Thursday, June 29, 2017

March in Tokyo: Roppongi Art Walks Expanded and the Benefits of Working Downtown

While I was still working I was all over the best-known parts of town and enjoying that as much as possible, so here you go, another monthly round-up post in addition to all the weekend ones!

This used to be my office view 3 - 4 times a week

And this was supposed to more more "derp" than "duck" but I'm not sorry

And this was my favourite office on the massive expansive main floor 
occupied by the Swiss pharma company, no big deeeeeal

And here's me totally loving my private sessions with their marketing manager, 
who I was warned was very shy and difficult to talk to but who ended up being 
hilarious and full-on my friend.

Here's an example of what I was doing all that time - 
in this case, explaining how to use relative clauses

Another selfie

A THIRD SELFIE but this time with Women Who Run With the Wolves
this excellent (but long-winded) feminist classic Ale sent me for Christmas.

I also worked there at night, though my camera can't really handle nighttime pics.

One of the many very worthwhile and very free-of-charge galleries clustered in the shadow of the Mori Tower in Roppongi Hills is the Ota Fine Arts location in the Piramide building, so named because of the three distinct (and I think very 90's, but then, that's kind of a given when we're talking about Tokyo) pyramidal structures on the open courtyard-style roof, which you realise are themselves roofs atop little gallery and work spaces that kind of look like tiny houses.
I don't know enough Japanese to appreciate Yutaka Matsuzawa adequately, but what he does is text- and plan-based, conceptual, and minimal, largely based in real and fictionalised social commentary.

He died in 2006.

I found this weirdly tragic one-armed Elvis statue stashed in a corner while looking for a vegan-friendly Tex-Mex restaurant that I only later found out was only open at night called The Pink Cow. 

And these timeless Engrish classics were spotted at a high-end supermarket on the road 
leading from the main intersection in Roppongi toward Roppongi Itchome.

But I do not like the nettle lol who the fuck wrote these. I don't even know if they mean, like "the landed gentry/ the aristocracy" or if they've just gone and fucked themselves on the letter 'L' again.

You need to turn in the alley going steeply uphill where you see this distinctive electrical box 
if you want to go to the gallery there in Roppongi Itchome I'm going to tell you about next.

And since it was March when I went, it was still peppermint camellia season. I do love the wide variety of large, vibrant flowers here in Japan; these ones were nearly the size of my face.

So this uphill one is Gallery Side 2, and after my shift at Midtown I went to see an exhibition called "How We Choose Hearts" by Shizuka Mitsui. The interesting thing about this mixed media she's doing is how contrasting it is. Everything is pattern- and fabric-based, yes, but using something heavy like burlap to convey that creates an interesting juxtaposition to her delicate florals and very feminine figures. /artsnob

This is only about half of a wall-sized piece but I love the way she did those papers.

And, I mean, one should always consider the lobster.

The owner of this gallery is one of the only ones who's actually spoken to me. I've been to dozens of art galleries all over and around Tokyo, but just like with everything else here, everyone is very closed-off, stiff, and sequestered in their little respective scenes. It's true that I'm not competent enough at Japanese to discuss things like why juxtapositions create interest, but I can definitely have a basic conversation, ask relevant questions, and get my points and feelings across. The problem is that people are just not friendly or used to seeing foreigners, much less speaking to them.
Junko, though, is just lovely, very open and friendly, and an English speaker. She's chock full of information about not only the contemporary Japanese art scene but East Asia in general. Gallery Side 2 is a really cool, minimalistic, open, unfinished concrete box of a space, but she told me she'd be moving over the summer and almost certainly has by now. But if anyone's reading this then there's a good chance you'd be interested enough to find her, and hopefully able, now that you know her first name and what her former gallery was called. She makes good use of Tokyo Art Beat as well.

This kind of scenery tends to be lurking just behind the facade of kitschy neon lights, 
brand-name bags and ever-present cigarette smoke haze

Now here's a weird stop on the Roppongi free gallery circuit: The Fukasaku Eye Institute. (what)
Yeah I know right. It's directly across from Midtown and these paitings are, I think, by Dr. Fukasaku himself, but directly to the right of the door there's also something that looks like a closet. Inside the tiny closet room and down the world's narrowest staircase into a second basement closet are areas for small exhibitions. Fucking Tokyo, man, Ikea room designing life into each and every nook, cranny, and crevice.

Also right at Midtown, directly across the street from the Eye Institute, is Fujifilm Square.
It's a large, freestanding building with two large sections of it devoted to photography galleries that you can just pop in and have a look at. 

I took multiple photos of this exhibition (working right there I of course went to a few) mostly because I was surprised by how mediocre it was. There were -huge- conspicuous ads for it all over Midtown and in the subway for a number of weeks, and most of these only stay up for one or two. I couldn't understand why. I know the Japanese are obsessed with cats, but come on.

The adjacent gallery, though, was full of bright, high-res images of the Japanese countryside, 
and that I enjoyed very much.

Inside Midtown Tower itself is the Tokyo Midtown Design Hub, an active workspace and exhibition hall open to the public. Because I'm a giant weirdo nerd and am really into packaging design, I went to the "Tokyo Design Ten". "Ten" here is a triple or quadruple entendre: it was the tenth anniversary of the place itself, everything was within ten perspectives or themes related to the future of Tokyo, and 展 (also read "ten") means "exhibition". The possible fourth point is, well, "point", or 点, in reference to those ten aforementioned points or themes. I love stuff like this because I'm also a language nerd. It sucked me in, man. Sucked me right in.

All of this particular packaging, though, was for unique products from the northern Tohoku region of Japan. They arranged them by which ones were chosen as winners first, followed my various rounds of runners-up and honourable mentions. Many squid. Very squid. Such squid. So squid. Wow.

(-whispers- See? Much squid)

And from the same building and same between-shift wanderings I bring you Dessert I Couldn't 
Resist Even Though I'm Not Supposed to Have Wheat #1: pineapple flavoured young doughnuts. 
"Young doughnuts". Because they're small like babies. Oh my god.

Dessert I Couldn't Resist Even Though I'm Not Supposed to Have Wheat #2:
tiny fancy cup parfait from 7-11 with matcha, strawberry, and an itty-bitty slice of cheesecake on top. To be fair though, this one had very, very little actual cake in it and was mostly mousse >_>

Now onto a casual walk in Nogizaka, down the street from Midtown.
It's always really lovely to find spots and shrines and parks in central Tokyo that look like magical ancient forests. And that hot pink camellia was just sitting there like that, I didn't place it.