I went to the two-day twice yearly Design Festa - no. 29 - in Tokyo on Sunday, May 17, at Big Sight in Tokyo's Ariake district. The blurb goes "There will be over 2600 Booths, Performance and Live Music areas, Restaurants Cafes and Bars. Two days filled with art, energy, excitement and discovery!" The Design Festa is about as artistic, energetic, exciting, and discovery-filled as a small-town church fair, and with that same sense of abstracted matronly bustle over small-change trivia.
When I went last year, I did find one or two booths featuring actual art – the most notable being one run by a German guy who was selling some stunning modern art from India.
Not this time. Sure, there were a few booths that displayed painstakingly twee illustration (among the hundreds of exhibitionists of amateurish affectation-laden dross). There was a handful of examples of well-crafted, but pretty similar-looking, leatherwork and glasswork And then there was jewelry, jewelry, jewelry, jewelry, jewelry, and more jewelry. And then more. And more jewelry. Stop at six jewelry stands and you’ve pretty much seen them all.
I started out with that look on my face of obligatory interest. Even keepers of the most dismal, adolescent “concept” or the most forgettable pap have made the effort to be there with good intentions. And what could be more dispiriting than a dayful of blank unappreciative looks?
But my charity dissipated after 15 minutes. A) I was a 1,000-yen-paying guest, B) the last thing the Design Festa needs is charity, C) I don’t think my “look” was convincing.
In the name of the “art” it pretends to sponsor – not to mention, even, the “energy, excitement and discovery,” the Tokyo Design Festa needs buckets and buckets of the icy cold water of criticism. The Tokyo Design Festa is an open day for meaningless doodle and flounce bereft of milieu. It takes itself too seriously to have the spontaneous joy of a festival, and is too lightweight to be edifying. It is the lost meanderings of those with nothing better to do – both “artists” and audience, the twitterings of sparrows on a popcorn-littered lawn.
Have the Design Festa organizers heard of screening? Sometime, hopefully, they’ll get in there with hard heads, some cultural nous, and a scoresheet, and set about reducing those 2,600 forgettable booths to 260 (even 26!) that just say something.
(Did I mention? The Design Festa has a lot of jewelry.)
Rough Guide To Japan
Friday, May 22, 2009
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