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!