Archive for the ‘ Health ’ Category

Souzou 想像: Outsider Art from Japan

Koichi Fujino, Squid

Koichi Fujino, Squid

I wrote this review (of sorts) for artwednesday.com on 11 April 2013.

You’ll find the world in the Wellcome’s Souzou exhibition of Japanese outsider art. It’s in one of the final rooms of this kaleidoscopic journey through the minds of forty-six untrained artists, all of whom happen to be attendees of Japanese welfare centres. Norimitsu Kokubo’s enormous patchwork cityscape, A Map of the World, depicts places and objects he has never visited, but has instead gleaned from the pages of newspapers and the internet. It’s a jam-packed fusion of landmarks and buildings enmeshed together on a groundless void.

A Map of the World sums up this show pretty well since we have here a dense assortment of objects from the imaginations of vulnerable, but gifted people who use their fragmented life experience to form cohesive and powerful artworks. The sheer breadth of the exhibition is impressive, and it makes sense that the curator has categorised the works into broad themes such as ‘language’, ‘making’ and ‘possibility’.

Even within these zones there’s enormous variety – Shota Katsube’s two-hundred-strong army of tiny combat-poised warriors are made from twist-ties, the diverse and strangely animated array evoke a boyhood universe of endlessly-fighting cartoon robots. Then there’s the crowded, vibrant ceramics of Satoshi Nishikawa, who has sculpted an apple of rabbits. Yes: an apple formed of rabbits with a repetitive symmetry reminiscent of ancient eastern architecture.

The bold ink-washes of Koichi Fujino in shapes of animals, which brim to the edges of the paper have an abstract power in their simple, sumptuous forms. There’s also handmade pyjamas with painted motifs of fried chicken, salmon roe and pigeon-shaped cookies by Takahiro Shimoda. A special mention should also go to Marie Suzukie whose intricate bodyscapes brimming with sex organs, thighs and breasts dazzled us with textured kaleidoscopic patterns. Stare long enough into the waves and dots and you see eyes and faces emerge.

Shinichi Sawada, Untitled, 2006-2012

Shinichi Sawada, Untitled, 2006-10

It’s uplifting to walk among objects unfettered from professionalism or conformity to market norms. This is an overgrown garden of the imagination and all the more inspiring that it’s made by people at the margins of society. It’s also rather apt that when you leave the show you pass an Antony Gormley sculpture, as this professional piece of cod-spiritual solemnity looks insipid and lifeless in comparison. We need a museum of outsider art to challenge the pros.

For the Love of Surfing

Myself and a friend taking a rest in Hossegor

I have just got back from the south of France on a surf trip, visiting Biarittz, Hossegor and staying mostly in Labenne. I’ve been surfing on and off for a while but I’m a lazy surfer and rarely hunt the big game of anything over four feet. The waves in France are powerful and break near the shore, it can be difficult but I managed to get quite a few good rides among the many wipeouts in the week.

While staying there, I wrote some notes on my cell phone from which I have written a vignette about the trip (my first wipeout and evening dinner and drinks on the beach). The vignette is rarely appreciated these days as an art form but I like to write them. This is not one of my best, I’m saving the best for a story I’m writing composed entirely of one-page hyperlinked vignettes (I’ve written 51 so far). You can read the vignette here, feel free to comment if I’ve made any grammatical errors!

Well Being vs. Health Care

When I write ‘well being’ here I mean ‘well’ in both senses of the word: ‘to be well (healthy)’ and ‘well (good) be-ing’.

During the course of my PhD, I studied AIDS activism a great deal and was greatly inspired by the way those effected directly and indirectly by HIV/AIDS took it upon themselves to gain expertise and control, to puncture holes in the scientific establishment and lobby for the expeditious and non-profit driven release of drugs. The activists also educated and informed with their expertise, helping people understand sexual health and take control of their bodies, and I mean not only bodies per se but their bodies in public space, sexual health, you see, in enmeshed in our sociability.

The radical example of AIDS activists has led me to understand that a good society is one where people have the fullest possible understanding of their bodies and health, I believe our understanding has been impeded by advertising. The advertising of cheap and nasty food and drink – especially to children – is as much an anathema to me as the advertising cigarettes. A good understanding of health is also crucial to the well-being of our societies, health care is becoming ever more expensive as people live longer artificially through the management of chronic bad health. We really need to get beyond this miserable state of affairs, with a better understanding of our bodies and nutrition people can live more fulfilling and positive lives and, above all, feel happier; whats more “healthcare” can be given its true place as care for those with congenital and accidental illness, not those who have decimated their own well-being through indulgence or ignorance. To employ a term commonly used in welfare discourse, healthcare should be a ‘safety net’ for citizens. We shouldn’t depend on healthcare professionals to work for us, but rather work with healthcare professionals in order to maintain happy and healthy lives, and of course, less traumatic deaths.