Those of you that have read my book Paintwork will know that the title story is about re-purposing advertising billboards for art – in fact you might recall that I described pretty specifically the location of the billboards in question. They are real things, in a very real place. I walk past them everyday. That’s why I wrote that story – I felt I needed some way of striking back against the visual invasion of public space I’m subjected to every time I walk past there. Billboards are imposing enough when you see them from a passing bus or car, but the way they impose and dominate your reality – blocking out all other imagery – as you pass them as a pedestrian starts to grate pretty quickly.
This weekend saw the final unveiling of the the See No Evil project in Bristol; Europe’s largest street art exhibition. It is, to say the very least, an extraordinary, breathtaking achievement. Graffiti artists not just from Bristol but around the globe descended on Nelson Street, transforming the whole area from drab, urban decay into what feels like a new – almost virtual – space. It is truly something that needs to be experienced, but hopefully some of the photos I grabbed (along with the many on the official Flickr page) will give you some idea of its scale and raw beauty.
Well, I’m back. I survived Havana – a bat-shit crazy but fantastic and beautiful city, both run-down and elgant at the same time, and where everyone that walks the street is a hustler. Sure, communism and food rationing has made it hard to find a decent meal, but who cares when the rum and cigars are so cheap. Plus the Museo de la Revolución and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes make it worth the cost of the flight alone. Just don’t try bringing back a load of that cheap rum through Madrid airport security. Long, painful story. Of course, as always, I took a bunch of photos, which you can check out on the Flickr sideshow below – and are certainly worth a look if you have any passing interest in Che Guevara, crumbling but awe inspiring architecture, mojitos and lots (I mean LOTS) of gorgeous 1950s American muscle cars.
Some of you might remember my concern back in June when I first reported on Production IG’s planned visual update to Oshii’s 1995 classic Ghost in the Shell. Well, the Blu-ray of GiTS 2.0 (not to be confused with GiTS 2: Innocence, which will also be referred to a lot in this piece) hit Japanese stores a few weeks ago, and via sources that I’m not at liberty to identify I have managed to get my hands on a preview copy – months before the (still yet to be confirmed) UK release. So it was that I found myself, on the first morning of 2009, sitting down to watch one of my favourite movies of all time again, but instead of being filled with the usual satisfying feeling of anticipation, I was gripped with something nearer to dread.
As you can probably imagine, I’ve been taking a lot of photos while I’ve been over here in Japan. Due to time constraints and the way WordPress works, I haven’t been able to share as much with you as I’d like, but I have been dumping literally hundreds of them on Facebook. So it suddenly occurred to me – this is the interweb, and the power of the hyperlink is strong.
I’m always surprised when people moan that no-one talks on the tube in London – I mean, exactly what the fuck are we meant to say? It’s pretty much the same on the Tokyo JR lines – no-ones chatting, too engrossed in their manga, their text messages, their DS and PSP games, the flat screens showing beauty product ads and video games trailers or studying their reflected hair in the dark windows. Pulling into stations is always announced by the usual bombardment of neon signs, followed by the sight of commuters waiting in perfect, orderly queues. Something not so familiar if you hail from London, then. Some might say it looks a bit robotic and regimented, but that’s hardly two words I’d use to describe Tokyo residents. Not fucking rude are three that spring to mind.
Just like all the stories you hear, manga is everywhere in Japan. There’s racks of it in every supermarket and convenience store you pass, and at lunch times gangs of salary-men and students gather around to silently read it.
Today we stumbled across Comic and DVD Forrest in Shinjuku, a specialist store with so much stock that, to be frank, it’s a bit of a mindfuck. Didn’t actually buy anything this time – they had a couple of Denno Coil art books, but not the exact one I’m looking for – but I did manage to grab a few shots before the super-polite staff busted me….
So we’re here. Finally.
Actually, we arrived about 48 hours ago, after what seemed like a week of travelling. Hellish. But, of course, with hindsight completely worth it. Shinjuku is everything all the cliches say it is – Akira, Bladerunner and Neuromancer all rolled into one, but somehow weirder for not actually feeling that futuristic. Or at least, it’s a kind of retro futuristic, a reminder of the that 80’s cyberpunk vision that it inspired but never quite happened anywhere else. Like all sci-fi, they got some things wrong. Example? Well, it seems damn near impossible to find any public Wi-Fi round here. But why would you need it when everyone’s had 3G capable phones for over ten years?
It was with some slight trepidation that I sat down to watch Appleseed Ex Machina this weekend; the completely CGI anime is a sequel to the 2004 Appleseed, with both being based on Masamune Shirow‘s classic 1985 manga. Being a fan of the original printed version (and Shirow’s work in general), I found little in the first film beyond it’s impressive visuals to get me excited, sadly.