For the third time in history the term Gothic, originally a European tribe accounted for the downfall of the western roman empire and henceforth used as a derogatory term for uncivilized, unmannered, cultureless and tasteless made its revival for a movement mainly among young people.
The phenomenon described as goth / gothic exists in various cultural fields including music, fashion, movies and literatures. It originally referred to a style of art in Europe in the Middle Ages, however, today it functions as a term indicative of a certain lifestyle. Body modifications, such as tattooing or piercing, and a focus upon death and illness are not merely a matter of taste, but instead are an expression of the self trying to stand up against a conservative world. The exhibition introduces goth / gothic in contemporary art through approximately 250 works, including sculpture, painting, video, and photography by 6 internationally active artists. Works by these highly respected artists will provide us with the opportunity to think afresh about the nature of goth / gothic, which resonates especially with a young generation.
At least this is how the Yokohama Museum of Art describes the term. An it invited us to take the train to the capital of our prefecture and have a look at it. And surprised we was! The exhibition started with pieces of skeletons, which lay on the floor just like this, they in fact interacted with the whole room and the visitors in it. So we had to made our way between the, just to enter an even more horrifying room: The horror cabinet of Doctor Lakra. This artist from Mexico would explore various ways to provoke disgust and unpleasent feelings in humans. His largest body of work consists of the tattooing of people on famous photographs or paintings. But for Japan he also raped some of the traditional Japanese painted Samurai and Geisha into eating each other's flesh or other abnormities. He created long wall papers, where he played a lot with colors and symbols. Finally if you still haven't run away, a couple of guys having heads out of insect parts or human organs, kindly reminded you, that this tour was not a pleasant one for stomach and heart. As another Japan bonus, one guy's heads was completely made out of Sushi, transforming one of the Japanese's favorite dishes into conglomerates of disgust.
What? Yes of course I enjoyed it!
Next was a black movie room with a circular 360 degree canvas in the center of the room. A movie was going on on all over the canvas, which made it impossible for you to see very part of it at every point. The movie displayed hands grabbing and floating/merging into each other. When suddenly with displeasing noise a colorful infection would enter some of the hands and spread, finally being defeated and the hands returning to normal. The speed increases and the infection gets stronger is barely under control and finally all hands have the displeasing color and the displeasing music does not stop anymore and then... silence. The hands are gone and so is the music/noise. But somehow you cannot get your stare away from the canvas searching for a sign of hope and new life. Nobody leaves the room, although it would see logical that the hands are dead and the movie ended. Then suddenly a tiny barely visible sound, and heads of the visitors turning around in circles quickly to locate it. And there it is, a kind of abstract insect is born out of the void of the dead hands and eventually evolves into hand, grabbing another hand out of itself and so on...
Now we are in the center of the exhibition and look at photographs of the Japanese Gothic scene, often referred to as Gothic Lolita, Visual K and many more terms. There are significant differences to the Gothic scene I know from Europe. While the girls use the same symbols and often the same Victorian Age style of clothes in black, where there European counterparts look disgusting (in a positive sense ;)), mystical, whorey, etc. the Japanese girls while taking the same fashion give a large emphasis in remaining cute. It seems impossible at first, but somehow they managed to cover both in one.
On the other hand you will find a lot of dolls. Looking, acting and feeling like a doll is very popular among the Japanese Goth scene, and many girls resemble dolls so much, it is really scary. And by now way are they sticking to the black color, they're often self designed and made Doll Cloths cover all the colors of traditional dolls. The most impressive part of the photos were photos of the apartments of the dolls. They have taken a lot of hardship to make the apartment exactly look like doll houses. And when you see them sitting in their doll bed in the middle, you can't help seeing Alice in Wonderland. Much better and real! than any story book, movie or game ever could.
Photographs Of The Japanese Goth Scene
After this marveling through photos we entered yet another cinematique room build on sugar cubes hosting three movies, one directly unto the sugar cubes. The movies show thee stages of human life: Infant, Middle Age, Old Age.
In all those three aspects the movies evoke feelings of fear and disgust and anger at the watchers. The infant is laid naked and bare in the middle of a shapeless white room, that makes it seem the toddler really in front of us on the sugar cubes. The infant is helpless, it can not yet move or do anything with it's short limbs. It tries so hard, but finds them yet useless and starts crying. People looked disgusted at the infant and you could watch the anger in them rise. Why does nobody help the baby?
Above the baby you could see a mid aged man rolling around in a park, just like the baby, screaming in a more developed and much more hideous voice. This time watching people next to me, got angry at the man himself. He was old enough to stand up and deal with his life. Why would he role around mad like an infant. He is so stupid. We don't want such people in our community. He should go and die. Then a electric fence was spun around the rolling man. You saw smoke and eventually only his heart remained on the fence. But the electricity from the fence around him grilled his heart and killed it. And then the flies came and fed on his heart.
(Of course some of those feeling came up in me as well, else I could not have discovered them so well in the other people around me. Yet we thought about them and realized that while the people felt angry at the baby for not being helped, they felt even more angry for the man not helping himself and by their anger killed his injured heart surrounding him like an electric fence. Does a grown up heart not also need help and love like the infant?)
Finally a last movie depicted an elderly woman in a hospital bed. The camera showed her old skin and yellowish nails. She looked not pleasing and yet she was human and alive and yet we would also reach a state like this. The woman eventually took her own blood pushed it into a glass and started painting with it on a white wall. People looked away, they couldn't stand watching someone painting with her own blood. Yet what she painted was pleasing: A red sunrise and lines underneath. Is that what she felt or longed for? The sunrise split into four, into 16, into 68, into 272 and into 1088 looking the wall looking like the sugar cubes on the ground now.
Wow that was intense. But we were almost through, one more artist and we would take a break. Now for a Japanese artist who documented his transition from a monster, which he could not identify with or feel as into a woman, as which she finally found peace and harmony. The artist would depict all her troubles and thoughts in this difficult realization and process in many self pictures, usually only displaying her head wrapped, painted, stuck, abused, raped into all kind of forms to make way for her inner feelings. In between you could find pictures displaying the state of her sexual organs. At first you saw a male penis, that appeared to not fit her body and be wrong, and yet part of her. And at the end the penis was gone, and a vagina appeared. And her transfer to a woman was complete. On the final picture she smiled.
the many faces of Pyuupuri
Art can be so powerful. We had to sit down right after leaving the last room. And then we sat maybe for 15 minutes, maybe for half an hour, maybe for an hour. We just sat and digested.
Then we refreshed in the museum's cafe, in which I ordered Gothic waffles with bloody raspberry syrup bleeding from a cherry heart on top. And then we walked through the second half of the museum with the permanent exhibition of many of the world's renown artists. However we could not make it to the end, since we were already overflowing and ended somewhere in between.
Salvador Dali Action Figures at the Museum Gift Shop
Abstract Gothic Sculptures In The Main Hall
Then following Hong Lun we visited another "museum", the biggest furniture selling sky scraper in Japan and looked at Japanese furniture and all kinds of modern furniture. Curiously enough it felt like a museum. Try it! Go to a furniture house and just look at the different pieces like you would in a museum.
traditional Japanese furniture
After that we watched a live street performance and I lead the others to our final museum for the day. The Hard Rock Cafe in Yokohama, where I have been before. And then we went home.
I still had a flyer and the invitation of the singer of the PsyDolls. So I went to 新宿 Shinjuku (after the 節分 Setsubun bean throwing festival) and looked with two other interns for the Live House. Since it was Sunday, not many people were there, which made me reminiscent about my days in Passau, where I often used to go to a club called Camera on Sundays, where the entrance was free and the music covered Gothic, Darkwave and Industrial music. And it was as empty as the Live House. However the Live House was so small and tiny, that it didn't really matter.
The first band "nicht" was great!
I really loved their music and performance and later after getting to know each other, they even gave me a CD =D The second one was an interesting one woman project called Shingapurra. A little girl swinging a sword and playing with a gorgon head she had created herself. She also created the music and sang to it in the live performance. The music was not great, but I must acknowledge her spirit to go through all this by herself. Tsugi ha PsyDolls.
The band, where I already knew two members from another Live House. However I never saw/heard them live yet and wow they were really brilliant. The guitarist in his incredible cool outfit played the guitar like a true master from top to bottom of the neck, she sung cool songs playing a keyboard and the third doll played with cool tech stuff like an Antenna that's radio emissions are turned into sound and change according to where and how you move your hands around it. Even more they were totally into it and gave a really great performance. Last was yet another solo project of a single guitarist who tried to sound like the Cure. He wasn't bad either, but when one single persons sings (or plays) to recorded music, a kind of CD feeling remains.
Interesting were also two other things. For once the band members would be Japanese polite on the stage, greeting everybody, apologizing, using politeness language. etc. First I thought it part of the show, but I think despite their songs, outfit and performance, it is quite common among Japanese bands. The second was the transformation the band members underwent after their show. It was so huge, that I had a very hard time recognizing them again after the show, also both in appearance and behavior. They would look so insignificant, that nobody would ever guess they are zombies, vampires or biohydraulic cyborgs. Forget alteregos of super heroes who need masks, look at them and nobody will ever guess that when the sun falls behind the horizon, .....
After the performances I got to know some cool people, like the members of the band Gothic Logic, who were dwelling in dreams the whole night, cause they got their OK to be allowed to play at the WGT the Wave Gothic Treffen the biggest Gothic festival in the world. The world is so small, isn't it? Alas I am still in Japan, when they travel to Leipzig, else I would definitely go.
As the night rose I gave the flower I won earlier at the Setsubun festival to a French girl, shared the Natto with the Japanese band members which I got to know today and gave a CD containing Gothic music from Germany to the singer of the PsyDolls, like I promised her last time. We had a great time, once again overcoming cultural distances and I got to know a tiny part of the Japanese Gothic culture and a lot of new friends :).
Shinggapura had a great performance and art, but the music was moderate
The PsyDolls were truly great
the tallest building in Japan, Sauron's Black Tower looming over all of Yokohama