Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I’ve recently seen several gigs held in Tokyo within a couple of weeks, which I haven’t done for a long time. Those are experimental, unestablished, and non-academic, and audiences are not many. Most of the audiences are also doing some artistic activities. Between the audiences who are new to each other, a conversation often starts in this way: “Do you play music, or do some other artistic things?” In some places where I was among the audiences, some people asked me so.

I’ve found myself still liking that kind of atmosphere. It is good to be a bit more socialized. Being an unestablished artist is hard in Japan in many ways. Do I really want to start it all over again? Yes and no. My inner voice tells me, “Fail better!” Okay. But I have to be prepared. I cannot be a full-time musician just because my SoundCloud sometimes receives positive reactions.

Not that I quit making music at some point in these years. I’ve occasionally been sketching and what I should do is just to continue this. Yet it is just too early for me to throw gigs and release CDs on my own. Nor am I prepared for working with someone. So, what else have I achieved in these years other than some humble sketchy tracks? I'm afraid this sounds irrelevant--I think my English has significantly been improved, especially when it comes to listening. Now I can comprehend most of the international news spoken. On the other hand, I’m not so sure about my writing. Though I’ve studied news writing and Japanese-English translation at an institution in Tokyo since I came back to Japan several years ago, I’ve been a bad student. I hope I’m as good as college students in continental Europe.

In a way, I’ve been busy inputting things. Yet I’m still clumsy to speak out. The same goes for my music.


My blogs aim at to a large extent practicing English writing, but also thinking about art and the media in general. “In general” is a tricky term, since things are so discursive and my knowledge is limited. But I’m not so interested in writing only about music. Rather, I’m interested in what makes a certain music, which might be interconnected with the other criteria. On the other hand, I lack certain terms and knowledge to go across every category. For example, I cannot say, “If Lacan sees this, what would he say?” What I say is largely depending on my experience. I hope I’ll be able to formulate a good question, connecting the dots.

By the way, I’m not interested in curating. Though I like a lot to read the others writing about what our contemporaries are doing, I’m not brave enough to commit this kind of activity. Though inevitably I sometimes mention a certain artist or a work, I have no intention to promote or demote a certain artist or genre.


Making an artwork to some extent means translating something. That may be obvious when making an artwork becomes making a representation. But even when there is no model to be represented, the artist is translating something he doesn’t know, but he is supposed to know. What interesting for me is that when translating language from one into another, the translator doesn’t always know what he is translating. Or, to put it more precisely, not always does what the translator understands about the original correspond to what the readers of the translated version understand about either the original or translated version, moreover, not always is what the readers understand determined by the translator.

A process of translating is a process of understanding. So is a process of making an artwork. This notion of art may be rather conventional, but I think even when an artist insists, “Stop making sense!,” what this artist is actually opposed to might be not understanding in general, but a certain way of understanding: “It’s good we are getting to know each other, but not this way!” It might be important for such an artist to make something about what doesn’t make sense because his knowledge about what he doesn’t know is more important than his knowledge about what he already knows.

To put it metaphorically, the artist and the audience are reading the same book, which may be entitled, say, “Things We Are Supposed to Know.” And then, the artist underscores any part of it he thinks important for the audiences. But the ideal relationship between the artist and the audiences may be not that the audiences just follow where he has underscored, but that the audiences also underscore on their own for their understanding. Either of them can be a translator.

This ideal relationship has been deemed as difficult to be realized by many. The “passive audience” has long been criticized. So, those artists who are critical about the “passive audience” rather try to set up a place where people meet each other and face a question the performers bring up to. Gaze is often questioned by the performers, since there is no theater without a spectator. So, what such a gaze conjures up? The relation between being passive and being active is ambiguous and worth questioning (I think Glenn Beck was at some point created to a large extent by the “passive” audiences, who have later turned out to be the Tea Party “activists”). I think those various experiments have been fruitful, especially in performing arts.

In 2004, choreographer Mårten Spångberg who had read Jacques Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster asked Rancière to give a lecture based on this essay at the fifth Internationale Sommerakademie in Frankfurt am Main (I wasn’t there at that time). His lecture entitled the Emancipated Spectator turned out the first chapter of his new book The Emancipated Spectator in 2009 (the original French version in 2008). Here’s the last part of the lecture. He speaks in heavily accented English. I also speak heavily accented English, and his is still easier for me to understand than heavy Scottish dialect.

Here he mentions about a tendency of interdisciplinary activity many artists are following. According to him, this can be categorized into three:1. the form of total artwork created by a few outsize artistic egos or a form of consumerist hyper-activism; 2. a hybridization of artistic means by the postmodern reality of a constant exchange of roles and identities; 3. to problematize the cause-effect relationship itself and the set of presuppositions that sustain the logic of stultification. He is negative about the first and the second. I note here that an artist or an activity can take the all three categories, though an ideal activity might be motivated by the third.

Around that time I was struggling to make some performance pieces and apparently failed. I know that when I call it failure it becomes failure, but I’ve had enough time to admit so, and then I can make a fresh start.

Music people are practical. If you see any comments on any tracks appearing in SoundCloud, you would find the people exclusively talking about effects and the pleasure principle. Those who talk about the other principles are few. And a part of me is really practical. I’m not a saint at all.

A few people in Tokyo are asking me if I go public, and I’m considering it. Tokyo is the city of “consumerist hyper activism,” and what the people want is effects, effects, and more effects, and being a politico is very very unpopular. What can I do in this circumstance? A kind of lecture performance? Probably. This idea may not be attractive for those asking me, since they seem to like my practical part. But I don’t have to be popular. So, maybe I’ll fail again, and at least try to fail better?

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