DIY Osaka part 3: interview with Kazuma Sasajima, Nice Shop Su

Introduction

In the final interview for this series of posts about the DIY scene in Osaka, Japan, I spoke to Kazuma Sasajima who runs an “independent culture shop” called Nice Shop Su from his tiny apartment in the attic of an old residential building not far from Umeda (one of the major commercial districts of Osaka). Nice Shop Su was established by Kazuma and his partner Kaori Nakao in 2013, and sells many different types of artist-produced bits and bobs. One thing that interested me about Nice Shop Su was that Kazuma deliberately chose to locate it in an area without a strong art community. This approach provides a contrast with the development of the community of artists in Baika, which was discussed in the first two interviews in this series (with Go Tsushima and Kaori Yoshikawa). For this interview Kazuma and I were joined by Kazuma’s friend, the graphic designer Daisuke Minami, and the artist Makiko Yamamoto, who acted as guide and translator for my visit and to whom I am hugely grateful.

Previous interviews in this series:

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ArtSlant: Nooks and Crannies

Review of The Pavilion opening

Vitamin Creative Space, 2503-B- Building 2, Northern District, Pingod Community, No.32 Baiziwan Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing 100022, China

November 20, 2010 — ongoing

The end of November marked the inception of Vitamin Creative Space’s “The Pavilion” – their third space in China, and second in Beijing – and allowed for a revisiting of their presentation methods in their various spaces. So, what is this “Pavilion” and what purpose does it serve? And how does it relate to their previous space, “the shop”? Coming to grips with Vitamin’s selection of spaces reveals a taste for poetic license in their consistently ambiguous commercial spaces.

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quick! get that brand an art-historian!

Quoted by Beijing fashion blog STYLITES:

“According to Lacoste, the above green polo and several other items in the collection take ‘inspiration from optical art, recalling the work of Victor Vaserely or Daniel Buren with the coriander green ultra slim-fit polo with white striped concentric boxes radiating out around the crocodile logo or the navy blue crew-neck sweater with zig-zag white stripes. It’s New Wave, mathematical and very optical.'”

Daniel Buren as “optical art”? Genius. And they misspelt Vasarely.

Camila Sposati’s booklet

I received this rather nice little booklet the other day from my friend, the Brazilian artist Camila Sposati. The publication follows her residency at Loughborough University in England in 2009, where she worked with their Chemistry department on developing her work with crystal growth processes and entropy. I’m looking for opportunities to bring her to China, so if anyone knows people in university science departments please contact me!

Camila Sposati booklet

Cover

Camila Sposati booklet

Inside pages

Camila Sposati booklet

Insert

Camila Sposati’s website

Small Innovations: Chen Xinpeng interview

I first came across Chen Xinpeng in 2009 as the initiator of the golden tent structure which appeared around Beijing that year. The tent provided a temporary haven for the show Cou Huo (co-organised with Red Box Studios) which was in itself a commentary on a “make-do” aspect of Chinese society. For me the tent embodied Xinpeng taking advantage of his relation to art practice to use temporary approaches to presentation, working to get away from art-institutional practices while also providing new formats for broader activities, including business or event presentations.

Tent by Chen Xinpeng

Edward Sanderson: Where did you study originally?

Chen Xinpeng: I graduated from Luxun Academy of Art1 in 1994. Then I moved to the States where I stayed for 10 years, and moved back to China about 5 years ago.

While I was in New York, I was working my ass off and I didn’t have time to do the things I liked to do, so I came back. I think here I have better opportunities.

When I moved back here I saw everything was so temporary. All the building here – they build the buildings, then they tear down the buildings which they just built a few year ago. In the same way, I wanted to do something really temporary, so I made the Tent – you can blow it up and deflate it real quick and as it’s inflatable you can move it around easily – that’s pretty much the idea.

Actually I had made the plan for this a long time ago: I wanted to do a very temporary, easy to move, and very short-term exhibition. And not particularly for fine art, maybe as some other kind of venue. I really like the idea of people re-using my tent to do something else. They see the tent, and they are like “Oh that’s great! I can have a wedding in there!” – or they can do whatever they want, or they can make a tent themselves, or they can come and borrow it from me.

I’m also quite interested in different kinds of audience, not audiences specific to art districts. I’m quite interested in different locations, different people. How they take to different kind of shows. For me it’s a pretty fun approach.

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I want to be Haibo (for an hour)…

Haibo characterIn Shanghai Expo news: their recruitment portal have started advertising for people to be “Mascot Handlers” i.e. you get to dress up in the blue suit as Haibo.

Tempting, and in theory kind of a dream job, perhaps. But you know it’ll be hell on earth in that suit in Shanghai in the Summer.

(and just in case the post is snapped up before you get to it, here’s a link to the job description)

“…a distinctly Chinese pattern of thought”?

Module systems do not occur in China alone; comparable phenomena exist in other cultures. However, the Chinese started working with module systems early in their history and developed them to a remarkably advanced level. They used modules in their language, literature, philosophy, and social organizations, as well as in their arts. Indeed, the devising of module systems seems to conform to a distinctly Chinese pattern of thought.1

While I was in the UK I took the opportunity to pick up some new books, one of which is
Ten Thousand Things, by Lothar Ledderose
. I hope to gain some insight into the art from this part of the world from this book, but the statement above troubles me. This setting up of “the Chinese” immediately enforces the relation of “otherness” between the author and the subject. Any utterance is liable to create this relationship, between author and subject, between knowledge and practice, between “now” and “then,” but it seems to me that in this case this relation is not a helpful one.

This book covers a spans thousands of years, a span which is itself intimately linked to Western history:

In roughly chronological sequence, the chapters cover a wide time span. The first case study deals with ritual bronze vessels of antiquity, particularly of the twelfth century B.C. Chapters 6 and 8, respectively, concern and encycolopedia of over one hundred million characters printed with movable type, and a series of bamboo paintings, both dating to the eighteenth century A.D.2

So who are these “Chinese” that the author sets up (or co-opts), that have maintained unique characteristics, deserving of a single name, over thousands of years? That’s many dynasties’ worth of people, with many groups coming and going in the history of the country, a country which has itself been geographically fluid.

Much of this relationship perhaps can be put down to the writer’s understanding of what is pragmatic in the face of his position: he reveals with these positioning statements that he writes for a Western audience.

I don’t deny that this categorisation can be useful and helpful, but what can we do when it becomes problematic? Is it a matter of explicitly positioning all our statements within their context (a potentially infinite task)? There can no absolute form to follow for this, no answer.

I’m perhaps making a small, pedantic point here, about a feature of the text that I have unnecessarily latched onto right at the start of reading this book. I know I will learn much about the objects it describes, I am just wary of how it will present the “whos” and the “whats” involved.

  1. Ledderose, Lothar (2000). Introduction. In: Ten Thousand Things: module and mass production in Chinese art (The A.W. Mellon lectures in the fine arts, 1998). Princeton: Princeton University Press. p.2.
  2. ibid., p.1.