Skip to main content

Even the Museum is Starting a Revolution

This Wednesday I took most of the day off to make my annual visit to the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art. (And apologies for not being as attentive on this blog this year. Promises to remedy that over the course of the next several days.)

The museum had a lot of new exhibits on display for the summer, many of them quite political in nature.

The first was a series of performance art and exhibitions called "Xijing is not Xijing, Therefore Xijing is Xijing". It's a collaborative (and ongoing) project by three men who invented this fictitious nation of "Xijiing" and proceeded to completely outline its admission policies, cultural events, government, and even held their own Olympics at the same time as the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

It's hard to read the photo below, but it says that entry can be achieved to Xijing by performing a song or dance, or reciting a poem. An explanatory video had lots of detail about what was acceptable and what would result in one's deportation--the video showed two men fighting an anonymous intruder out of the country with leeks...basically it's making a mockery of contemporary immigration policies.

We were also given these patriotic flags to walk around and wave as we went through the exhibits:

Lots of the performance videos had children narrating the governing rules and cultural ceremonies of Xijing. "The city of Xijing must be shaped like a watermelon." "It is better to have an ignorant teacher than a well-educated one." "At birth, a child in Xijing has their name written on their back and then washed away in the river." "Citizens of Xijing have no possessions and therefore are more spiritual." I wish I could remember more of the quotes. Everything sounded so significant on the surface until you realize that nothing has any meaning: none of the rituals or proclamations or anything. Their Olympic Games were also a mockery. Golf, for example, was three women with their phones attached to selfie-sticks "swinging" them and then taking photos of themselves.

Then the exhibit abruptly had this room about power. The balloons dangling from the ceiling looked random until I noticed they said "Lazy Social Dust". (Also that is not a real person--it's made of resin.)

There was also this:

Except it's also fake. It's made of resin. But the number of people who thought it was real (and didn't look at the plaque) was astonishing...
Then there were ink paintings of photos from all the protests around the world last year accompanied by a soundtrack of overlaid chants and traditional songs and military marching music.

That's not to say all the exhibits were that unsettling. There were also just intricate pictures of trees,

or this super giant patchwork quilt-thing,

and a quilt bear that illustrates the story of a flake of snow that transforms into a series of different plants and animals, always trying to find something better, until it returns to being snow,

and this room that made kombucha (a fermented drink) based off the bacteria and carbon dioxide etc. that guests brought into its room (which I have no desire to drink, ever...).

In the evening one of my host family's friends (one of the people on the initial Roadster trip) took me out for dinner with his family and there was this giant tray of sushi:

First sushi I've had this summer, now that I think about it...

Anyways! I pinky promise to update you all very shortly about my research and the ridiculous number of cafes/ coffee shops I've been to. And tomorrow I have an employment meeting with two people from Kanazawa University, so wish me luck!


Popular posts from this blog

Final Touring Excursions

Tomorrow is my last day. It felt strange to write that sentence, knowing that I've been gone six weeks, which feels like both no time at all but also forever. Even though this is my fifth time coming to Japan (and the fourth for an protracted trip), the coming-and-going is something I don't get used to. Just as I start getting over my "ugh, I just want to go home" hump and settling in, well, it actually IS time to go home.

What have I done the past few days?

Well, on Sunday my host family and I took a drive to Yamanashi prefecture (re: near Mount Fuji) to visit the Oshino Hakkai, the Eight Sacred Ponds of Oshino. According to the signage, when people used to hike up Mount Fuji for pilgrimages, they would purify themselves in the ponds before starting their journey. And having stuck my hand in an (acceptable) corner of the main pond, Wakuike, it was FREEZING. Some other ponds have specific purposes, however. One was for people who wanted a good marriage, for instance.

Cat Cafe

Today I went with my host brother to a cat cafe for "research". Yes it is a cafe and yes it has (canned) coffee, but also I really really really wanted to go to a cat cafe. By doing a little research, I found one off a convenient train station that not only didn't require a reservation in advance, but had free drinks and was actually significantly less expensive for more time than other cafes. On to Nyankoto!

For cat lovers, this is paradise:

This shop had fifteen cats, each with their own names and personality described in a photo book:

This cat's name is Kinta and he's a mix--though most of the cats there were breeds I was unfamiliar with and had fur of various kinks and degrees of fluffiness. 
They were all very social, active cats as well.

Kinta greeted my host brother by literally jumping on his back. 
The other cats often ran around chasing each other (one was a very energetic kitten, so he was always pouncing on the others) or flopping down to be pet in co…

Shibuya and Ebisu

The past few days I've been in the Shibuya and Ebisu areas (think: south-west side of Tokyo) to check out some of the up-and-coming cafes, as well as wander around the neighborhood. I've decided that wherever I go, I'm going to find something to do in addition to spending 3-5 hours in coffee shops--while the research and the people I meet are incredible I do regret that I don't get to spend as much time exploring the other aspects of Tokyo. 
Yesterday in Shibuya I checked out The Local Coffee Stand, Coffeehouse Nishiya, and The Theater Coffee. The Local is a pretty unassuming space, even though it is on a main street. It's goal is to be the sort of jumping-off point for people just getting in to specialty coffee: they showcase beans from local roaster and run a website called "Good Coffee" in both Japanese and English to help people find "that local spot" in a neighborhood near to them. I'm including a link to the site, HERE. CLICK THIS.