4649ing

Well, I’m feeling like a proper 4649 veteran now, but it’s actually only 3 weeks today that I was first invited to join Kissa Hanare‘s project!

Taking part has raised all sorts of interesting questions: not least about my own lack of political awareness of what’s going on in my own country. I haven’t got anywhere close to answering those, but in the meantime I wanted to note down a few thoughts about my photographic contribution.

going for the chat jugular

In the introductory post I challenged you, dear reader, to take some images of the 4649 stickers that would stimulate a chat. Having already challenged myself to do likewise I had previously gone into Birmingham’s city centre and headed straight for two obviously very charged locations: the Hall of Memory and the Peace Gardens.

Yikes! Red poppies everywhere! Giant red poppies. hmmmm, not sure what I feel about that, think it’s possibly crossed a line somewhere…. (Oh, and by the way, Happy Christmas Birmingham)

Happy Christmas Birmingham

Heading off somewhere equally disturbing in the opposite direction, I also suddenly became aware of how noble and, well, perfect the statues around the Hall of Memory are.

sculpted

What exactly are we saying here?

… and how do I want to use the stickers to respond to it?

After a fairly predictable set of images involving statues and red telephone boxes I headed off down past the Mailbox towards the Peace Gardens – a distant memory from first-uni days and the number 44 bus up from the Vale.

public notice

This is when I started getting a bit more creative and started incorporating parts of existing signage into my images. Sod possible language barriers, this was much more interesting. I also loved the ambiguity that came from me not actually knowing what the text on the stickers says, or in what tone it says it.

What happens to 九条死守夜露四苦 when you put it next to a sign that says “For how long?”?

Anyway, I felt using the stickers to react to more subtle details in the city landscape was a lot more interesting.

Article 9999-999

round-up

I probably spent about an hour and a half taking photos and have whittled the results down to 39 which I’ve uploaded to a Flicker set.

Which ones are most successful and why? (How do you judge success for something like this?)

meanranch, while at the back…

down the pub

I just want to say a big thankyou to everyone who responded to the mailout and have requested stickers either from myself or directly from Hanare.

There’s not much time left before the Monday-night event, but you can still print off a few if you’d like to contribute.

Of the original batch of stickers Hanare gave me I’ve given away 11 to people who wanted to join in and I’m now left with just one. Where should I put it? Should I go for a good photo, should I stick it somewhere it’ll get left up for a while, or should I seek out somewhere where it’s likely to be seen by people who can read the text?

Kissa Hanare and the 4649 project

Every Monday (but not holidays, they don’t like to work on holidays!) Naho, Yufuko and Sakiko transform a Kyōto living-room into Kissa Hanare – something I like to think of as Café Independence (…but I’m now told the detached-ness I was inferring from dictionary searches is just an architectural reference). Not only does Hanare provide a menu of, where possible, locally-sourced, organic food, but they also work hard to create an atmosphere in which they and their guests can freely address a range of pertinent social and political issues.

In my limited experience, I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of Japanese culture, but I have a small sense of how difficult it must be to create this type of space. (Hell, I can’t even really imagine it happening here!) What’s more, judging by the blog, I believe they’ve managed to make it sustainable to the extent that the project’s been running for at least 18 months now. Impressive!

Regular café nights are interspersed with lectures, workshops and larger projects.

4649 and Article 9

4649 (representing “yoroshiku” – a Japanese term I’m not even going to begin to try and translate, let alone the significance here) is Hanare’s latest project and they’d like to ask you for your support.

Since 1947, Japan has had a pacifist constitution arising from Article 9.

Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.

In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized. wikipedia

Its exact origin is disputed, as has been its interpretation by successive governments. As you can imagine, there has recently been increasing talk from various Japanese politicians of revising this article.

I’m not going to start passing judgement here based on a few articles I found on the internet, however what I do feel strongly about is that there should be a space for Article 9 and the potential consequences of amending it to be highlighted and discussed freely amongst people who are not politicians.

I’ve exchanged emails a few times with Sakiko recently. Here’s how she introduced me to the 4649 project (slightly edited, my emphasis):

…we are planning to have a t-shirt silk-screening party on November 12th, in which we will print images of a Japanese gangster with the statement written also in the gangster style font that opposes amendment of the Article 9 of the Japanese constitution, which prohibits Japan from possessing any military force and use it to solve international conflicts.

Additional Information about Article 9

Article 9 is, in a way, an apology for neighbouring countries for what Japan did before and during WWII, as well as a promise that we will never become a militaristic country. The Japanese government has been attempting to transform the beautiful part of this constitution for a long time, yet have met huge opposition from Japanese people. Since Koizumi, though, the danger of the article being amended has been greater than ever, and we want to do something about it.

Here is what we are planning to do for the party. Prior to the party, we will print tons of stickers with the same image and send to those of you living abroad and outside of Kyoto. And I want you to put the stickers out on the street and take pictures of them and send to us, which we will project as a slideshow at the party and upload to a Flicker site. People attending the event are able to see the image in other parts of the world, and hopefully feel that we are not alone. Showing the photos is really critical because based on my experiences in Japan, we are so isolated from the rest of the world, physically, and mentally.

By showing the pictures, I want people to have a sense that what we are fighting matters, and is supported by people abroad, NY, SF, BCN, Pula, London, etc. plus, Japanese people living abroad might see the image too!

Here is an idea behind the image. In contrast to the States and Europe where there is a very sophisticated visual resistance culture, Japan lacks it so badly that young people here have a hard time getting involved with political activity. By taking the aesthetic of Japan’s gangster culture and twisting its violent and rather nationalistic representation, and saying goodbye to the conventional peace movement images like the dove, we are hoping to encourage Japanese young people that there are many creative ways to express their opinions.

Sakiko

Here is the image she’s talking about:

4649

A challenge to you

There’s a nice quote I came across whilst Googling stuff earlier:

To reach consensus in democracy, it is necessary to guarantee a free space where even the oppressed can express their opinion without concern for logical consistency and truth. The fact that chats have been neglected as the fundamental element of democracy shows that past democracy has been only for the few who could speak logically and consistently.Polylog

It doesn’t bear close scrutiny, but there’s a few nuggets in there that resonate strongly with how I perceive Hanare. My challenge to you is to use that graphic above to make an image that stimulates a chat at Hanare (or beyond).

Remember the aims are a) to have the sticker on the street and preferably somewhere that is obviously not Japan and/or b) to demonstrate the potential of creative techniques to express an opinion.

You could be provocative:

click for provocation

You could be subtle:

click for subtlety

You could be surreal:

click for surrealism

You could be terribly, terribly British (or whatever):

click for red phoneboxes

Useful bits of information

  • The event at Hanare is on Monday the 12th of November, so that’s the deadline to aim for.
  • To get some stickers you can contact Hanare at kissahanare[AT]yahoo.co.jp, they’ll take about a week to arrive.
  • To get some stickers you can contact me, I’ve got a handful spare.
  • To bypass the stickers and get started right away you can print the image from this file.
  • Email your photos to Hanare to add to their Flickr page. (Don’t forget to tell them where the photos were taken.)
  • Follow what’s going on on the Kissa Hanare blog

Can’t be bothered?

Here are some suggestions for some low-energy ways of showing some support for Hanare:

  • Forward this post’s link to people you know and spread the word.
  • If you have a Flickr account, add 4649 Project as a contact.
  • Subscribe to the Kissa Hanare blog feed: http://cafekyoto.exblog.jp/atom.xml

I’m sure you can think of others – be creative!

update: I wrote a little about the photos I took in this later post.

renga roundup

Wow. Has it really been 7 months since I first agreed to go and sit under a tent in a housing estate and write poetry with strangers?

Yesterday we gathered in Keith’s house and penned the final batch of the 100 Verses for 3 Estates (Alec Finlay, Gavin Wade and Paul Connolly Paul Conneally Little Onion).

You already *know* there was a good bunch of people there and the atmosphere was great, but the food was delicious and deserves a special mention – thanks guys!

Does it sound like we didn’t work very hard?
There was some serious thinking going on too…

Volume 13

Volume 13 started off with sculptor Atsuo Okamoto: he agreed to fill in a page of the sketchbook and pass it on to another artist; I agreed to keep a small section of the artwork “Volume of Lives” with me until I die. Anything’s fair game in the world of artistic collaborations!

Atsuo Okamoto

Volume 5

Orie Inoue: Is she a fashion designer? Is she an animator? Is she an illustrator?

You decide… (but probably it’s all of the above and more!)

Orie Inoue

Volume 1

Ami Ko

Battling a department that produces endless human figures, Ami now also has to work out how best to deal with an almost empty sketchbook…

Volume 11

Currently sending postcards to herself and contemplating a project involving invisible things, Eri was last seen planning how to use a smell as her contribution to the sketchbook.

Eri Sasaki

Volume 15

On a sunny but cold Sunday, we travelled to Moriya to find out more about the Arcus project.

Arcus building

We had a look around the buildings and then a chat with the programme director. After that we met artist in residence Goh Ideta who was kind enough to spend time showing us his portfolio and talking about his works.

Goh Ideta

His profile on the Arcus website sums his work up pretty succinctly

Works with experimental devices that utilizes light, shadow, and space to understand “perception,”“sensation,” and “existence.”

or you can check out his website here, but I get the feeling these are works you have to spend time inside to really do them any justice.

volume 15

Volume 19

Googling for “artist led projects, tokyo” eventually led me to Kandada. Their website is in Japanese (of course!), but armed with their English language map and this blog entry giving an interesting snippet of background information, I went to have a look.

First up, I really liked the show they had on (Hong-Goo Kang ‘s Road to Eouido), but then I’m probably a bit partial to journey projects at the moment…

Secondly, completely getting into the spirit of passing the sketchbooks on to other artists (!), the director volunteered staff member Ueno Masao to participate on Kandada’s behalf.

Ueno Masao

Welcome aboard Masao!

kandada

Volume 21

Volume 21 gets posted to Kyushu where the first page might have something to do with clay, something to do with computers or something to do with something completely different…

the Nakagawa parcel



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