Christina Leslie's Portraits

N.L.S., A New Local Space

Deborah Caroll Anzinger's artist run residency and exhibition space in Kingston


Leasho Johnson's Provocative Re-interpretation in 'Canopy Guild'

Light Sensitive

Marlon James' black and whites

Annalee Davis: ON THE MAP

Caribbean Political Documentary

Monday, June 25, 2012

Tokyo Story: Creative Culture in the City

The last part in an interview with Marcus Bird about his fascination with Tokyo and its creative life. He has spoken about his ideas about lifestyle branding and art activities he participated in while living there. This time he speaks about the multitude of influences and visual stimulation. From Harajuku to Shibuya to Vuitton and being out there. His words out remind me of a documentary Pharrell Williams did last year called Tokyo Rising.

Tokyo at night, Below Jamaican Kingston dayscape courtesy of Silvio Luz

Kingston - Jamaica

You taught yourself design and have worked in design in Tokyo, what is the creative culture like in Tokyo and what future plans do you have for your creativity?

Oh man can I talk about this for days! A real creative culture to me is one with enough people actively doing stuff that can inspire other people and also give people an idea of how far they can reach in whatever field they are trying to break into. Over thirty six million people live in Tokyo, so that’s a lot of artists, architects, singers, sculptors, painters and graphic designers. In Tokyo I was able to see art that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world (except maybe Berlin) and there is a sense of a creative “pulse” in certain areas. In Omotesando you can see the uber-upscale but wonderfully creative ideas used in the high end stores like Louis Vuitton and Burberry, and then a few blocks away you see some really awesome shirts, shoes or accessories stores in Harajuku. But its not just that. Lots of people in Tokyo experiment with different kinds of fashion, so the regular way of dressing and what I call “thinking modes of creativity” are more acceptable. So if I want to wear spinach green boots and skinny jeans with my character shirts on, I don’t feel like I’m going “out there” with it. I love that feeling; where you can step out of your apartment in a crazy getup, or walk with the knowledge that you have access not only to creative works, but a creative mindset. Plus, in such a densely populated city, advertising is different. Stores use more art and media to grab your attention, buses and taxies have a bit more colour and attention to detail. It’s like as you breathe creatively, the city breathes too.
Kingston is much, much smaller and much, much, more chill and the art you see around naturally reflects that. It’s very “folky” if that’s a word. You’lll see lots of landscapes and scenes from the country and portraits of women with baskets on their heads. You’ll see stuff with beaches and rivers and canoes. That stuff is great, but it doesn’t make my mind get buzzing. My mind isn’t flooded with stimulation the way it is in Tokyo. It might seem obvious that It reflects island life and that’s cool, but you wouldn't’ get the same stimulation in a city with skyscrapers and high-speed trains.

Don’t get me wrong, Jamaicans are ridiculously creative people, but I don’t think we’ve embraced our prodigious talents much in the area of the arts. I even wrote about this recently in a local paper, asking “Where is Kingston Harajuku”? Because we don’t really have an art district in Kingston. That’s what I mean when I said in Tokyo you can “see where creativity can take you”.
I wasn’t working creatively on a full-time basis in Tokyo, and I was completely fascinated by the idea of having a constant creative purpose in such an awesome city, or a city of a similar size. There were days it blew my mind just to even be in Tokyo, because years before I had off-handedly said to myself “I’d love to launch my clothing at some point in Tokyo, or live in Tokyo”. But my will was definitely tested there. My Japanese was moderate but not super fluent, and on top of hustling with photography, odd little “baito-batio” (part-time work) it left me with little energy and often little motivation. But back to my original point about the things you see around you, this is what would make me get up in the morning and still try. I would walk around and see some cool photography at a gallery somewhere, or visit  some bizarre exhibition in Shibuya, or see some amazing advertising artwork in the subway, or I’d go to to some odd shop in Mid-town. All these places would remind me that the shops, the items, the advertising, everything was created by “out there” creative thinkers. So even if my motivation was low, I could “plug in” to a lot of art in a lot of places and be reminded that creativity can actually take you somewhere. So I’d love to be doing a project with my work, or media in Tokyo that I’m doing all day, everyday.

I don’t like comparing places really, but Jamaica doesn't have that sort of creative pulse, mostly I believe because there are only 2.6 million people in Jamaica and Jamaican art is a little different. If you checkout the average Jamaican gallery, there are tons of landscapes and scenes from the country. It reflects island life and that’s cool, but you wouldn't’ get the same stimulation in a city with skyscrapers and high-speed trains.

Where do you think the creative pulse is in Jamaica and other Caribbean countries?

Watch Tokyo Rising here: