Saturday, June 4, 2016

West goes East

                Having just left the strictly ritualized and structured event of a Sunday Mass at St Paul’s Cathedral, it made perfect sense to then go to Tate Modern.  Wait, what?  As we walked over I wondered if the juxtaposition of participating in 2000-year-old beliefs and a museum dedicated to the modern, ever-changing art scene was intentional.    
                I will admit I do not understand most modern art.  It seems weird for the sake of being weird or intentionally  offensive.  Although I am much more comfortable with the later since offending is necessary, at times, for good social commentary.  As I strolled through the exhibit on Media Networks, I came across Yutaka Takanashi’s photography titled, “Contemplate Tokyo.”  I entered through the what seemed to be the back way since the description was over by the other entryway.  This proved to be serendipitous as I was able to view Yutaka san’s work without the bias of context.

                This was an exhibit of black and white photography of Japanese subjects but their images had Western influences.  Having some knowledge of post-war Japanese reconstruction these images spoke to me, talking of a very proud, traditionally isolated people whose cultural and national identity is in flux having been defeated on a grand scale by people they felt were inferior.  When I finally read about the work it was confirmed that it was a commentary on Western encroachment into the culture of Japan, the images were taken in 1968-70 and were published in Provoke.  I found three images particularly telling:

This image of John Lennon which I assume was taken at a showing of "Hard Days Night." The Beatles were a worldwide phenomenon and a safe way for other cultures to experience the West.

This image of a young Japanese boy looking at a model home filled with Barbie dolls.  The staged scene of a picture perfect American suburban home with all the luxuries of living in the United States. Great propaganda whether intentional or not.

Finally, Coca-Cola.  America's iconic commercial juggernaut that refuses to let national or cultural borders stand in its way.

As I was taking the images in I was pondering back to Japan's decision to attack Pearl Harbor.  The decision meant to spread Japanese influence was the first step to letting the world into their isolated culture.  Since they lost the war, they had no choice in the West coming onto their shores.  I thought Yutaka Takanashi created a fantastic snapshot (rimshot) of a culture in flux.

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