Sunday, February 2, 2014

"Sampling Sake in Room-2268"

Room-2268 has proven to be one of the most variable rooms, as in variability of experiences and exhibitions.  It comes with its own set of artists, as many of the galleries do, and the gallery owner seems to be well-networked, which is also not unusual, but within gallery artist networking, it seems the connections reach a little further than the other gallery owners I know.  So it's a bit hard to categorize, but here's one not untypical experience.

I walk into the gallery and see that it's a ceramics exhibition.  After looking around a little, the artist invites me to sit down and try some sake in one of his handmade (by him) sake cups, which I do, and before you know it, he's got me comparing the different taste of the same type of sake (from the same bottle) via differently shaped sake cups.  Either the shape of the cups really does have an effect (different degree of surface area interacting with the air?) and/or the artist's power of suggestion was strong, but in an A-B-A-B-A-B comparison (cone cup in each hand), there really did seem to be a difference.  Result?  I ended up buying one, and the artist gave me a differently-shaped one for free, saying the exhibition was almost over, so he wouldn't be needing the box of sample cups any longer.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

"Room-2260 and 2068"

All spaces have some kind of atmosphere - typically it's not readily apparent, but if you stop and take a good look/listen/feel to a room, usually you will perceive something - and sometimes a lot.  I must mention this, because the SBS-268 Building is more atmospheric than most, and has a great diversity of atmosphere's in its various rooms.

And so we come back to Room-2260 - a gallery whose owner runs it with a combination of professionalism and artistic sense.  Each week... well, *most* weeks, there's a different exhibition there, although the owner has been busy lately with other things, and has been taking more time away from the time demands of 2260.

Art exhibitions is in Tokyo usually last for six days, opening on Monday, and closing on Saturday.  A handful of galleries go from Thursday to Tuesday though, and the art world being the art world, there are nearly infinite variations on the exact timing of exhibitions as well as their length.  I've seen art exhibitions in Tokyo that were for from one day to thirty, and for various amounts of time (per day), although from 11:00 a.m. Until 7:00 p.m. Is the most common.

Hmm... so much general background!  Well, we'll get rolling with specific incidents as we go!  Until then, allow me to introduce another room - Room-2068, which requires some more general background information.

Group exhibitions.  Sooner or later, most galleries (not the art dealers masquerading as galleries, but the real art galleries) have a certain amount of group exhibitions, from once-in-a-blue-moon to nearly every single exhibition.  Room-2068 also has a mix of single-artist and group exhibitions, and during one of my early visits to the SBS-268 Building, I was invited into Room 2068 during a group exhibition, and while looking over the art, one of the artists and the gallery owner invited me to sit down and have a drink with them (in the gallery).  It was unexpected (newcomer to the gallery scene that I was), but welcome, so I accepted the offer, and we had a good time talking about various things, with - naturally - art being the central theme.

After having a good time in the gallery for... was it one hour? Two? Three?  Time is timeless in that building, making it hard to say how long it was, but after a while, the artist invited the owner and I to come with her to a club on the Shinbashi side of Ginza.  It sounded like fun, so off we went, and a good time was had by all - ho-ho!

Don't get your imagination too worked up though - we had a good time *talking*, just talking.  But the backdrop to an evening out with people is a vital part of the overall picture, and there's a kind of historical magic to the back streets of Ginza - under constant threat and constantly diminishing via the Godzilla construction monster (GCM), but still there, provided you know where to go.

It's a real concern though - atmospheric areas that get that way over decades and are much beloved by the inhabitants of the city, are falling to the GCI at an alarming/dismaying pace, typically replaced with sealed-box recirculating (read stale) air towers full of soulless "brand" items marketed at high prices.  Nothing - nothing is more important than short-term profits it seems.

But I digress... I suppose I'm over-stating my case a little.  Friends from Europe that I take around Tokyo are invariably not impressed with any old structure in Japan not made of wood, and typically say that they envy Tokyo's constant renewal - saying that buildings in the cities of Europe are overprotected.

But this isn't Europe, this is Tokyo, and it seems to many residents of this megacity that *some* post-Edo-era, pre-2014 buildings of interest should be preserved.  One reason being contrast.  An entire city of gleaming monotonous newness would be a boring, shallow place.  Digressing again...  Okay - enough for today then!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

"There's a Dark Side to Everything, Even Art"

I well remember the first time I came upon the SBS-268 Building.  The year was, if I'm not mistaken, 2006 (or possibly 2007, but I think 2006), and I had been out taking pictures - making use of the last light of a late June day - when I noticed a building that seemed a little different from its neighbors.  I stopped, put my camera down, and was pondering the building in a contemplative way, when a group of people walked by, and one of them said something to the effect of "Oh - there's that building that was on TV"....

That's not necessarily of much meaning, since a lot of what ends up on TV is basically just garbage, but still, it seemed to indicate a higher probability of *something* interesting being inside the building, so I crossed the street and took a closer look.  Noting that (among other things) there were art galleries in the building, I decided to walk in and have a look at the building.  My intent was mainly to see the inside of the building, with the art galleries providing an excuse to be wandering around inside, but after a couple of friendly artists in different galleries invited me in to see their exhibitions, I unwittingly took my first step into a... habit/hobby/tendency/something of visiting art galleries to see exhibitions.

The thing is - I've always spent my time taking pictures and never made the effort and/ or found the time to have a look at other people's art.  But once I started, I quickly realized that I quite enjoyed looking at art exhibitions, and have regularly visited several art galleries every week ever since then.  Initially, I noticed that I enjoyed seeing any kind of art exhibition save photography, with the reason for that exception being that I couldn't look at photographic exhibitions without a range of competitive/critical thoughts/feelings arising.  Paintings, on the other hand, were something I don't (and basically can't) do myself, so I just enjoyed looking at everything in a non-critical way.

That ignorance-is-bliss mode lasted for quite a while - around... five years I think it was.  Since then, gradually, the habit of experiencing several art exhibitions every week for several years has provided somewhat of an education, and increasingly, particularly lately, a critical eye.  And so, while I still enjoy seeing art exhibitions every week, it's not as fun as it used to be, because I've seen/experienced too much and the years of innocence are (almost completely) gone.

Sometimes I think I could become an art critic, but I'm not *that* knowledgeable and I decided at the outset that I would not criticize people's art.  I figured "If someone has attempted to make something beautiful, it's not for me to criticize the result", which I'm holding to, although I now understand that some of the things in art exhibitions are not the result of someone trying to make something beautiful, but are put there for other reasons, but let's not go there.  Suffice it to say that there's a dark side to everything - including the art world.


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"Going Off-Script: 'No offense, but...'"

Having just gone down to the sixth floor via the stairway, I noticed an interesting element of the building on the ceiling and took a few pictures of it.  Turning around, I then ran into a loose acquaintance from another country.  He called out a friendly greeting and extended his hand.  All according to a script and visual flow of images you've seen... what? - thousands of times? - tens of thousands of times?

And so the automatic social gears in your imagination kick in and you are probably already imagining me reaching out my hand and shaking the man's hand with a big smile on my face - which is what I usually do, but not always (especially when I'm using my camera, as I was at the time), and not this time.  I went off auto-script and left my hand (with my camera in it) by my side - explaining that I never touch my camera if there is oil on my hands, and since I was in the middle of taking pictures, I would prefer - as I generally do at such times - not to shake hands.

Mind you, there's no antisocial element to this, it's simply a matter of washing my hands - with soap - before using my camera so I don't get sweat/oil/whatever on the camera.  Unfortunately, it's been my experience that - more often than not - when I shake hands with someone, I come away from the encounter with extra oil on my hand, which is irritating anyway, and especially when I'm using a machine that I want to keep clean.  I wasn't accusing him of having dirty hands, but the usual outcome of making (for what bloody purpose?) physical hand-to-hand contact with people out in public is me ending up with an oily right hand that I then need to wash before I can resume taking pictures.  I didn't have the time at the moment to go off in search of soap and water, and I thought I could explain the issue to the man.

Unfortunately, my acquaintance from another country appeared to take this as a personal insult.  He muttered something at me in a language I don't understand and walked off - looking rather unhappy about the exchange.  No offense intended on my part, but apparently taken by him - and now also by me, since the muttered word he used didn't appear to be a friendly one.  The dangers of going off-script....

Anyway - for the record, I really hate the custom of shaking hands.  Bowing is - I believe - a much more civilized way to greet people.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"Why Room-2260?"

Why start with Room-2260?  Good question.  Basically because I've been putting off starting this story for far too long and - for some reason - Room-2260 came to mind when I decided - today, January 1st, 2014 - to just start this already and get the story rolling.  There's much to say - from mundane to otherwise.  To get started, I suppose mundane details are as good as anything.
The SBS-268 Building is much beloved by its tenants and the people who know it well, but tends to be off the radar screen for most of the world, although its quiet fame is spreading.  Its tenants include art galleries, antique shops, office space, storage space, and other uses not generally known.

The building itself is old - having been completed in 1933, and it has mysterious dead spaces (sealed off parts that had a function in decades past), bits of former equipment (steam heating pipes, etc.) and... many other details that we'll come to later.  To get a feeling for the atmosphere, I'm including the photo above, which is (primarily) composed of images from a different building that was constructed in the same era.

And - well... that's a start.  We'll come back to Room-2260 later!  The building in this story is fiction, with bits of a kind of reality tossed into the mix.