I have walked like a goddamned Sherpa and eaten more tuna than Flipper. I love Tokyo; its dreaminess, its civility, its attention to beauty and detail. I wake up here and I am in a city with more people than almost any other on earth, yet, it is quiet. You rarely here a car horn or a siren. There is a premium placed on the idea of calm, efficient motion. One does not expend an ounce of energy one does not have to; life is lived in a kind of measure.
I went to some art galleries on the outskirts of Tokyo and saw some contemporary art and it was mostly stuff one could see in Chelsea last year. I was surprised. There were no Japanese artists in any of the four places I looked; only New Yorkers and Europeans. I met a very opinionated American trust-fund brat with a gallery in Tokyo who, within the first 3 minutes of our conversation, trashed every artist in Tokyo and New York, and Murakam (the novelist) and Murakami (the artist), referring to him as an “Orientalist” whatever the hell that means. He was an annoying, pedantic, name-dropping, ass-wipe who also had nothing good to say about Tokyo, despite the fact he has lived here for nine years. He also “had a gallery on the lower east side” and spent another 5 minutes trashing everyone and thing in NYC as well. I wanted to compliment him on his ability to be an unwelcome asshole in TWO hemispheres , but it was clear we’d never get a word in, so we escaped the art district, having given it 40 minutes, and I decided my time would more productively be spent finding the dome where the World Champion Tokyo Giants play and get myself a hat.
I’ve wanted one forever and I suppose I could just snag one off the internet; but I have this memory of my father and uncle buying me a White Sox hat at Comiskey as a kid and I have this particular fetish for buying my hats at the stadium. So I took the 3000-yen ride to Giants Stadium and found the coolest, most boss, fitted Tokyo Giants hat; and I look like a cool motherfucker in it. I had to go all the way to Tokyo to get one. Does that make mine cooler? Damn skippy, it does.
I’ve had a lot of time to think while I’ve been here and I’ve come to the conclusion that while I love making my work, I don’t much care for the culture that surrounds me as an artist. It’s like being on a bus full of mental defectives. The art world’s culture is almost entirely about itself. There is a curious lack of curiosity about the way rest of the world lives, and an appalling lack of literate knowledge. They don’t read much, other than magazines about art, fashion and movies. They interview each other and they all talk like a roll of toilet-paper; the same banal platitudes wrapped the new buzzwords. This season “contextualist” is a popular important sounding term that actually doesn’t mean anything.
I’m fortunate. I have very good dealers who know it’s best to just let me be me and everything will be okay. But still, I look around and listen to the conversation in the art world and when they discuss “the crisis,” they’re not talking about the huge percentage of our fellow citizens who are without healthcare or a job. “The Crisis” is about slow art sales and galleries closing. Really. I hear this shit regularly. Maybe it’s time the art world realized that it is part of the real world and embrace a larger set of priorities and step up to a larger responsibility in the community; have its artists mentor kids, do out-reach in the schools and the juvenile detention centers; the other world. . .beyond the billboards.