 – 312 pages
Little Boy examines the culture of postwar Japan through its arts and popular visual media. Focusing on the youth-driven phenomenon of otaku (roughly translated as “geek culture” or “pop cult fanaticism”), Takashi Murakami and a notable group of contributors explore the complex historical influences that shape Japanese contemporary art and its distinct graphic languages. The book’s title, Little Boy, is a reference to the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945, thus clearly locating the birth of these new cultural forms in the trauma and generational aftershock of the atomic bomb.

This generously illustrated book showcases the work of key otaku artists and designers, many of whom are cult celebrities in Japan, and discusses their feature film and video animations, video games and internet sites, music, toys, fashion, and more. In the process, the following questions are posed: What is otaku, and what does it tell us about contemporary social, economic, and cultural life in Japan and throughout the world? How is it related to the pervasive and curious fixation on “cuteness” evident in Japanese popular culture? What impact did the atomic devastation of World War II have on the development of Japanese art and culture?

This brilliantly designed, bilingual (English and Japanese) publication examines these themes to explore how contemporary Japanese art has become inseparable from the subcultural realms of manga and animé (Japanese animation)—a world where meticulous technique, apocalyptic imagery, and high and low cultures meet.

Little Boy concludes Murakami’s “Superflat” trilogy, a project conceived in 2000 to introduce a new wave of Japanese artists and to place their work in the historical context of traditional styles and concepts.

Although this book is priced at over £100 it is key I get my hands on in, a reviewer on amazon says that Murakami himself has written 2 essays within the book that focus on how Kawaii and Otaku are coping mechanisms with what has happened in the past, reverting Japans society to a child like state.
Another reviewer says…
Murakami’s latest curatorial effort has gained nearly universal acclaim amongst the art world. His “Little Boy” exhibition attempts to understand the origins of contemporary Japanese art’s affinity for both the horrifically violent and the frightfully cute (kawaii). Ultimately, Murakami argues that these images are spawned from the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined with postwar US domination. Violent imagery becomes a sign for a fascination with the kind of power that postwar Japan lacked. Kawaii imagery is then seen as stemming from Japan’s status as a protectorate of the US. This relationship was not unlike that of a parent and child (the child/adolecent becomes a prevalent theme in Japanese art from postwar era forward.)
– By Andrew C. Raymond
As it turns out we have this book in our library. Keep your eye out for another post on this tonight.