A great piece of news that is sure to please a good number of you: Plapla Pinky are playing at the Villette Sonique festival on Saturday 25th May at 7pm.…
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Born on October 10, 1938, Daido Moriyama is a Japanese photographer who created a radical change on the photographic arena both in Japan and the West. His works mirror the breakdown of Japan’s conservative tradition, especially during the post-war. Moriyama is a member of PROVOKE magazine, a theorist and a lecturer.
The Life of Moriyama
Daido Moriyama grew up in Ikeda, Osaka where he got his first training for graphic design before he decided to take photography lessons with Takeji Iwaniya, a legendary photographer of crafts and architecture. In the year 1961, he moved to Tokyo where he became the assistant of another photographer named Eikoh Hosoe. He worked for the man for 3 years until when he got the interest on the trenchant social critiques created by Shomei Tomatsu. Daido Moriyama further obtained his inspiration from the confrontation photographs of William Klein. Andy Warhol is also among his inspirations, particularly when the former silkscreened several newspaper images. The writings of Jack Kerouac and Yukio Mishima were also among his motivations.
From Moriyama's Memories of a Dog
Work and Career
On most instances, Moriyama takes his photographs in the Shinjuku regions of Tokyo. His works are often seen in grainy, high contrast, black and white images. He is well-known for taking shots in odd angles. His works were largely influenced by Seiryu Inoue, William Klein, Shomei Tomatsu, Andy Warhol, Eikoh Hosoe, the dramatist Shūji Terayama, the writer Yukio Mishima, as well as Jack Kerouac's On the Road.
Moriyama became prominent during the mid-1960s with his grainy representation of the Japanese life. His personal approach to photography yields results with graininess, high contrast, and tilted vantages. These images depict the fragmentary nature of life.
All throughout his career, he won several recognitions. The year 1967 brought him his New Artist Award from the Japan Photo-Critics Association. He obtained the coveted Annual Award from the Photographic Society of Japan in 1983. The year 2003 gave him his The 44th Mainichi Art Award and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Photographie (DGPh) in 2004.
His use of small automatic camera provides his photos with causal artistry. Moriyama’s works were featured in several collections, both private and public. Some of these are in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Centre Pompidou, Paris, The Getty Museum, Los Angeles, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He has his share of solo shows too at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Fotomuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland, The Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Photography in Tokyo, and The Folkwang, Essen, Germany.
After rubbing shoulders with the American avant-garde and, in particular, John Cage with whom she taught, Michiyo Yagi went back to the koto, a traditional Japanese instrument related to the cithara. She breathes into this instrument expressivity of unsuspected force and develops her harmonic potential into virgin musical lands. She has played with the avant-garde (Ruins, John Zorn, Zena Parkins), in traditional Japanese music groups, has appeared worldwide in Hoaio (with Haco and Sachiko M) and Kokoo, and has taken part in the album made by the pure techno pop marketing product techno pop vivant that is the singer Ayumi Hamasaki.
Although she grew up to the sound of the koto played by her mother, far from accepting its presence and sound as evidence, Michiyo Yagi, during her formative years, considered this instrument to be an object that demanded a lot of work, a prisoner of a fossilized repertoire with slight harmonic potential compared to that of western classical music.
The eminent traditional apprenticeship that she followed did not really give her any opportunity to blossom in her own musical environment: living at her teacher’s home, in the company of her co-pupils, she performed the daily chores of cleaning, washing and cooking, viewed as equally important as the lessons themselves. During the rare public performances, still be their teacher’s side, the disciples had to pay him for the privilege of playing by his side. Rigid in the extreme, this teaching was, however, the first step towards an expanded conception of music, with her teacher Kazue Sawai being the true pioneer of a traditional Japanese music that was open to experimentation and modern compositions.
In 1989, she appeared as part of the Sawai group at the Bang On A Can Festival at New York, where she was struck by a work for percussion by John Cage that shattered her compartmentalized conceptions of "tradition" and "modernity". In 1991 during one year as guest teacher at the Wesleyan university (Connecticut), where Cage also taught, she helped create several pieces with, amongst others, John Zorn and Christian Wolff, and helped in the extraordinary prolixity of the young students, whose pared down creations (mixing Balinese dances and western music) had a profound effect on her and persuaded her to write her own works.
On her return from the United States, her personal approach to composition the rules of the game that she was discovering did not sit well with the immutable teaching of Sawai and Yagi chose the breakaway route to independence. Her style was initially characterized by an unusual strength, a expressivity with a power that was almost masculine. As a logical extension of her robust finger plectrum, she sometimes has recourse to small hammers and hooks to strike her instrument’s strings, insisting on their percussive potential. This is also how she discovered the polyphonic potential of the koto produced by phantom vibrations of the vibrating strings on the strings at rest, giving rise to subterranean motifs and melodies.
The aim of some of Yagi’s research is a new form of “Japaneseness”, a modernity that is free from the influence of the West and the accepted homage, but these great plans do not stop her taking pleasure in exploring repertories that are over 400 years old …
© 2006 text: Franck Stofer, photo: Albane Laure
“Seamoons” robot singers with paper lungs, "Ultra-folk" automatic guitars and "Koi-beat" mechanical rhythm box¸ the creative genius of Maywa Denki outs its efforts into paradoxes: passionate goldworking / off-the-wall public presentations; innovative artistic pretentions/assumed marketing strategy. Like Bruno Munari, Nobumichi Tosa breathes life into his resin and aluminium robots, irresistible and capricious machines, whose vain mechanical beauty are much vaunted by Tosa.
Old Tosa created Maywa Denki in 1969. One of the multitude of small businesses that used their flexibility for the benefit of the major Japanese companies and that formed the basis of Japan’s growth and dynamism during the Sixties. Unfortunately, like many others, Maywa Denki suffered a downturn in fortunes and closed its doors in 1979. In 1993, Mr Tosa’s two rejects, Masamichi and Nobumichi, created the artistic group known as Maywa Denki.
Initially performing in the shopping malls of Tokyo, after a few appearances on television, Maywa Denki become an unmissable artistic machine. They use business words and images to disseminate their work. On the one hand, the uniform reassures the Japanese, but, on the other, the effect produced by a team of blue men wearing caps who struggle to present cranky creations is simply irresistible.
In 2001, there was an internal reorganization : big brother Masamichi, a little cranky, retired at the age of 35. Nobumichi Tosa, the hard-working and applied younger brother, was then, naturally and officially, appointed President of Maywa Denki. In fact, the concept was born out of Nobumichi Tosa’s end of study project. He created a series of instruments of absurd, fish-like design that he presented, wrapped up, to the July. Since then, he has kept his hand on the tiller and steers a course between creative work and public presentations: the Grand-Guignol aspect.
These objects are manufactured in single copies. Doomed to remain prototypes, their usage is very limited, almost nil. Nobumichi Tosa works with gold in his workshop, where he lauds the mechanical beauty of his creations that are the result of fusion between resin and aluminium. Some machines are sometimes reproduced in small production series, simplified and purified versions of the prototypes. A third level of objects is marketed commercially, signature Maywa Denki gadgets: electrical extensions in the shape of a fin, small plastic men who tap their head...
Maywa Denki’s work fall into one of three classifications : Naki, Tsukuba and Edelweiss. Although these series are distinct from each other, there are points of connection between them. Naki is the first series to be developed by Nobumichi Tosa on the theme of Who am I ? 26 objects in the shape of a fish focus on him and his relationship with the world. The Naki series comprises some of Maywa Denki’s emblematic instruments Denki with the Koi-beat, a portable rhythm box in the shape of a carp with incorporated electrical switches, or the famous Pachi-moku, a type of two-tone marimba worn on the back like two metallic wings and played by clicking one’s fingers.
© 2006 text: Franck Stofer, photo: Albane Laure
Charging out of a supersonic maelstrom, Maruosa performances are of a violence worthy of XVth century Italian frescos. Alone on stage, this man gives off an energy more or less equivalent to that of an entire death metal band put through the breakcore grinder. With cries from beyond the tomb and a whirlwind of hair that would delight shampoo sellers the world over, Maruosa shows that musical ultra-violence isn’t necessarily synonymous with disgust and destruction.
Offstage, Maruosa is a calm, composed young man, concerned about food and body hygiene. What he aims to transmit is positive human energy. Maruosa says, “There are many people in Japan who listen to calm, airy, ambient music to console themselves when they feel bad but I think they’re making a mistake. They should be listening to music like mine to raise their spirits.” Electroshock therapy as the title of his album, Exercise and Hell, suggests, a paradoxical transmission of positivity that finds its source in loud, chaotic music.
Music didn’t really interest Maruosa at first. He preferred to lose himself in his favourite manga (Gegege no Kitaroby Shigeru Mizuki!). One day however he heard a piece by YMO and discovered that music isn’t always accompanied by words and can be purely instrumental. He continued to explore instrumental music until the day a friend showed him a piece of software that would allow him to make his own music. He started with pop (!) around 2001 and was invited to work with 2 Gameboy players. He accepted but, to give himself a new challenge, took up the mic, started yelling into it and was away! His music suddenly changed direction under the influence of this new all-powerful arm.
It was an explosive formula. In the space of a few years, Maruosa did a series of marathon tours around Japan and Europe, appearing at Sonar in Barcelona in June 2008 before setting off on a series of concerts in Oceania. Maruosa is a mover and a shaker. He has developed contacts through organising concerts in Tokyo and even manages his own label Rendarec, which broadcasts recordings and news from musician friends such as MIDIsai, aaaaa, Ove-Naxx, Bogulta, DJ Scotch Egg and Doddodo.
© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick
Kan Mikami sings the blues, brutal, universal, sad. He sings fado. His voice hits you in the guts and resounds like the howling of the wind. There’s something immutable about his ballads, slowly weathered over time under the lights and in the shadows. A clear electro-acoustic guitar contrasts with his powerful voice that rasps slightly as if damaged and torn countless times.
On September 14 1968, Kan Mikami got on the train to Tokyo from his native province of Aomori. He was a poet and wanted to publish. In the meantime, he worked in newspaper distribution, sporting a Mohican. One day a bar owner, intrigued by his appearance, asked him if he could sing. Kan Mikami took up his guitar and soon had the whole bar crying. At that time he was part of the student demonstrations, joined the barricades and played in front of 30,000 people at the celebrated Nakatsukawa folk festival. Those were the good times. He signed with Columbia and then Victor, bringing out a dozen records. He had to tighten his belt at the end of the Seventies however, when the student rebels became salaried workers and the concerts dried up.
The Eighties signalled the beginning of a long period of musical introspection for Kan Mikami. He played exactly the same repertoire for 10 long years, once a month at the Mandala-2, a small club in the area of Kichijoji. He had no desire to move on and instead discovered the real essence of his playing. At the end of the Eighties, his American alter ego, John Zorn came to the club to hear him. Then came Yoshihide Otomo and later Keiji Haino and Motoharu Yoshizawa. They all encouraged him to take the plunge and record some new albums on the independent label PSF, slowly helping him re-emerge from the shadows.
Litterature had a big influence on Kan Mikami when he was growing up. Surrealism, the Beat Generation, Jean Genet, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir and Shuji Terayama were just some of these revelations. However Kan Mikami says, “With music, I discovered that before words, it’s sound that creates the world, outside language, beyond it. (…) Language is at the service of sound and not the other way round. It doesn’t matter any more whether or not my poems are understood.”
© 2008 text: Franck Stofer, translation: Jack Sims, photo: Eric Bossick