Packing

I'm currently packing my luggage for my quick trip to America for college tour. Actually, I will be in America for 10 days, but most of the time will be spent moving from place to place. In a week and half, I will be visiting Boston, New York and Ann Arbor. I'm so, so excited to finally visit the schools that I have been researching (stalking,) furiously online and, recently, offline. Many of the people that I met during my internship at UCCA attended universities in America. Some of the interns and workers that I met are from Tufts University and Brown University, which are "my top choices" right now. I have heard so many exciting stories from them that I actually cannot wait to visit these schools and see what they're like!

After my 10 day stay in America, I will actually fly back, not to Beijing, but to Japan. This time, though, I will not be staying in Tokyo. I will actually be attending GAKKO summer camp in an island called Naoshima. I'm looking forward to meeting all kinds of interesting people from different backgrounds and making new friends at this camp. At this point, I honestly don't know what the camp is going to be like, but I am sure it is going to be a memorable one. I know that every year, the GAKKO summer camp brings guest speakers to the camp- I really hope that camp invites a prominent art-related person this year like how they invited Fumio Nanjo, the director of Mori Museum, in the previous year. I wish I could meet him and talk to him! 

Anyways- as a way to procrastinate packing, (I procrastinate everything,) I pulled out of my bookshelf a book called Collecting Contemporary by Adam Lindemann. I haven't had the chance to read this book, but it's a collection of 40 interviews "with the biggest players in the global art market." Those include art critics, art dealers, art consultants, collectors, auction house experts, curators and more. And hey! Art dealers AND art consultants. If you read my previous post about meeting a Japanese "art consultant" in the UCCA museum, you know that I was confused about the difference between art dealers and art consultants. Hopefully, by reading this book, I can learn the distinction between art consultants, art dealers and all the other art related jobs in the world. 

Once I finish reading this book, I will make sure to update on how it is!

Also, If I have time in New York, I'm planning to visit MOMA, Guggenheim and/or Metropolitan museum. Most likely, I won't have the time to visit all of these museums, but hopefully I will have the time to visit at least one!  


Martin Parr

On the last day at the UCCA, I was asked to research and complete a short summary on the British photographer, Martin Parr. 

He is a renowned photographer who is part of the Magnum photos, an international cooperative agency. 

His pictures are very unique in that they are very colour-saturated and are taken from a close angle. I love the playful humour in his photography. I think it helps him enhance what he wants to communicate through his works. 

Most of his pictures are taken in Britain and other European countries, but it seems like he has been taking photos in Asia recently as well. 

I hope his works will come to UCCA or any other museums/galleries in Beijing, so I can go and have a look.

Photos: from www.martinparr.com

(My personal favorite is the one of tourists and the leaning tower of pisa!)

 

UCCA Internship day ?

I hadn't updated my UCCA internship diary here for such a long time that I've actually stopped counting how many days have past since I have started interning here. It's probably the 17th or 18th day here. Maybe more. I don't know. 

Tomorrow's my last day here, at least before I leave to America next week for college tour and things like that. I would love to and hopefully will come back to UCCA after school starts in August, because I just really love being here. I see new things everyday. 

Actually- today, I was down at the Installation hall, patrolling and wandering around to see if there is enough paint (as usual,) when a man approached me and asked me if I am Japanese. Surprised, I simply nodded but in my head I was so confused with regard to how he figured out my nationality. And he said, in Japanese, "me too. I just heard you speak Japanese on the phone and I was surprised that I would find a Japanese person here, working." 

He told me that he is an art consultant, currently working in Beijing. He said he decided to visit UCCA today because he knows that it is free entrance to the exhibitions today. (Thursdays are the busy days for UCCA.) Since I wasn't quite sure about the difference between "art consultants" and art dealers, so I asked him what kind of work he does. He said art consultants mostly do things art dealers do- like connecting artists with the buyers- but he prefers the title of "art consultant" over that of an art dealer because "art consultant" sounds more friendly and less money-minded. 

Although I don't fully understand what "art consulting" exactly is, it sounds intriguing. I told him that I am planning to study art history in college after I graduate high school and he replied that art history is a good basis for not only art-related jobs but also jobs in other fields, like finance. Many of my friends say studying art history is "useless" because it only allows me to become an art teacher or historian, but I think having the knowledge of art is very important and useful especially when socializing with knowledgable people. It will also make it easier for me to get a job in an auction house or gallery, which is something that I have been interested in. Anyways- It was good to hear about art history from someone who has studied the subject before. And it was also nice to talk to someone, other than my parents and brother, in Japanese, because it feels like I hadn't done that for such a long time. It even felt weird that I was speaking Japanese. 

Oh how I miss Japan.. 

 

 

 

Japan Creative

I was at a dinner party (at my house) yesterday and found an interesting book sitting on my dad's chair in the living room. 

It's a book called the Japan Creative and it's written in both Japanese and English, although it is a Japanese book published in Japan. I didn't peruse through the entire book but just skimmed and read pages that were compelling to me. 

The book introduces Japanese designers of different kinds and ask them to explain their philosophy behind their works. While I haven't read most of the chapters yet, I found one of the arguments in the introduction very convincing. 

Japanese design is known to be very minimalistic and practical; For example, Oki Sato's designs for nendo are very simple yet user-friendly and Muji is famous for their stylish and useful stationaries and furnitures. Hiroshi Naito, a Japanese architect, writes in the introduction of Japan Creative that it is the history and religion of Japan that explains why Japanese people love and care so much about the practicality of design. The traditional Japanese religion, Shinto, is based on the idea of god residing in things and nature. This is called the yorishiro idea. Naito argues that "perhaps a more modern interpretation would be to say that this [yorishiro idea] is the idea of something having a particular spirit in it. The concept is also the reason for the affinity that Japanese people feel for animistic pantheism, sensing something spiritual in nature." I think this argument is compelling because it states that Japanese people naturally have a connection to inanimate things that surround them. Because they treat goods with caution and care with love, they place importance on making sure that things are designed in the way that make people happy and last long. I think this is also the reason why there are so many craftsmen in Japan who are passionate about what they make. One person who comes to my mind immediately is the Jiro, the owner of a Sushi restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo called the Jiro Sushi. You can watch the movie, "Jiro dreams of Sushi," to get a sense of what kind of person he is, but he is a true shokunin who is not only good at what he does but also very passionate to the point where he has devoted and willing to devote his entire life to the art of making things (in his case, sushi.) 

The idea of shokunin vs. craftsman is also another concept that is very important to understanding Japanese culture. The direct translation to English of "shokunin" is craftsman but I don't think the word "craftsman" grasps the nuance of "shokunin." 

This a quote from Tasio Odate, a Japanese woodcrafting artist who is considered a woodcrafting shokunin.

The Japanese word shokunin is defined by both Japanese and Japanese-English dictionaries as ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan,’ but such a literal description does not fully express the deeper meaning. The Japanese apprentice is taught that shokunin means not only having technical skills, but also implies an attitude and social consciousness. … The shokunin has a social obligation to work his/her best for the general welfare of the people. This obligation is both spiritual and material, in that no matter what it is, the shokunin’s responsibility is to fulfill the requirement.
— Tasio Orate

I think his words capture the idea of shokunin beautifully and perfectly. 

Anyways, I thought Naito's point that yorishiro idea is central to the Japanese monozukuri (the art of making/creating things) is very true considering how much care and passion Japanese shokunin and designers such as Oki Sato have for what they do. 

 

There was another point that Naito made that I really love. 

Transient

This is omusugi or onigiri, traditional Japanese riceballs. In the book, Japanese designer, Masaaki Hiromura compared Japanese design to the traditional food. 

The examples of “clearing away” included onigiri rice balls. Another name for onigiri is omusubi. This is not just a more polite expression. Embedded within this word is the sense of binding things together, unifying, harmonizing, and finalizing that has informed the Japanese spirit since ancient times. In the early Heian period, about 1200 years ago, Japan gained a system of values that palced rice at the pinnacle. Then, 800 years later in Edo period, each han had its welth and power appraised in terms of how much rice it could produce. Most people, even farmers, usually ate coarse cereals, with white rice only being used for ceremonies and rituals. Consequently the people saw rice as a noble, pure food that they could have faith in. And it was probably the omusubi rice ball that symbolized rice. White was divine, and rice was one of “three whites”, the others being salt and cotton. White and related concepts are included in many Japanese words with nuances of humbleness or dignity. This all links in with Japan’s respect for clean, clear simplicity.
— Masaaki Hiromura

The story is so compelling; who would've thought there was a strong connection between design and rice! During school days, my mom often packs me onigiri for lunch because it is compact, clean, nutritious, healthy yet easy to make and customizable. I can eat it anywhere- in the cafeteria during lunch or in the classroom, snacking- and it won't leave a mess. Onigiri's a great representation of Japanese design for its beauty, practicality, and simplicity. Hiromura concluded...

Being clear and simple as a way of living comfortably and richly in a constrained situation. Devising means of making use of constraint. Making things small and compact so that you can do all sorts of things and do them anywhere you like. This philosophy that runs throughout Japan’s traditional culture and design can be represented by the omusubi. And I am convinced that at sometime in the future, the design exemplified by the rice ball will roll out into the world
— Masaaki Hiromura

And I think so too! Go Omusubi!