Trains: an introspection on art as discourse

Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Café Lumière begins with a title card stating it to be a tribute to the centennial of Yasujiro Ozu’s birth. Even without any contextual knowledge about the film’s production, this statement is enough for viewers familiar with the legendary Japanese filmmaker to start making connections. One is directed to read into the film an intertextual relationship to Ozu’s oeuvre; to notice its simplistic yet methodical cinematography, its understated and patient depiction of everyday life, its balancing act between narrative emptiness and briefly passing instances of dramatic conflict, as references to his celebrated “style.” One is furthermore encouraged to interpret the film – to extract its themes, message, meaning – accordingly. By initially informing the viewer of its condition as a tribute to Ozu, the film implicitly asks to be read as a certain type of text.

Read More »

Shintaro Kago at Gallery Nucleus

Since his 1988 debut in Comic Box magazine, Shintaro Kago has gradually gained a significant and unique position in the world of contemporary ero guro. With a distinct take on the genre that is equally as graphic as intriguing in its style, equally as extreme as inventive in its ideas, and equally as dark as clever in its humor, his works have caught appeal among the gore horror crowd and the art crowd alike. This makes him a curious exception in a genre that seldom reaches an audience outside niche underground circles due to its grotesque nature. Shintaro’s work is indeed, in contrast to many of his peers, never grotesque for its own sake; rather, this quality is used as a mere foundation for thoughtfully aesthetic and conceptual explorations. As a result, his images have come to be enjoyed as much by fans of guro as fans of the avant-garde, and have come to occupy both manga pages and gallery spaces.

This is furthermore the case both domestically and abroad. With his productions including a cover illustration and comic strips for Vice magazine between 2008 and 2010, as well as album art for Flying Lotus in 2014, his seat at an international stage is far from recent. It is therefore somewhat surprising that he hitherto hasn’t been exhibited in the US. This makes his upcoming solo exhibition at Gallery Nucleus all the more exciting. This event, which fittingly will take place physically and online during the halloween season, marks a great point not just for the continued international exposure of Shintaro’s incredible work, but also for his already existing international fanbase. For the very first time, his US fans will have the opportunity to experience his oeuvre in a gallery setting, ranging from his various illustrations to his album covers and even never before seen pieces. For his fans across the rest of the world, these works will also be available online through Nucleus’ website. Below is a preview of some of the artworks that will be shown.

The opening reception for the exhibition will take place at the gallery on October 30th, 5-8pm PST. All exhibited works can also be made available before this date through early online access. Hence, you can get an exclusive viewing of the artworks ahead of everyone else. To sign up for the early online access, and to see additional details about the exhibition, simply visit the following event page.

I am very happy to promote this exhibition, as I’ve been an avid fan of Shintaro Kago’s work for a long time. Whether you’re as big a fan as I am, or have never heard of him before but like what you see based on the artworks above, I highly encourage that you check out and support this event.

Together | Part 3: Carole & Tuesday

the space between us is who we are. A hot wind, a white sea, a film.

The very last word in The White Girl‘s closing monologue (see part 2) elicits contextualization. Context is indeed intensely relevant for this film; underneath its fictional story lies an homage to a very real place, a commentary on its contemporary situation, and an act of giving a voice to its people. The final word is thus a metatextual punctuation to a consciously political film that addresses issues specifically related to Hong Kong. It indicates that the film itself is as much a bridge as the ones depicted in it – one that mediates a dialogue between place, characters, filmmakers and audience.

Read More »

Together | Part 2: The White Girl

The scene between the SDF terrorist and Nono near the end of Planetes (see part 1) presents a clash between a postcolonial contra postmodern perspective on national subjectivity. As explained by Piotr Piotrowski, the postcolonialist centralizes the oppressed national subject as a means of resistance against the oppressor, thus leaning toward an essentialist conception of nationhood and subjectivity. The postmodernist on the other hand sees no essential qualities in the nation, thus decentralizing the subject. Piotrowski argues that a balance is necessary between these opposing perspectives when tackling the power structure of center and periphery. At a macro scale, the postcolonial perspective is useful in order to defend the national subject in its peripheral position – but this must be complemented with the postmodern perspective at a micro scale, otherwise local groups and individuals are generalized and essentialized under the national domain (Piotrowski, 2012: 37).

Read More »

Together | Part 1: Planetes

Minor spoilers for Planetes (2003)

Young man, you try too hard to put everything into clear-cut categories

said the old sailor to Yuri. A non-answer to his many questions about the Self and the Other, good and evil, space and the Earth. Yuri reminisces about his self-searching journey as a young man after the accidental destruction of a memorial item from a great loss of his. He concludes from his reminiscence that the boundary between the Earth and space does not exist – that Earth already is a part of space. With this conclusion, he lets go of his grief. Nothing lasts, but nothing is lost. The scene rounds off episode 13, thus marking the midpoint of the series while also summarizing its thematic core.

Read More »

The work of art in the age of memetic simulacra

Walter Benjamin’s classic essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” somehow never ceases to be relevant. Despite being very much a reflection of its time – of anxieties surrounding industrialization and the advent of new media technologies – it time and again pops up as a point of reference in discussions on the extinction of originality. As Benjamin famously argues, the mechanical reproducibility of an artwork results in a loss of the “aura” that makes it unique and thus authentic (220-224). While he notes that art always has been reproducible, what mechanical/technical reproduction brings to the table is a diminishment of the “authority of the object.” (221) The value of originality as such disappears when art is born into the mode of reproduction from the get-go: “the work of art reproduced becomes the work of art designed for reproducibility.” (224)

Read More »

Sarah Sze’s image-objects

I’m really interested in this kind of pendulum swing; this kind of desire to be able to feel and touch and smell materials – and then the other end of the pendulum being the reality that we have a distance from materials and we have so much time with images.

Sarah Sze, “How We See the World”, art21

Where is the line between image and object? When does something become a visual representation of intangible virtuality, and when does it become tangible materiality? There exists a very interesting dialogue yet tension between the images that we consume and the objects through which we consume them – not least in today’s digital age. Take a regular cellphone for example. Looking at the screen of the phone, one’s eyes may be directed at the displayer, but what one looks at is the content that is being displayed. As one is immersed into the represented content, the material form is ignored. Yet in order to reach the former at all, the latter is necessary. One typically must grab and hold the phone in one’s hand, and then touch the displayer in order to get to and navigate through the content. Moreover, the phone contains a myriad of materials such as cards and circuits, without which its image-displaying function would be impossible. Image is vitally dependent on object – yet their phenomenological dimensions are kept separate.

Read More »