Friday, November 17, 2006

In Kanazawa there are numerous maps in English. Trouble is, none of them relate to each other. In fact, the two I’m holding are a mirror image of each other. In one the main river’s at top left, in the other it's top right. The guide to Kenrokuen (a garden is a wondrous thing, God wot!) has pictures of the highlights along the edges ... but doesn't say where they are in the garden. I actually think it's because the 'frame' is different. They probably make perfect Japanese sense but not European sense. We can’t see what we aren’t conditioned to see. Even their hand gestures are confusing. At the so-called Ninja Temple in Kanazawa (it has lots of trapdoors, secret exits etc but actually has nothing at all to do with ‘ninja’), the guide signs to me with a hand gesture, but I don't know whether the gesture says ‘come over here’, or ‘go over there’, so I join the group she's leading. She displays slight annoyance and tells me to join the other group, so she was obviously saying 'please go over there, stupid gaijin kudasai'.

Back on Old Man Basho’s trail again after the offshoot to Takayama. Not having had any breakfast I head for the Post Office to get a load of money out, but the ATM will only give me £200. I can’t figure this and, after a lot of messing around between a very helpful PO guy, me, the ATM machine and two phone booths, I have to ring America. America quickly tells me that there’s a limit of $440/day. Phew ... if you're not in possession of one vital piece of information, the whole system collapses - and especially if you haven't had any breakfast…
some advice:
if you wanna get enlightened
have breakfast first!
lack of sleep and breakfast
may lead to 'change of consciousness'
but ordinary consciousness fine
Famished and desperate for coffee to soothe/drug my jangling nerves I barge into the oh-so-sophisticated Kanazawa 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art's minimal white-cube restaurant. A Liquid-Eyed Beauty bows and greets me. “Irashaimasu". "Kohi," I gasp, "kohi!" LEB picks up the menu and points to 'coffee'. "Ikura desu ka," I ask - I know if one has to ask the price of coffee in ueber-trendy pure white cubes then one is de-fi-ni-tely not trendy, but I'm past caring. Anyway, being a Great Hairy Northern Barbarian gives one certain privileges denied to the populace at large. "450 yen," she says (about £2.25). "Iie," I say, "too expensive! Anywhere cheaper?" She giggles. "Ah," she says, takes me by the hand, pulls me to one side and points over the road. "There!" she says. That's the 2nd Liquid-Eyed Beauty who's taken me by the hand! I had been told the Japanese never touch you (unless they’re well drunk) and here Liquid Eyed Beauties continually grab me! I LOVE being taken by the hand by Liquid-Eyed Beauties!

I leave, with great regret, cross the road to a soothing, slightly-faded Establishment for the Untrendy. "Kohi?" I ask again. "Hai - 350 yen," says the somewhat dowdy matron. Ah well, saved myself all of 50p - but at least I didn't have to pretend I was trendy. And I'd rather support little old ladies in slightly faded establishments that the 'arts as big business' elite in trendy white cubes ...

The Kanazawa 21st Century Gallery of Contemporary Fart, er, Art vs Kenroku-en the sublime. Ding! Seconds out!Well, says it all, doesn't it? Why do they bother? Nothing in the whole gallery remotedly touched me. There is a sort of 'artist' who specializes in vacuous crap, de-void of any sort of quality. Actually, 'crap' is too good a word for it. Crap breaks down into something useful. Gerhard Richter. Awful. I can sort of connect with some of his work, but that here? The 'explanatory notes', as usual in this sort of place, an artform in their own right, a type of 'literary' genre which in no way connects with what you're (not) seeing. Self-conscious juvenile cliched angst from stupid Americans. Japanese 'Look-At-Me-I'm-So-PoMo' Installation Art. I'm beginning to dread the word 'installation'. This one's a recreated seascape in the obligatory blackbox downstairs. Yes? I think of endlessly changing, endlessly self-re-creating Portreath in North Cornwall, the tide sweeping us tourists up the beach stage by stage till we're all perched cheek by jowl on the few remaining rocks. Now there's life, movement, endless variety. This installation is dead, lifeless. It stinks, literally and metaphorically. "Yes, but part of Art's role is to displace context." Go for a swim at Portreath, that'll soon displace your precious 'context'.

Ah, Anish Kapoor. 'The Origin of the World', 'a huge black hall (sic) will appear in the air from the sloping wall', the Notes say. It's a vagina. Well OK, the scale and the fact that it's sloping make an impression. But it's perfectly symmetrical in shape and in the space. 'The Origin of the World' (ie the vagina) is not symmetrical, dear Anish, have you looked at one recently? Anyway, it's an old advertising trick: wanna impress the client? Blow it up real big, that'll knock his socks off! Further, it's supposed to express 'Nothingness'. Bit of a cheek to talk about 'Nothingness' in this land of sunyata, so desu ne? Oh Sariputra...
A-ni-ish he say
Universe full of black hole
I say, well, fuck that!
(Could be considered a perfect Haiku as it's 5-7-5 syllables, but the Japanese don't actually measure 'syllables' in Haiku, they measure 'onji' which is not the same thing)

Then more 'decontextualisation'. A courtyard with what looks like a small swimming pool. You follow an underground passage and come out under the pool, which is actually 10cm of moving water over a pane of glass. To people on top it looks as if you're under the water, to you it looks as if you're under the water, too. Fine. The creator schlepps this sort of thing around the white cube circuit for probably squidrillions of dollars (I'm not saying the creator gets squidrillions of dollars, but installing this kind of thing costs a lot of money and takes a lot of space). Category 'playing with preconceived ideas' etc. Fine. So what? We're literally just over the road from one of the most famous gardens in history, Kenroku-en, dating from 1676. Has the artist LOOKED at Japanese gardens, the use of the different elements, the way the water is directed, the rocks, bridges, trees, Koi carp? And if Leandro Erlich has looked, then he has not SEEN. They are subtle beyond belief, beyond understanding. Your pool, dear artist, doesn't reference this at all. It's a simple, one-horse idea and all it references is YOU. I was more moved when visiting the Sea Aquarium at Minehead where you walk under the aquarium and see sharks and manta rays lazily flap around and over you. It brings back such deep ancestral memories of when we breathed water
After Japan
I'm not taking any crap
from so-called 'artists'
In the evening at the ryokan I bump into Dalgit from Israel, who was in the Youth Hostel in Takayama. Her room turns out to be next to mine. We team up and wander around the old samurai quarter of Kanazawa, talk, eat. She maybe does or doesn’t have a boyfriend back in Israel. I go back to my room and go to sleep. Next morning she’s a bit off. Was I supposed to make a pass? So she could accept or decline? Was that the game? What were the rules? Who knows? Who cares?

The ryokan is just down the road from the strutting fashionista district of Kanazawa. The ‘skirts’ they don’t wear are so short they don’t exist. Bit like Zen. Nothing there. (?). They’re all so skinny. How do they have children? Maybe they don't. The Japanese are dying out. I film as many of them stalking around in Gucci and (fake?) Burberry as I can. Two ‘get-em-in’ girls dressed up as French maids accompanied by a guy on stilts with frizzy hair and alu-foil trousers prance around up the street . I wander off to film light reflected in a pedestrian crossing, shadows of storks; then head over the river to record temple bells in the mizzle.