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06.08.2018 Shinjuku, Roppongi

The galleries and the art—you might as well say all other ends—are as nothing to the city. Benesse’s ethically informed and ecological business, putting the engine of capitalism to scaling up a public and cultural interest, are nothing beside the electricity bill of a single district, beside just the electricity bill of Shinjuku.

We went to Mori Art Museum today—again the policing of photography, so few snaps, an exhibition tracing genealogies of architecture in a Japanese cultural context—and the idea of scale was given graphic representation, of human scale: the measurement of a standing body, the reach of an arm, the height of a seat under a seated body, the headheight of one sitting on the floor, the length of a footstep and a stride. But there is also a scale to human dreams; there is a scale to a life: and to the dreams of one living. The question What is to be done? is abstract, purely speculative, beside the question What do you want to do? What do you want to do? expresses a human scale. However What are they doing? What are they doing behind their counters? What are they doing walking in the streets? What are they doing working? What are they doing paying for the service provided? What are they doing looking at the local colour? What are they doing using the subway? What are they doing at the nuclear plant? These are questions that scale up rapidly to encompass other ends: What? What, the energy you draw from the thermonuclear reaction is just for the trains? It is just for the lights? It is just so at night you can carry on selling yakotori at night? (The energy for the hibachi barbecues comes from charcoal … but the charcoal is shipped into the centre of Shinjuku … and so is the meat, as are the vegetables, the drinks. The glasses are from factories. The beer is from an industrial brewery. Consider the size of Asahi: Asahi also supplies streetvending machines; it manufactures peppermints … at least its brand is on peppermints.)

What is every good effort at improving human life compared to the dreams of one living now? Who is not Japanese, serving in Memory Lane, at a yakotori counter barely over a metre wide. But who is Chinese, as are the two women working with her. They are studying at university. What you asked was—put in mind of the women running the ramen place in Kyoto—Is this business yours? The answer given: We are not Japanese. We are Chinese. I am a student. What are you studying? Business studies.

Where do you come from? New Zealand. I would like to go there. To New Zealand? Yes. It is big. It is bigger here! No—more… space. Yes.

To try and get closer to the question: Will you find a Japanese man? No. Japanese man drinks too much. In New Zealand… No. New Zealand men don’t drink at all! Laughter.

Another of the young women was also studying business. In Japan for 4 years, she dreamed of going to New Zealand. This was her dream. She was shy, shy about not having very much English.

Stepping out into the street, after the most expensive meal we’ve had here, we were immediately among the throngs of tourists, all attracted to these few lanes and alleys—Memory Lane!—by a recommendations of others. Look at them, with their cellphones, getting as close as they could to the natives in the area, in their tiny bars, doing their native things in their native tongues, drinking and eating and talking—pressed tightly together in their native humanity. But we are not Japanese.

And then the play of lights above, in the streets, the signage, the displays just for the sake of display: the scale of the city.

The press of people is Japanese. Genealogies of architecture in Japan, from Japan, and the Japanese influence on the contemporary world—of architecture and architectural thinking—did not include the press of bodies, the scale of one compressed on the subway. I felt the bones of the short woman in front of me, in the squeeze.

We were trying not to panic. It was the Oedo line, Roppongi to Shinjuku, the return trip from Mori Art Museum, just after 6pm. The first train that pulled up, although we were only three or four people back in the queue, we did not board. The way to board, when the press is so great, is backwards, pushing back first into the others in the doorway cavity. Then, use the door jambs and overhead lintel for leverage to pull in your legs and arms. If the doors can’t close, they will reopen, so you can push harder back, and pull in the remaining foot or hand. You are holding your bag close against you.

The second train came and J. was determined. The price of success was to be squashed tight in the door area—those standing in the aisle protected their space; those seated were safe. We were squashed so tightly I could not raise my arms. And with a righteous indignation that is embarrassing, when the press increased, with one large guy determined to get on, we yelled Hey! This did attract attention. But the large guy, using the lintel to pull his body in through the door, did get on—the skin of his face would have been pressed against the glass windows of the door, like we had seen with the earlier train: vacuum-sealed skin, faces, arms, bodies.

The fear was that at the ensuing stations—we had seven to cover—more people would be waiting, more would squeeze on: and what if the train broke down? Or what if there was some kind of scare and the crowd got spooked? What if we lost our footing and fell?

At the next station, a few got off, and more got on, but we had made our way, like those puzzles where you slide letters around a square with only one space free, to the corner, to the door opposite the one where we boarded. We had breathing space. I could grab the hanging strap and handle. Another gaijin next to me: he was using his back as a baffle and concentrating on his phonescreen.

What we decided we had meant by Hey! was Hey! That’s enough! That’s not how we do things! … And it was really unnecessary. These people, determined to board, to the discomfort of others, would know there would be another train along in minutes. Another question—because once on, J. said let’s get off, at the next station; we didn’t: If we had not got on the train, had known what we were in for, how long would have had to wait before the commuting press subsided? Or would we have walked? Right across Tokyo.

The Golden Gai, like Memory Lane—tourist gaijin prowling, cellphones at eyeheight.

But the snaps you want—the world is not designed for you either.

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05.08.2018 Honmura Naoshima – Nishishinjuku Tokyo

Another day. Another homily on aesthetico-socio-politico-cultural difference (and I wondered aloud, if one could, did and decided to live here, say in Naoshima, for example, on grants from Benesse, making Minus Theatre, at the beautiful local hall, and in the outdoors, playing for the land, the wide Seto Sea, a thing which would be in keeping with the aesthetico-socio-politico-cultural and ethical undertaking of ‘public capitalism’, that is a very desirable thing, whether such differences evaporate and whether one is left with dissatisfactions attendant on any aesthetico-socio-politico-cultural setup.) A pinecone sits above the towel rail in the toiletbooth at Rojitoakira.

It is not an exceptional pinecone. I has not been, as far as you can tell, been picked out and chosen from all the pinecones—and there are a few lying around even close by in the green areas, in the children’s park beside Minimadera. Neither is it especially big; nor is it especially small, cute or kawai’i. It is not a miniature pinecone, that a small spirit might inhabit or play with. Neither is it a laughably large, a clumsy kind of foreign pinecone. It is not colourful. It is neither new, nor is it in a state of decay, rendered delicate by worms or other parasites or by conditions of decomposition, reduced to a tracery or skeletal state. Neither is it worn smooth and pleasingly tactile by long handling; of course not, it’s a pinecone! However, it’s not a representative pinecone even in its spikeyness. It is just a pinecone. Why then does it have its own small shelf, where it is exhibited on its own? What makes it worthy of being considered an object, a display object, an art object? Why has it been curated? Why is it on display? Why not anything, anything else?

We started the day in the kitchen, met with other travellers, a family from the Netherlands, teen children, boy and girl, mother an art teacher in Utrecht, father a graphic designer there. An interest in contemporary art has brought them to Japan, to Naoshima specifically, where they have spent 4 days. I ask the children if they share their parents’ enthusiasm for art. They look up from their cellphones. The boy shakes his head sheepishly: No! The girl laughs: no. But it seems she might just be swayed. The boy is more resistant. The family are touring by car. Today they leave for Kanazawa.

Who would have thought, says the father, that we would be staying opposite a James Turrell installation. This is Minimadera. The building the light work is in was designed by Tadao Ando, and there is an Ando museum less than a hundred metres down the road, towards the Port, where we arrived yesterday.

We have got up early—like the family from the Netherlands, ready for their longest single stretch of driving, 5 hours to Kanazawa (not that far by NZ standards)—to get to Benesse House Museum. Entry 1000 yen.

Town bus. But no courtesy bus from the Benessians. A walk, along the beach, uphill. OK at this time of day. But the cicadas already shrilling so shrilly the sound phases against itself, the waves coincide, merge, cancel, come in waves, jjjjjjjjjjJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJJjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj (or, as my computer was doing, my favourite travelling eee, until I fixed it, it fixed, in Kyoto, vvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVVvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvvv…)

Here, notably, remarkably, among the Warhols, Rauschenbergs, the Klein blue torso, Sugimoto seascapes, a Giacometti—in the reception foyer!!! (a Diego, his brother, head on plinth; did I mention the Diego drawing at Benesse Art Museum? The drawings are irreproducable, a different force from the sculptures—sublime)—a work by Yukinori Yanagi, The World Ant Farm (1990). (And a Basquiat, striking, and a photo of him, equally.) A grid of all the world’s flags done in sand in perspex frames hung in a grid on the wall, each sand flag linked to each adjacent by a plastic tube, for ants. The ants have transported particles from one flag to the next. In some cases the flag is barely legible, a layercake of coloured sand. In others, the flags are wormholed, vermiculated. The grid is huge, over two by six metres, making up a single antridden flag of the world. (As the John Goodman father said to his daughter, struggling up the hill to the macaques’ park in Arashimaya, outside of Kyoto, when she asked, Why are there ants here? In a listen here honey tone: Ants and cockroaches are Everywhere.)

After Benesse, a walk down the hill, to another Walter de Maria: this one the eyeballs on the sea. Cool: and I could take snaps of it and its obligatory companions, the gilded cricket wickets.

A bakery for lunch: bread with butter and egg, so advertised; bread with banana—but just on top; bread with fruit—chewy, said J. Even the bakery had a sign—perhaps to protect the identity of the wild yeast they used—No Photos.

Minamadera issued us an 11.30am ticket. One of the Art House Projects, of which there are six—these are the highlight, possibly because embedded and an expression of their aesthetico-socio-politico-cultural context. They are old houses saved and repurposed as artworks… like the Ando concept for the decaying hall, I forget where, for which, threatened by demolition, he conceived an egg, not even touching the loadbearing structure around it, resting only at one point on the ground, foundation. An egg transected by an internal staircase. So, yes, we went to the Ando Museum. Then Kadoya Art House Project; see coloured lights floating snap above: I disobeyed rule. Lights are digital numbers, randomised. Then Minimadera, at last: 15 minutes of darkness, broken, as eyes—do they adjust at the same rate for all?—start to see a glowing screen and sidelights. Approach the glowing screen, says attendant. We do. Carefully in the rich thick darkness. We reach it, but it is a volume framed, the light, and we can put our arms and stick our heads into this volume, which, because so lowlit, has texture. It is light to touch. Tactile light.

Then Gokaisho—two rooms, 4 and half tatami squares, one with only the bounding structure, one with flowers, real and artificial of the camellia. The camellia sits in a moss island surrounded by a sea of gravel in the back yard. Then Haisha—the one that looks like a shed, cobbled together of bits of tin and driftwood; with, inside, of course, the Statue of Liberty. (Recalling Capt. Cook in the State House, called the Light House (!!!) on the wharf in Auckland, Michael Parekowhai, did you? You must have.) Then home to collect bags and get to Port for the return journey.

No hurry this time. And a Nozoma Shinkansen from Okoyama to Tokyo, to the APANishishinjuku-tower, where I write this, this morning, Monday, an onsen two doors down, second floor!

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30.07.2018 Kibune – Kurama / Kurama – Kibune

Japanese breakfast, followed by walk to Reihan line; to Chushojima; to disembark and board further Reihan line—a privately owned line—destination Demachiyanaga; whereto board Eisen (yes) line to Kibune or Kurama; to walk either from Kibune—whereat the Hiribun water noodles, grabbed in chopsticks from a water-race—to Kurama—whereat the Onsen, and the temple; or from Kurama—hot bath first, plus or minus religious experience—to Kibune—noodles, grabbed from swiftly flowing water in bamboo gutter, for lunchv? … decisions decisions … in the event, arriving at Chushojima, we stood in a boarding queue, and a youngish man approached after some hesitation to express his recommendation. He had obviously been working on such for some time; we had been waiting for the train for some time: and there was an air of restlessness on the platform.

I recommend, he said, after saying, that there had been a bad accident and the train was no longer coming or was coming but not any time soon: I recommend that you take a taxi to Kyoto station, then go by bus to Demachiyanaga to meet the Eisen railway, the only line heading up to—up into the hills of Kyoto, westward?—Kurama, Kibune.

We descended under the platform to consider, and arose at the platform for the line which had brought us thither, the Uji one of Keihan line. We thought it might be better … when an official interrupted us with news: bad accident yes, you can take the Keihan line to Ryojiza, change there for the subway, to Odegawa, from Odegawa to the Demachiyanaga station is close, a ten minute walk… This news was interrupted by him saying Sorry I have to drive this train. We followed him onboard, watching his hands on the controls, as pictured above. He is wearing gloves.

Disembarking at Ryogiza to walk to the subway we, he leant out the driver’s window and handed us a piece of paper with directions, including the information that Demachinyanaga was “clouse” to Odegawa. How he had written the note while I had been photographing his gloved hands on the controls is a mystery. With profuse apologies he waved at us and drove the train away to Uji.

We followed the directions on the note and within two and half hours were bumping along on the mountain railway called Eisen, along with families, and a group of four young women in kimonos. Christal Whelan points out that it has once more become fashionable for young women to choose to express themselves, to distinguish themselves from the postwar generations preceding them, by wearing this traditional dress—on outings into traditional outing spots—and even to use the old and disused feminine forms of Japanese dispensed with in the Meiji language reforms of the 19th century.

As it was near lunchtime on our approach to the pair, Kibune, Kurama, we decided to lunch first on fast-flowing noodles and walk to Kurama, perhaps to bathe there. The Eisen train, the Eisenbahn, continued on from Kibune to Kurama. And it is worthwhile to state at this point that the purpose of this expedition had largely been the walk between the two points along the Eisen line.

Others left the station to wait at the busstop. We headed out, like the four young women in kimonos, on foot, sandals, shoes, and so on. As we walked uphill we came upon the river restaurants of which we guessed the Hiribun was one, with seating in the river itself, some allowing the dangling of tired feet in the soothing and cool mountain water. These eating places had lanterns under bamboo awnings and low tables on the river platforms, done out in red. We had passed several before I asked after the location of Hiribun. Not far, 400 metres further on. On we trudged. Hiribun? Further on, up, pointing… Here, it was Hiribun, with nothing to distinguish it from the many eating places on the river we had so far encountered.

We were directed to a side office, which looked like a small store annex to the restaurant proper. Water noodles? Yes. Have you a reservation? No. You will have to wait 3 hours. But it has taken us three hours to get here. Perhaps we can walk over to Kurama and back and by that time we can eat noodles from the fast-flowing stream, which were seeming anyway less and less appetising, grabbing with chopsticks… at slippery noodles of time…

Leaving Hiribun disappointed, we asked at the places we had passed: 6,500 yen set menu for eats on the river was the cheapest. The water-noodle option had been around 400 …

Back down: a curry family restaurant option? More expensive kaiseki?

We went past a place with a vegetarian à la carte meal which looked appealing, perhaps we could share, continued. Before we reached the point of no return, we did. Turned back uphill, and went into a citadel of peace and tranquility in the utmost.

It is worthwhile at this point to say that the road uphill as down was clogged with temple pilgrims, superannuated hikers, tourists, and mainly internal tourists, and cars, cars too wide for the roads, cars too shiny and new for the hills, cars going up meeting vans and cars coming down, cars and vans having to fold in their side mirrors to pass one another, vans and cars reluctant to pass one another, cars and vans stuck until one or another should ease its way forward, winkle its way out of the jam, and buses, tour buses stuck between cars and vans and trucks, buses too big for the hilly mountain roads, buses unwilling to keep on going with the pedestrians on the road, pedestrians going up and pedestrians going downhill, walkers and hikers hungry for water-borne noodles, and hikers and walkers without bookings heading back down disappointed. Or coming to the shrines and temples with degrees of religious excitement… There was a mêlée outside.

And inside—peace. And food set at a reasonable price, being around 1,000 yen for one. We ate soba noodles and two fish (nami) and rice and two fish (nami) cooked by pouring over tea from a copper teapot.

We left Kibune for Kurama. Both cypress and cedars in the woods, and black bears, snakes and deer; we smelt musk a couple of times, but saw no beast. Kurama-dera, the temple complex is called; from Kibune up up up … then descent after, as it were, spiritual exercise. The waters purified, the innocence was refound, hope and belief in the world was reborn: it would be nice to be a bear, J. said. To come back as one? No. It would be a nice life.

We did not stop to bathe. By the time we reached Keihan line accident cleared, it seemed, and we saved 2 hours.

At night it was back to sushi train. [The night before we dined with the Japanese cast from Cheers: the jocose ones, with little English, discussing whether onsen was hotpool or spa, for ever, discussing and laughing over the dance the New Zealanders do before playing sports, trading profound insights over different aspects of our presence in their midst—then charging us a lot for having brought us less than we had ordered of teppanyaki; but very friendly with it, let it be said and known. Very warm. Only a little dear.]

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field recordings 29.05.2017 – 15.06.2017 including Minus Theatre Workshops for Visit Me Genius

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field recordings 2017:04:21 17:26:48 – 2017:05:27 12:25:15 including Minus Theatre rehearses Visit Me Genius

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field recordings 2017:02:10 09:38:22 – 2017:04:20 21:24:13 including Michael Parekowhai’s Lighthouse, food, sunset, a wound & mushroom crystal

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the string section (or, the myth of anthropogenic bipedalism)

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field recordings 2016:10:17 14:40:56 – 2017:02:03 22:05:16 including Gregor Kregar’s fantastic scaling personnages & Nick Cave & sculpture on gulf

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field recordings Rarotonga 2016:10:06 08:09:17 – 2016:10:13 18:20:57 and the fizzy coconut

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field recordings Auckland shows 2016:09:12 18:44:01 – 2016:10:04 20:26:30

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