04.08.2018 Osaka >> Naoshima

J. had booked for us online for Chichu Museum, Naoshima—art island—at 2 o’clock. To allow enough travelling time, we left our featureless room—without even tokonama, the ma-instilled space in a house where a scroll is hung and small flower arrangement displayed (and being in this featureless room in Osaka proved the importance of this positively charged empty space—without it, and without an outlook, the windows opening on to a half-metre gap, we were without exterior view as well as without interior view)—which, by the time we left we’d grown fond of, and this is our route:

Nipponbashi >> Namba-Osaka >> Shin-Osaka >> Hikari Shinkansen to Okayama >> where a curious train was pulled in named Malle de Bois for the scenic route, and we asked directions on the platform, were shown the same platform but told to go down it, past platform 8, further and further, until the platform narrowed and became platform 7 >> Chayamachi >> on the Port Line to Uno >> tickets were bought at the ferry terminal at 11.50; our ferry was due to leave in 5 minutes; the ticket vendor left her booth and pointed at a white building—it looked miles away; we ran >> by ferry to Honmura, across the Seto Sea, heaving greasily beneath us, as if the world were a lubricated ballbearing and we stuck on its top, or eyeball (like one of Walter de Maria’s marble massives, as will be seen… Our bags left at Rojitoakari >> by town bus from Honmura to Tsutsuji-so >> Benesse free shuttle bus to Chichu Art Museum, early.

…to be treated to… we were an half-hour early, starving, and told to wait outside the semipermanent reception building in the midafternoon heat, late 30s C. A few tables were set up in front of a sparsely stocked counter … I bought sugared almonds, and we had a bag of chili prawn crisps, and copious water from a waterfountain, inside. We had been given a laminated card to read with the simple rules of the house written on it. The politely oppressive ambiance surrounding high art was already palpable. Already I felt like rebelling.

The allotted hour came. A woman sat in an Ando concrete prism collecting tickets and reiterating rules—no photos, two areas require removal of shoes, obey staff. Staff all dressed in muted greys and cream, not screaming at us; all with haircuts and faces.

Shoes off for Monet? What for? Are we going to crush precious lily pads? And we had to wait. No singles rides or express tickets to art. … The Monet space had a floor made of thousands of marble cubes and the houseshoes either skidded or slapped on it. This thing was taking preciosity to a new level. I conceived a work where I either produced the shit myself or found a dog’s and trod it from one end of a white space to another. Toiletshoes.

James Turrell’s UV purple Mike TV set experience involved shoes off too, and a similar queue. Up tiled steps, then down into a UV-lit volume, told to stop… here, at the hand gesture of the attendant, with her muted tones and haircut. I noted the faint marks of earlier advances towards the Turrell screen, like a high-tide mark, where others had gone before us, with a more permissive attendant, and had gone… closer.

Walter de Maria’s work—another purpose-built hall, floating barrel-vault ceiling, several flights of stairs with a landing at middle and top, occupying the width of the room, with golden cricket wickets placed around and up on the walls—sets of three wooden posts painted gilt on gilt plinth, triangular and hexagonal prisms (there were pencils at the shop the same)—Don’t forget the injunction of this attendant, with her muted face and her tones: Touch not! And speak in low voice—as sound travels in this room. I have never spoken in a low voice, I informed her.—And on the landing, halfway up the huge gallery room, a monumental marble marble, a globe poised as if ready to roll down and crush whoever, whatever mouse, should happen to pass through the small low door… which, when at the top of the gallery, I fantasised about facilitating, or is it participating? No, it is engaging, and activating the space. The marble marble rolling down a flight of steps, gaining momentum, the one caught like a mouse in a Walter de Maria trap. Precious art.

<< Benesse courtesy bus to Tsutsuji-so << town bus to Honmura.

We checked in, and were handed a long checklist of all the do’s and don’ts of the little house, the house rules here: like, if in dormitory, please don’t keep reading light on and disturb those sleeping. Don’t eat in room. Doors open for cat. Checkboxes ticked, document signed, and stamped by proprietor’s representative. We booked for dinner at owner’s café for seven.

And it was an old house on the hill, with exquisite glasswear, not because delicate, but robust, and every surface, and as you see, the light-fitting, the furnishing, the rooms, redolent of an art of living without preciosity. And if delicate, cared about, recognised, valued more for being ephemeral—the mortal more to be valued for being so, and without pathos, or momento mori gothic or romantic sentiment; what passes and is here before us briefly requires more from us, more careful attentio, more gratitude in its moment of existing, more consideration, than that which lasts. … And I wanted to talk about how the economics are different, being put in mind of this difference, from NZ, by an article in the book, snapped above, by the founder of Benesse, who speaks about public capitalism. This is not the same as setting a dollar price on things in order to create value, say art things; not valuing them by price, but valuing them by spending on art as a social value, and a cultural good.

I also wanted to say something about how here identity is tied, at least in appearance, to role: the fireman’s blinking deliberate eyes from last night on Doutonbori.

(Culinary note: Seto seasalt crusted black bream; and, why not put your toasted sesame seeds in a grinder, to spread, with a bit of sticky slime, on your okra?)