Takeshi Kitano has an art exhibition on until September in Tokyo, the same show that was at Fondation Cartier in Paris, 2010. Being a genuine jack of all trades and master of them all, Kitano is ubiquitous in Japan and something of a national treasure to them. British people could imagine David Dimbleby zipping off from Question Time to blow somebody’s brains out in a gangster film, while also featuring in various items of merchandise, while on another TV channel he’s doing silly and smutty skits about trying to get his end away, and in what little leisure time he has left he’s working on super-saturated paintings and glossy pop art sculptures. In fact I’d love to see David Dimbleby doing any or all of these things. I wonder if there’s any way I could make this happen?
Kitano is known in the West, if he’s known at all, as the washed-up teacher turned sadistic facilitator of a rigged, murderous game in Kinji Fukusaku’s film of Battle Royale (AKA the film and long-running manga/novel series about teenagers being forced to fight each other as a bread and circuses distraction from a fascist regime that the author of The Hunger Games somewhat implausibly denies all knowledge of…) or for occasional films of his that make it to the Anglophone world in the art house Trojan horse (Sonatine, Zatôichi.)
you sign on you’re self employed and you live in the UK, you might know him from the British edits of Takeshi’s Castle that cycle around endlessly on various satellite or cable channels; like most Japanese gameshows, there’s a definite element of sardonic sadism or gung ho masochism– depending upon whether you’re a viewer or a contestant, respectively– although fortunately it stops short of actual homicide. As far as I know, anyway.
I wish I could see this exhibition, but I haven’t. I used to love seeing stuff like this when I was in Japan. That was very wanky, wasn’t it? I had to just drop that in for you all. Yes, I’ve been to Tokyo many times– what about you, plebs? What I’d really like to draw attention to, though, is Kitano’s statement about the exhibition, as seen in the video embedded below.
”I don’t define myself as a contemporary artist. I’m just a modest ideas maker. I feel very embarrassed when people define myself as an artist. I want to show pieces. Easy to understand, funny pieces. I want to share with you the pleasure that I had by creating this exhibition.”
He’s also reported here as saying “I think everyone is expecting there to be some meaning behind the images or objects on display. There isn’t. I just want you to have fun.” The title of the show translates as something like “Kid Painter”, which could be a reference to his father being a house painter, or a self-deprecating nod to the naiveté of his style, or both. In any case, Contemporary Art+Fun=Heresy! The world would be an extremely dreary and depressing place if we didn’t all approach some aspects of our lives with his kind of playfulness, even if it’s Kitano’s trademark sardonic or tongue in cheek playfulness. But the art world is largely devoid of this kind of playfulness, especially in the West. I don’t really know why. My only suggestion is that one contributing factor might be so very many curators, art academics and gallerists being middle aged, middle class, arid, severe white women with complicated hair, no sense of humour, more hangups than the costume department at the RSC, and absolutely massive sticks up their arses. Otherwise I’m stumped.
People used to enjoy visiting art galleries and looking at art, even when the art itself was serious. Now we’re apparently supposed to appreciate it on some level that doesn’t involve actually connecting with it. We’re meant to nod knowingly, hmm, hmm, yes, I can see how this wallows around in some kind of critical discourse that I’ll never be involved in, that I don’t really understand, and isn’t actually directed at me anyway… but hey, this artist seems like they’re probably being clever so I’ll just have to go along with it.
What’s the solution? MOAR DINOSAURS, TOY HORSIES, JOLLY EXECUTION SCENES, DOGS AND GEISHA WITH FLOWER HEADS, WINGED WHALES, LIVE FISH FULL OF SASHIMI, AND PPL WITH THEIR EYES IN THE WRONG PLACE, PLS. Not all the time, because that would be just as tedious and oppressive as it is to constantly see bloodless rehashes of modernism or Fluxus or Joseph Beuys or whatever. But just to see this kind of thing only a tiny bit more often would make a pleasant change.