Light village secrets

April 11th, 2009

The everyday in Tokyo, I loved it all: its handsome men, beautiful women, the androgyny of some, their sense of respect and modesty, but also their conspicuous consumerism. The city’s old places. New architecture. Sparkling metro. Cherry Blossoms. The weight of history, sight of futures and melancholy peeking felt at once. Much enjoyed. Flavors with tamed exoticism, constant rituals, the expansive urban ‘scape and population density. That intensity. And more than anything, the cultural opacity yet indeterminate lightness.

Visits to what became preferred sites felt like village secrets. The largest city in the world suddenly shrunk, more personable in its less popular spaces, in places of exquisite taste and intimate surroundings. Memorable: lunch of soba noodles at Keyaki Kurosawa, one of four restaurants in Tokyo inspired by the family recipes of the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa. Known not only for his legendary films like Rashomon (1950) and Seven Samurai (1954), Kurosawa, I learned then, was famous for his deep interest and practice of native culinary art. I realized, though, that I probably better understand Kurosawa films than Japanese food, and that my eyes are better trained than my paladar. Memorable, too: late-night drinks at a private bar, allegedly, Nagisa Yoko’s, sited in small alley in Shinjuku Sanchōme neighboring various petite membeship clubs of the kind.

Another delight: Center for Cosmic Wonder, a space founded by Osaka-based artist Yukinori Maeda. Since the mid-1990s, Maeda has been creating artworks all the while making a fashion line that goes by the name Cosmic Wonder Light Source. The space combines his practice with collaborative productions, such as Cosmic Wonder Free Press, of which three issues have been published by Nieves in Switzerland. The first space opened in Osaka, and a couple of years ago another one was established in Tokyo’s Aoyama, in one of the many alley streets behind the avenue where Issey Miyaki, Prada and Comme des Garçons and other high-end boutiques are sited.

The Center for Cosmic Wonder is neither an art gallery nor boutique, nor is it Light Source’s signature shop or a concept store by Maeda. But it seems to function like all of them at one point or the other. In its minimal white-cube garage area is a video projection of a Cosmic Wonder performance in Paris. Trough the back door, a garden trail connects that gallery with a high-ceiling, bright-but-soft-lit space that has rotating perimeter walls hiding closets; a large mirror cube placed on the ground that like a vault carries jewelry; a rack made of a rock sculpture with bended steel holds a handful of clothing items. The space has occult references no doubt, and is openly theatrical. Its air brings to mind a de-saturated Kenneth Anger sky, and arrangements an adaption set in Scharder’s Mishima—but, in any case, in movement by a play of light, conceptual transparency and willful opacity.

Thanks to the people who introduced me to these sites, Andrew Maerkle, Mami Kataoka, Elisa Uematsu and Jeffrey Rosen, and to Doryun Chong for helping me find places in town.

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