Ancient books, manuscripts, and art from the Far East and South East Asia

Archive for March, 2011

Tetsuo: The Iron Man


An introduction to Body Horror’s Spawn in Japan.
From late 80’s to present, the underground cinema was shaken and mauled by a unique stream.
A stream of metal and flesh, rust and blood, sex and dismemberment: The body horror brought into the worldwide theatres by its undisputed master: the Canadian maestro David Cronenberg.
His artworks brought a new breed of film-maker or to be precise, film artisans, whose obsession for the machine merging with the human body, the rivalry between man and the world of concrete and steel, and the loneliness of the human souls, gave birth to some of the most intense and somewhat disturbing flicks the world has ever seen.
One of these creators is the Japanese director Shinya Tsukamoto: the “Anarch of Cinema”. Since 1986 with his first short movie “The Phantom Of Regular Size” has well described the Technological hysteria that contaminated the mind and body of Japanese People with an unique and disturbing style that put together the tradition of Japanese fiction production (Go Nagai and Katushiro Otomo, to mention just a couple of the many forefathers of Shinya) and the fast and neurotic photography, that roots in the mute cinema and then to be evolved in the 70’s indie production) characterized by stop-motion technique.
Those initially chosen for economic reasons, became later the signature of this unique style, that made the evolutions of his most famous creature: Tetsuo. So unnatural and deeply disturbing character.
In 1987, after Denchu Kozo No Boken (“The Adventures of the Electric Pole Boy”) directed by Shinya Tsukamoto, in collaboration with the Hentai producer and actor Tomoo Taniguchi, the success of the movie reaches the theaters all over the world with a black and white movie that literally shocked Cinema: “TETSUO the iron man”. The plot, quite linear, is taken into a greater cinematic experience thanks to the fast actions that resemble the frantic and dreadful fights of Go Nagai’s Devilman.
Then the continuous mutations of the bodies of Tomoo and Yatsu were greatly supported by a wonderful photography work.
Close ups in black and white of scrap metal, sweat and steam, metalize the skin of the three actors, and the light speed cameras roared through streets, corridors and the body itself.
The movie shrieks and pumps like a steam machine from the beginning to the last frame and no one, even Shinya, the future Enfant Terrible of Japanese cinema, could forecast that this synthetic, dark, nihilistic motion picture could become a mass underground phenomena thanks to many estimators around the world like the film director Quentin Tarantino and the Italian critics Enrico Ghezzi and Maria Roberta Novielli.
The main reasons because this flick, even if it’s so disturbing that an unprepared viewer would be shocked like it had been mauled for the whole 78’ minutes, is so essential to any film enthusiast is because it synthetizes the whole sense of sorrow that lies beyond our contemporary age: The technology we build and use to simplify our lives are slowly making us addicted to them. To bring in an example, let’s just take one of the most (or so it seems) gratuitous scenes of Tetsuo when Tomoo, engaged in an erotic game with his girlfriend have an erection and suddenly his penis become a giant industrial drill. At first terrorized by his new “feature” Tomoo runs away but then the excitement takes his tool and he actually penetrates his girl with the “driller Penis” disemboweling her. This part can be read both as the desire of modern man to more virility, arriving to grotesque surgical operations for the erection and the dimension of the penis involving pumps and electric devices, and the Japanese obsession for sex toys (omnipresent in the Eastern pornographic world) that in some way are becoming a surrogate of his old, fleshy counterpart.
In synthesis Tetsuo is an extreme concentrate of the illness of the contemporary man who is being strangled by concrete and metal and must fight back before turning himself to iron and rust into the horrid utopia that Yatsu call the NEW WORLD. A synthesis that will be, in Shinya’s future works, better analyzed into a true “sickness of the modern world” encyclopedia of twelve flicks that will conclude (for now) with the third Tetsuo installment: The Bullet man.

By Marco de Lazzer

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Help for Japan: Aiutiamo il Giappone

Martedi 29 Marzo 2011 dalle 18,00

La mostra rimarra’ aperta fino al mercoledì 6 Aprile 2011

Orario : 14,00-19,00 Lunedi e festivi chiuso

L’Associazione culturale Arte Giappone, dal martedì 29 marzo, nella sua sede milanese in Vicolo Ciovasso 1 (zona Brera), offre il suo spazio espositivo per presentare la mostra “Coraggio Giappone” .

In questa occasione saranno in vendita le opere donate da una trentina di artisti giapponesi per aiutare il paese gravemente colpito dallo tsunami e dal terremoto dello scorso 11 marzo. Di fronte ad un evento così sconvolgente ci si sente impotenti e fragili al tempo stesso.Ciò nonostante non vogliamo perdere la speranza e la forza interiore per ricostruire e ricominciare con positività e coraggio.

Vi invitiamo tutti a partecipare e a dare il vostro contributo. Il ricavato sarà devoluto direttamente al Gruppo Isola della Speranza che e’ stato fondato apposta per aiutare la zona colpita senza alcun intermediario.

More info: Associazione Culturale ARTE GIAPPONE
Vicolo Ciovasso 1, 20121, Milano, Italia
tel&fax: +39 02-865138
e-mail: fukamil@attglobal.net


Coming this week:

The project of hosting reviews of friends that love Asia is taking shape!

This week Marco de Lazzer will join us with a great article about TETSUO, the iron man (1989) of Shinya Tsukamoto.

In these days of sorrow for the big catastrophe in Japan, the issue concerning technology, mankind and their relationship toward mother nature is on a roll: Marco de Lazzer will give us a new point of view sizing up the famous movie of Tsukamoto.


Jaehee Kim, when bidimensional art becomes a 3D experience.

The latest artist I happen to interview is a great Korean painter who’s searching inside her painting skills to make 3D installations.
Jaehee Kim comes from Seul at Brera’s Academy in order to experience new forms of art and reshaping her creativity by studying in Europe.
“I came here to study mosaic, but when I found out that Italian art schools keep separated different techniques such as painting or sculpture, I moved to Brera for a decoration course which tents to teach students diverse styles” She explains.
What I find gripping is the evolution of her art works from when she would live in Seoul until now, since she arrived in Italy three years ago.
“In Korea I attended painting in undergraduate and then in a Master of Art (at EWHA Womans University in 2005). But I moved to Italy because I could not stay in Seoul any longer. Coming to Italy my life has changed so much, and so is my art”.
For Jaehee the cultural gap between Korea and Italy could be seen as a cultural clash indeed.
When Jaehee shows me her paintings made in Korea, I notice how bright colors and diverse shapes play the role of main subjects.
The choice of the colors clearly transmits her mood and feelings while she was painting at that time. “As soon as I finished school and got my Master degree, the pressure put on my shoulders was unbearable. I could not paint for myself, but I was force to do it for business” Then she adds: ”I had to leave my hometown, and now, away from that pressure, I feel I can love again what I do and what I am”.
Jaehee is attending decoration course at Brera’s Academy.
“Decoration has nothing to do with painting, I know, but Brera is giving me the opportunity to work with many different materials professors and learning a wide range of techniques”.
Jaehee is taking a break from the flat world of paintings to experience the complex reality of an tridimensional installation where anyone can walk through.
“Nowaday an artist must experience different types of art. You must be able to paint, to sculpt, to project complex installations”.
The main art work accomplished by Jaehee is “Uncomfortable House” (Seoul 2010). This installation is the result of a study of her life between Korea and Italy, where daily life furniture and the cold and sharp steel of a numbers of needles creates the unreal feeling of discomfort.
The softness of our pair of slippers is pierced by thousands of needles coming up throught the soles. Then, our beloved feather’s stuffed pillow, is full of dangerous shining nails.
Imagine yourself walking in your cosy living room, but, as soon as you realized the presence of needles everywhere, you come out in goosebumps!
“The idea of this installation came to my mind while I was in Korea. I could not stay at home anymore, even if I was in my bed I could not sleep at all! I always felt the piercing sensation of discomfort. I can express my pain through this: and everyone can understand how I feel by looking at it”. It’s very true.
This art work differs a lot from her paintings: from colors on flat canvas, to a black and white’s 3D installation.
“I don’t know if this type of art is helping me coping with the pain, but I want to see how it goes on”.
Come what may, I wish Jaehee will be able to find her balance soon, and discover the warmth of the colors once again.


This week

Jaehee Kim, from paintings to decoration.

Hyejee Jeong, a love for portraits.

Cariru, a Japanese fashion company: fighting the crisis with style.


I want to express my support to Japan and the population hit by this disaster.


Tsukamoto Yukoh 塚本 裕子

Yukoh Tsukamoto is an experienced artist who as moved to Italy in 2003 where, since then, is enhancing her artistic skills by organizing expositions and working at the laboratory of Giorgio Upiglio in order to spread her art known in Europe.
I think her career is very interesting and diverse: she graduated at the University of Arts of Musashino in oil painting, with professor Tadamasa Murai, then at the same university, she specialized in lithography, with the master Akikaku Shimizu. She had travelled in Nepal and India and after teaching plastic arts in several primary schools of Osaka, she has also taught at the Japanese Cultural Centre of Kinki University in Osaka.
In 1999 she has founded the school of lytography “Atelier 410 Lito”. The brilliant idea that comes out of this newborn school is that she mixes together Eastern and Western influences: in her laboratory of chalcography Japanese printing techniques and Western engravings are combined together in a unique and personal style.
Since 2003 she has been working at the atelier of Giorgio Upiglio in Milan. In many occasions she has partipated in art expositions among Italy and Japan.
By looking at her works I can perceive the grace, and a precise linearity, but at the same time I can feel the power coming up to the surface from the strenght of the chosen colours. The latest exhibition performed is called “in the forest mystic happening” (Fall 2010), located in Rome at Associazione Culturale Atelier, via Panisperna 236, melts together elements of the origine of the artists and the tension of Western contemporary sensations.
In the picture you can see “Tree of feathers” (10×20) a composition made by feathers attached on a rice paper on a wood panel.

(I must thank Yukoh Tsukamoto that kindly allowed me to publish this brief portrait of her. I’m looking forward to interviewing her as soon as her work commitments make it possible).