These days, to Western minds, a lot of Japanese culture is weird but in a way that makes sense. Thanks to the post-war decades of globalisation our cultures have, to a certain extent, merged so when you read some contemporary Manga it might be strange but you can find hooks and riffs to get your bearings.
Tank Tankuro is one of the first robots ever to appear in Japanese comics and may be the first manga “superhero.” First published in 1934, Tank Tankuro was one of the most famous manga characters at the time. The comic by Gajo Sakamoto is famous for its innovative and captivating adventure stories full of surrealism, nonsense, innocence, absurdity, and eccentricity.
Tank Tankuro influenced a great many manga artists, such as Shigeru Sugiura, Osamu Tezuka, Fujiko Fujio and more, and is the cornerstone from which many masterpieces of manga art would spring. Tankuro became the archetype for various Japanese manga heroes that were to follow.
And yet despite this influence, reading through the seven page preview on TCJ.com I really wasn’t sure where to start. It looked… wrong. And not in an “I don’t like this” way. More “I’m lost”. Sure, the cartooning is universal enough but there’s something else going on.
Nice to have a challenge. If it makes it over here (and it probably will to somewhere enlightened like Gosh), and if I can justify the pennies, I may well pop some of them down for a copy.
I’m slightly wary of putting Birmingham-centric stuff on this site because this is supposed to be about pointing to things you can see/read/hear on the web no matter where you are. And, frankly, been there, done that. But it probably can’t hurt once in a while if it’s something potentially quite awesome done by people who have a bit of a web presence.
Freecode Hexagon is a “realtime, generative audio visual performance” taking place in a relatively tiny little theatre at the MAC. It should be quite intense and certainly rather different.
Here’s a bit of blurb putting things into context:
Node based programming artists have risen to the fore over the last few years as graphical programming becomes more accesible and capable of harnessing computer functions more easily. Support networks like ‘hackspaces’ and festivals like the Maker Faire mean that girls and boys alike have been sharing knowledge and indeed creating their own canon in digital art. The upshot of this tweakery is that people can make the most unique of digital creations from a fundamental level, no longer limited to what a piece of software has in it’s palette of filters and effects, you can now make your own software patches fairly simply.
It’s the live hacking aspect that intrigues me, especially with a collaborative edge.
His favorite album ever is the Pete Shop Boys’ multi-coloured extended-mix one:
I was 15, awkward, mistrustful of dance music, adrift from pop. Introspective changed that – it’s a collection of extended mixes for songs that mostly weren’t yet singles, and these longer versions are the definitive ones. I know now that a lot of this album draws inspiration from years of fabulous, opulent disco mixes. But at 15 it was a beautiful education in what you could do with pop given space and ideas.
I think Tom and I are the same age as I had a similar relationship with the Pet Shop Boys. For some reason, probably related to growing up in a house dominated by classical music and having friends who only listened to Iron Maiden and Anthrax (which didn’t do much for me) my music knowledge was extremely limited. I often say I didn’t really “do” music until 1989 when I discovered PWEI and the Pixies, which is true, but in the 80s I did listen to a lot of the Pet Shop Boys, because they were safe and accessible and perfect stomping music for a paper round. I have no idea how they influenced me (I also listened to a lot of Queen) but I often return to those early albums with my nostalgia hat on and marvel at how good they still are.
STEREOGUM:It’s funny that I ended up talking to you today, I just unearthed a box of VHS tapes from my high school days. One of them was an old copy of Industrial Symphony, the performance you staged with Julee Cruise.
DAVID LYNCH: Heavy duty! That’s great.
STEREOGUM: The tape looks like it’s been through a war, but I still have a VCR. I’m gonna watch it again.
DAVID LYNCH: Well, you gotta check it out. That was filmed in Brooklyn, where you are. It was in front of Brooklyn Academy of Music. Me and Angelo did that and it was a great … but a super intense night and two weeks prior.
I’d never heard of this. Here’s a summary from Wikipedia:
The presentation opens with Cage and Dern engaging in a telephone conversation, the gist of which is that he is breaking up with her, to her great sorrow. Though they are never named as such, the two characters bear a striking resemblance to Sailor and Lula from Lynch’s movie Wild at Heart. The rest of the play is a hallucinatory “dream” that the Heartbroken Woman has.
The show takes place on a stage, the main props being a tall metal girder-like structure, and an abandoned shell of a car, with flickering lights and cacophonous sounds used to disturbing, nightmarish effect. Much use is made of actors suspended from ropes, flying and falling, as well as dancers.
Julee Cruise sings [...] They are the normal, studio recordings – the songs are mimed. Her voice can also be heard in track 6, in which she gets pushed into the boot of the car. In track 8, the boot opens and she sings from it, her face superimposed on a TV-screen. One recording, “Rocking Back Inside My Heart”, is also featured in Twin Peaks (for which Cruise recorded a vocal version of the theme).
Michael J. Anderson (known for his role as the small, dancing Man From Another Place on Twin Peaks) is featured on track 3, patiently sawing a log of wood to Badalamenti’s discordant music. He is also part of the stage ensemble on track 5 (instrumental), along with a tall, demonic reindeer-like figure. Finally, on track 6, he reiterates the opening dialogue between Cage and Dern, accompanied by a clarinet-player and a non-speaking actress playing Dern’s part.
Track 9 is wholly instrumental, with a background of dolls being lowered from the roof on strings.
It was released on VHS back in the day and a 10 minute clip is on YouTube (embedded above) but the only current commercial release is as part of the 10 disk Lime Green Set.
My favourite part is when the interviewer says what seeing the VHS meant to them:
STEREOGUM: I was obsessed with that when it came out. I can’t remember how old I was when I bought it — at a used record store in Oklahoma City, I think — but there was something about it that was just unfathomable to me. I lived on a farm in Oklahoma at the time. So I was like, “this is happening somewhere in the world. Somewhere in the world people are getting to come and see this and I need to be wherever that is.” Also, I just thought it was really, really weird.
I think the effect of David Lynch’s work being distributed around the world on VHS tapes cannot be underestimated. I remember the first time I saw Wild At Heart as a teenager. Blew my mind.
In his short films I parking, II building, III crossing June Bum Park plays around with these shifts in scale: everyday scenes such as parking a car, constructing a building, or crossing a road are animated by gigantic hands (the artist’s own), and people and objects turn into playthings of a higher power. The manipulations appear tiny, their movements seem pre-determined, and all the figures do not let themselves be distracted from their goal. Cleverly they evade the intruder’s hands and continue on their way with the determination a column of ants. June Bum Park re-organises the realm of human beings through the film medium. Repetitions, with slight adaptations and shifts in scale create a new environment, transferred onto virtual images, which then expose the structure of that environment.
And it seems these were shown at the Ikon in 2004, which, for the kids, was how we experienced video art in the pre-online video days.