Archillect: the internet curator

One of the main challenges for an art curator is giving works of art an as unbiased presentation as possible. Total neutrality and objectivity can never be achieved; one always has to select some artworks over others for a collection, and these selections will inevitably be motivated by categorization based on chronology, theme, individual artist, culture, gender, race, or some other factor. Hence, whether explicitly or implicitly, intentionally or unintentionally, a collection always tells a narrative. And as with all forms of narrative, it runs the risk of framing its content in a lackluster or even problematic way. One only needs to look at the controversial 1984 MoMA exhibition “‘Primitivism’ in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern” for an illustrative example. As “tribal” objects were presented side by side with the works of modernists such as Picasso and the like, the narrative was of an “affinity” between the two that romantically suggested human artistic qualities transcendent beyond cultural boundaries. However, with cherrypicking and skewed juxtaposition, the exhibition only echoed the colonialist tendency of appropriating non-Western objects onto a Western grand narrative that is framed as universal (Clifford, 1988: 192-196).

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12DoA18 | Day 12: Midori-ko

Keita Kurosaka is quite an idiosyncratic figure in independent animation. With an educational background in painting, he has since the early 1980s produced animated images of striking evocation through gracious craftsmanship (Hotes, 2011). While he has explored a number of forms throughout his works – such as his early formalist experimentations titled Metamorphose Works, or his stop motion explorations in stuff like Worm Story and Personal City – he is probably most recognized for his grotesque yet painterly style of hand-drawn animation. And if there is one of his works where this style truly flourishes with grandeur, it is his 2010 55-minute* magnum opus Midori-ko. This film was a real passion project of Kurosaka’s. Parallel to working as a professor at Musashino Art University and producing a few shorts here and there, he spent ten years and over 20,000 images, all hand-drawn in colored pencil, on this tour de force of animation (Mistral Japan; USC Cinematic Arts).

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12DoA18 | Day 11: Fantascope: Tylostoma

Yoshitaka Amano certainly needs no thorough introduction. With his extensive work on major franchises like Final Fantasy and Vampire Hunter D, among countless other things, he is a legendary visual artist to say the least. But the perhaps less known parts of his long and rich career are the various original projects that he has done over the years. One of these is Fantascope: Tylostoma, a 2006 OVA produced by Toei Animation as part of their Ga-nime project, which was a collaboration with the publishing company Gentosha that featured film works done primarily through still images of various kinds (Press Release, Toei Animation). Amano’s contribution to this collection is an apocalyptic dark fantasy tale told through over 200 ink illustrations, directed by the longtime commercial director Kimura Kusaichi, and featuring the voices of Tetta Sugimoto, Takashi Ukaji, Yumi Aso and Shingo Kuwabara (Ga-nime, Toei Animation).

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12DoA18 | Day 10: Glassy Ocean

Shigeru Tamura is a visual artist whose career spans several decades and a variety of mediums. Although he is primarily known in Japan as the author of many picture books (Books from Japan). Some of these books were during the late 1980s and 1990s adapted into anime, including Glassy Ocean (Sevakis, 2009). This is a wonderful little film, whose origination from a children’s book certainly comes through in its imaginative playfulness. At the same time, it has a strong iyashikei-tone to it, depicting the exotically fantastical with idyllic gentleness through its relaxed pacing, simplistic design, pleasing color palette and delightful score by Hiroshi Ogasawara. Its iyashikei quality furthermore includes its narrative and thematic content as well.

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12DoA18 | Day 9: A Feather Stare at the Dark

Naoyuki Tsuji graduated in sculpture from Tokyo Zokei University in 1995. After experimenting with stop-motion during his student years he turned to charcoal animation, producing a series of independent 16mm short films throughout the late 1990s and 2000s (Roquet, 2014: 63). These films are about as stripped down and primal as it gets – consisting of rough and minimal drawings on paper, and accompanied by improvised bass solos by his partner Makiko Takanashi (Roquet, 2014: 68) – while also extremely evocative with their strikingly surreal imagery. Especially in Tsuji’s first major charcoal animation, A Feather Stare at the Dark, this contrast between form and content enters an eerie borderland between intimacy and sublimity.

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12DoA18 | Day 8: La Maison en Petits Cubes

Kunio Kato graduated in Graphic Design at Tama Art University in 2001 (Kunio Kato Website). The same year he released the short film The Apple Incident, a surreal story about a town that experiences a rain of giant apples. The kooky yet somewhat moody surrealism showcased by this debut he came to polish with his 2003 miniseries The Diary of Tortov Roddle, about a man’s journey through a Dalí-esque world. His third work La Maison en Petits Cubes from 2008 certainly shares the same surrealist vibes, but they are a lot more stripped down and wrapped around a more simplistic story. Yet the film is all the more emotionally resonant because of it. Upon its release it was a real film festival darling, receiving several prestigious awards including an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film (Short Film Central, 2010).

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12DoA18 | Day 7: Nakedyouth

Kojiro Shishido has been called “the Makoto Shinkai of awkward teenage experiences, brutal realities, and sexual introspection.” (tehnominator, 2009) His short films are delicate explorations of youth and sexuality, elegantly blending CG with hand-drawn animation to depict abstract emotions of sensuality, vulnerability and confusion. His first film, Sweet Sweet Virgin, is undoubtedly his most narratively and thematically explicit, portraying a rectangle drama of a group of teenagers’ sexual ventures, discoveries and confrontations. His subsequent film sound / phantasma / mirror instead turns away from a concrete plot thread and intellectual signification, for purely a tonal montage of naturalistic imagery themed around light and reflection.

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