29 June Imperial Palace Garden, Maranouchi, MOMAT, Akihabara


































Went to the palace but all we saw was the garden. The living god did not show his face. Wondering if the Japanese feel their proximity to the imperial presence as nearness to god… less than a century ago a commoner’s life was nothing next to His – and suicide better than loss of honour in His eyes.

The gardens do go on. A cycle race was doing the rounds of the gardens and a lot of lycra was on the move on foot around it, in the Japanese way, in groups. The moat was impressive, with white swans paddling and huge carp swimming, and, rising from it, the castle’s outer walls, massive blocks of granite, showing its chisel marks. The sun came out for the first time. We agreed to prefer the rain – too hot. Cooking hot.

Unremarkable gardens, except for the longest-lasting ice-cream I’ve ever had: must’ve been packed with melamine. But tasty and creamy, the cone melting in my hand and caving in before the creamy icy tasty white stuff.

Although the music hall was an attractive structure, with tile mosaic exterior, 60s-ish, and the remaining bansho – guardhouses – and the gate house – where we made our exit. The latter had great cedar trees for beams holding up the long building above the gate, which had studded bronze plates and hinges the pins of which were as thick as arms – sensible arms, fleshy, muscly arms.

Walking back along the moat, more joggers, group-stretching, and the view back at the castle walls impressive for the full-size trees growing on the top. To the Museum of Modern Art Tokyo: which was not only open but running a special exhibition curated from the YAGEO Foundation Collection.

This is the best exhibition I’ve seen since Peggy Guggenheim’s place in Venice. It was somehow personal and directed to a personal taste than with pretensions to being representative. Although the theme – Guess What? Hardcore Contemporary Art’s Truly a World Treasure – is the treasure part of the exhibition’s title, the value at auction on the art market, the art part of the title personalised the collection as a collection in progress, in the process of being collected on its merits which sometimes coincides with the art market appraisal and sometimes does not: an example is the the Anselm Kiefer, based on Paul Célan’s poem, Dein schwartzes Haare Margerethe, which any collection would be wary of purchasing for the longevity of the work, for the cost of the upkeep of its materials, straw among them.

An amazing exhibition in its east-west reach and its completely uncynical view of the art world.

We stopped for what we thought was going to be a snackeroo grabbed on the run at the gallery café, which ended up being an art experience in itself. Mikuni looked on entering the place to be a hoity-toity joint with an over-zealous maître d’ and unctious staff and over-inflated prices to match the egos performing… It was contrariwise a display – another – of care for detail and exquisite ingredients and nice – in the nicest sense – tastes. We may have been a bit mean ordering, the chef may have said, Nobody orders one course in my house! But we were treated to an extra course – chef’s treat: beautifully cooked lamb slices with balsamic spots – of reduction – and a pubic mound of greens – highly topiaried. Then the best gazpacho I’ve ever tasted featuring a skinned tomato centre-bowl stuffed with cucumber salsa, a cherry tomato stuffed with Russian caviar and a velvety atmosphere of perfectly balanced cold tomato soup, spotted with pesto and … something yellow. I had a really good beer with this, a Kirin Heartland. Z.’s porcini pasta also looked great. The waiter wasn’t in the least obsequious and enjoyed refilling Z.’s side-plate with chunk after chunk of Italian – as good as – breads. We also had a competition to see who could take the best picture of the pyramid of butter.

The next three floors of MOMAT covered the transition from and influence of east and west, backwards and forwards. The existing reverence for a heightened sense of beauty – sublime? – on the part of the colonised culture, Japan, made the aesthetic colonisation seem almost willed. Popularisers of Rodin, Ernst, Matisse, Manet, Monet, de Chirico, even Riviera filled these floors. Odd, if the collection from which this exhibition is curated is owned by Taiwan, since it’s quite objective this heavily one-way influence west-to-east. Perhaps this portends a century or more of aesthetic domination from the east. But it is not so simple. I tend to think, that the artists encountering the western explosion of forms from the late 19th century paid it the highest degree of flattery in imitating it.

We headed out to Electric City – and arrived for a thunderstorm, armed with umbrellas. We – the lucky ones. This is the centre so-called for odaku – geek – culture: technophilia. But not really. Just fetish culture. Technofetishism. And answers to the question of how to create value in goods when all value has gone down the pipeline of oversupply and overavailability: conceive desires in the market which give transcendent value to what is on offer, to the collector cards of pretty young girls, to the collector fans of pretty young boys, to the mags and mangas of boy loves and girl loves, to the old-fashioned souvenirs of desire on paper and in plastic and even in pottery. Porn stands very close to infantilised imagery here because they seem to run on the same motor: desire. If the imagery is sexual, in the figurines and 2-D renditions of this or that his or her desire-object, then the sexuality is perversely secondary: secondary both to the desirability of the object and to its purchase price, that is, the demand and the market value. So in a sense this otaku experience provided a corollary to the MOMAT exhibition. (About which: I haven’t mentioned the hall given to documentation of exhibitions, particularly from the 60s and its ideas for how to document Minus Theatre – on fine stationary with attention to detail and impeccable taste, of course!)