Artwork from Takashi Murakami at the Hong Kong art fair 2010
Sailor Moon (1992 – 1997) transcended Japanese anime and reached a pure state of corrosiveness. Sailor Moon is an artificial flavouring substance: superficial, highly satisfying and addictive. It is, more than any of Takashi Murakami‘s works of art, the best illustration of his superflat art movement, depicting “the shallow emptiness of Japanese consumer culture”. The original manga is somehow spiritual. The anime version, on the other hand, expunged the story of any particularity, leading to the ultimate stereotype of the Japanese girl, flanked with kitschy accessories ready for merchandising, cheap love stories and consumerist lifestyles. The girls’ transformation into self-centred wonder women is the climax of every episode. The same scenes of transformations are shown again and again, becoming objects of cult: obsessive and hypnotic. They saturate the narrative with their flatness.
Walt Disney Studios in Paris opened a section last year called “Toy Story Playland”. The area features a series of rides designed for children, based on the characters of the Toy Story franchise: RC Racer, Slinky Dog ZigZag Spin and Toy Soldiers Parachute Drop. Why choose Toy Story for a new theme park section instead of the many other Disney franchises? There are many good reasons to pick it up, such as its popularity and the obvious merchandising opportunities. I would like, however, to speculate on one more reason that might have led to that choice. In this instance, whether consciously or not, Disney performed a very subtle cultural exercise in promoting cars, consumerism, and the American army.
Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959) directed by Alain Resnais is an emblematic film of the French New Wave. Its opening scene showing images of Hiroshima after the atomic bomb is narrated by Emmanuelle Riva, her voice delivering with great sensitivity the screenplay of Marguerite Duras. I could not stop thinking about my study on the appropriation of space when I saw the movie. The female character is from Nevers, a small town in France. The male character lives in Hiroshima, where they met. There is a feeling of placelessness during the whole movie; the past of Hiroshima “had to be forgotten” and the couple seems to be lost in a city without any apprehensible meaning. The two characters are unrooted, they move from one place to another without care and all the settings look impersonal and interchangeable. The paradox is that the film is undeniably about places, described in great details, but from the point of view of painful detachment…