After some serious Googling for artist-led projects in and around Tokyo, I ended up following a link to the Yaribi gallery. As is often the case in these situations, I’m following a link from an English-language site to a Japanese one, so I tend to get most of my information from the link rather than the site itself. In this case:

Yaribi is a little wooden hut constructed illegally on the roof of the painting department of Tama University by a number of students. They organise exhibitions in it. …The structure will stay on the roof for a while, and has the support of a number of professors. I suggested they perhaps involve curating and critical studies students as well as artists, to try create a broader public platform. Anyway, it is wonderful to see such initiatives in the normally rather quiet and reserved spaces of art schools.

All the universities here are just closing down for their Summer vacation so I thought I’d missed an opportunity to visit Yaribi, but fortunately they had two Open Campus days just at the time when I was staying at a friend’s house close by.

tamabi view

The campus is on a hillside on what I assume is the edge of Hashimoto. The buildings are that Eastern Asian concrete type of institutional architecture that I somehow simultaneously find quite uplifting but also incredibly bland. Hmmm.

painting east

Anyway, I finally tracked down the East painting building and the Yaribi rooftop.

Thanks to the language barrier again, I’m really not in a position to be able to say much about either the show or the organisational set-up but as far as I can make out there was previously a more ramshackle construction on the site that was made more solid in the early months of this year.

Thanks to some sheets of hardboard, some scaffolding, a website and a few judiciously placed tarpaulins, Yaribi seemed to me to be a really viable exhibition space. There are quite a large number of staff (a mix of current and graduated students?) and, judging from their website, a busy programme.

I’m really excited that something like this is happening, although I’m not really sure how autonomous it is and it’s still very much within the ‘safe zone’ of an art university (and probably within the students’ own department at that). I’d love to see more of this Outside, both in Japan and in Brum.

Could the use of scaffolding lend itself to a modular approach and a space that could be quite mobile? …or is it the semblance of something permanent that gives this project its strength?









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!


Volume 9

Surrounded by artists’ books of all shapes, sizes and types, Pepper’s Project not only agreed to take part in the project, but also completed their page there and then!

Pepper's collage team


ready for the next person!

Ono Garou

As a follow-up to the contemporary art galleries in the industrial unit, yesterday Ami took me to several art galleries in Ginza.

ono garou

ono garou

My favourite was Ono Garou. One of the artists told us this is the oldest building in Ginza – an area associated with expensive shopping – and I can well believe it.

ono garou hallway

Formerly an apartment building, it is fairly crumbly inside and now inhabited by artists. Most of the rooms (typically about 2.5m square) are individual gallery spaces, even the old bath room!

ono garou mailboxes

We spent most time in the two basement spaces.

TYPE-TRACE, part of divvydual teased out ideas about language, authorship and production: three sets of laptops, chairs and projectors where visitors were invited to type their thoughts whilst having the process of their typing logged. The document was then played back in real time with letterforms having differing sizing depending on how long it took before the corresponding key had been pressed.


Next to the room bathed in the cold light from the monitors and projectors was the work of Saito Juichi. Dressed formally in suit, tie and white cotton gloves, the artist welcomed visitors at an equally formally dressed table outside his space. With soft voice and great solemnity we were then shown into what is essentially the cupboard under the stairs.

Only being able to stand upright immediately inside the door, we then had to stoop and shuffle over the rabbit pelts to view the sculpture at the far end that also provided the only lighting in the space.



Once outside and back at the table again, we were ushered through the process of signing our names (with a fountain pen, naturally) on visitors cards that were then put away in a lidded box.

Shortly afterwards we returned and, with Ami’s help with translation, Saito-san became the first person in Japan invited to participate in the Peer-to-Peer Sketchbooks project.


After going to Kiyosumishirakawa we went to Spiral in/near Omotesando. I was really keen to see Spiral having already come across their Independent Creators Festival via Ami’s work.


Music shop, coffee shop, gift shop and Lumps and Bumps by lang/bauman in the atrium:






A few days ago a friend took me to see some galleries in the Kiyosumishirakawa area of downtown Tokyo.

cement factory

industrial unit

Tucked in between a cement factory and a taxi ranch, is a building that houses a dispatch warehouse, a lighting manufacturer and, oh, 3 floors of commercial galleries!

3 floors of galleries

After finding your way past the palettes to the industrially sized lift, you come out in a slightly different world of pristine white cubes! (ie the type of place you’re blatantly not going to be allowed to take any photos…)


white cubes

There was a real mix of contemporary artists being represented: Japanese, international, emerging and more established. We even came across a Damien Hurst in one of the galleries!


Other than the complete serendipity of walking out of the lift, I think the nicest touch for me was the little reception desk just inside the entrance that just sort of pulled the whole thing together.


observations of audiences

update: I haven’t seen it with any audience, but this might be a contender

I’ve been thinking about 2 different shows I saw last weekend.

Different shows; different settings; and completely different ways that people were engaging with the work.

I went to the preview of The 18th Storey: 10 artists installed on the 18th floor of a soon-to-be-demolished tower block.

The 18th Storey

I really liked the idea (‘though I wonder how it compared to similar enterprises) and I loved the poster-sized, blue-print styled exhibition info, but somehow it was really difficult to engage with the work.

I think part of the problem was that the large, poster-sized, blue-print styled exhibition info was a bit to unweildy to refer to at the time so I didn’t really get much of a feel for what the work was supposed to be about (there was little or no information accompanying the work itself).

It was cold, it was busy, we just sort of scooted ’round.

By way of a contrast, the next day I was envigilating VASULKA LAB 1969 – 2005 at Vivid.

Also a cold space but…

vasulka installation view

…people we coming in (often for a second time, to finish up on what they missed at the preview), plugging themselves into the headphones and standing in front of the video screens for about 45-90 minutes at a time.

Wow. That’s some level of engagement for video peices in a gallery setting.

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