Even though the world has become much smaller in a metaphorical sense in the last 50 years due to the advancement of communication technology, Japan is still a country far out of reach for many Westerners. When it comes to introducing contemporary Japanese culture to them, the task becomes even more difficult especially because Japanese culture is a hybrid of many in constant flux.
Curated by P.S.1 Adjunct Curator Kazue Kobata and filmmaker/critic David d'Heilly, 'Buzz Club: News from Japan' does an excellent job on introducing the crossbred, techno-centric nature of contemporary Japanese media culture to the Western audience. The exhibition does so by featuring more than 100 creators, who use, define, and evolve media on a daily basis, in a diverse yet cohesive environment.
As one enters the first gallery of the exhibition, a massive beehive structure welcomes the visitor. In each of the hexagons of this beehive metropolis, made of structural cardboard, is a customized installation that portrays many facets of Japanese youth culture, ranging from cell phones and popular video games to fashion figurines and MacDonald's in Japan. Visitors can freely interact with various installations: they can watch and listen to some while others allow them to play, read, or even play with other visitors. Although each of the hives is an isolated setting for the visitor, Ms. Kobata and Mr. d'Heilly have successfully created an environment in which these hives represent numerous assets of Japanese culture that are companions to each other.
What adds more to this installation is the intentionally unaligned levels, physically and conceptually, of the hives. Some hives are at an eye-level, much like a regular exhibition display, while others require the visitors to sit, climb, or even crawl into in order to fully experience. Unlike usual museum exhibitions, nothing in this gallery (except for the introductory text for the exhibition) is displayed on the walls. In the art world full of pretensions, this kind of relaxed approach is fresh, effective, and engaging.
In the second gallery, selected artists artist featured successively during the exhibition. At the time of my visiting, pop/electronic music and graphic design outfit Delaware held a show entitled "Artoon." Claiming that they are 30% Rock & Roll, 30% graphics, 20% "Popism," and 20% minimalism, Delaware, known for their pixelated art and design work, exhibited their world that consists of only white, black, red and straight lines.
In addition, Delaware performed their "Bit Map Beats" daily during their exhibition. Deliberately primitive and humorously offbeat, their music is a mixture of oldies, pop, and electronic.
Buzz Club: News from Japan is effectively cultural and quintessentially Japanese. Whether you are familiar with Japanese culture or not, it is a show that is well worth a visit.
Buzz Club: News from Japan
Date : July 1 to Sept 9, 2001
Place : P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center
Address : 22-25 Jackson Ave at the intersection of 46th Ave in Long Island City, 11101. NY