Ujino Muneteru performance

The Japanese artist Ujino Muneteru performing at the opening night of the Beautiful New World exhibition at Long March Space, Beijing.

His accumulation of practical, everyday-life objects all are representatives of the tangible in our life. However, he experiments with the double-dimensions of those materials by creating also an intangible effect, namely sounds.

Crafting Beauty in Modern Japan at The British Museum, London

The Great Court at the British Museum After savouring the delights of the Terracotta Warriors in the Reading Room at The British Museum I saw that there was a smaller show of craft-work from Japan upstairs.

The show, “Crafting Beauty in Modern Japan,” concentrates on the productions of Japan’s craft artists, many of whom have been designated ‘Living National Treasures’ in recognition of their skills. I love the idea of this accolade, the place that Japanese society apparently gives to the activities the result of which were on display in this exhibition. The small brochure talks about ‘tangible’ and ‘intangible cultural properties’: ‘tangible’ being “historic architecture, sculpture, painting and calligraphy, and craft objects as well as significant sites, scenic places, and particular plants and animals.” ‘Intangible’ includes “performing skills in traditional theatre and music, and craft techniques.” Those quotes from the brochure are not really adequate to explain the differing concepts involved, but there seems to be a distinction between the object and the activity here. I believe UNESCO has a similar designation now, which perhaps stemmed from the Japanese system.

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The show has some gorgeous pieces. What comes across very strongly in the presentation is the attention to detail and evident, intense craft involved in the works. This gives the show an almost reverential feeling in its presentation of the various pieces. The value accorded to the pieces is not unique to this show, of course that is the function and result of placing anything in a museum, it will inevitably gain that ‘aura’ from being isolated for our attention. But this particular show taps into an existing tradition and appreciation of craft which massively adds to this aura.

At the same time these appreciations are not the same. Within a museum, the object loses it’s everyday use value, whereas I get the feeling that while the Japanese craftspeople value perfection and quality, in some ways a piece must be used to be completed. I’m generalising here, and working from limited knowledge, but this is the feeling I get from the show.

So, another wonderful show at The British Museum. As my fiancée keeps telling me, we are very privileged in London to have so many cultural institution on our doorstep.

Shi in China

I realise that I’ve been very bad and haven’t written about my fiancée and what she’s been up to recently.

Shi left for China on the 2 May to join the curator Li Zhenhua as his assistant. She’d first worked with him a few years ago on ‘Out The Window-Space of Distraction‘ show he curated in Japan. Shi’s ability to speak Chinese, Japanese and English was obviously a great help to her in this. She’s now in Beijing helping with a new show he’s developing.

From what I’ve heard the show is going to be huge. It’s split across three sites in the city (maybe more) and features a large number of contemporary artists and musicians from Japan. As soon as Shi arrived in Beijing she was whisked off to begin work and she’s not really stopped since, bless her.

But her work on this show is only one side of Shi’s activities in China – she’s also developing her own professional practice. The first fruits of this is an article she’s been asked to write for an American journal. I’ve had a look at her draughts for the piece and it’s looking good. It’s in the peer review process at the moment, so fingers crossed it’ll go through without too many problems.

All in all, I’m really proud of my baby. She’s doing really well, managing the workload and creating new opportunities for herself at the same time.

And I’m also really happy because I’m going out to China on Tuesday to see her for the first time since she left. I’ll be there for three weeks during which time I’ll do some sightseeing and take a look at the art scene over there. I’ll try and post while I’m in Beijing, but I’ll only have access to Shi’s laptop and she’ll be needing it to work on and that takes priority, so my time may be limited. In any case, when I return to London at the end of June I’ll be able to upload the photos I take and do some reporting at my leisure.