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We are very happy we stayed a couple of days here because it takes that time to get one’s bearings.
Today we decided to see an exhibition of Japanese architecture in the very fashionable Ginza area. This is just three metro stops from our studio. We don’t have a map of Tokyo as such an item would be pretty useless. Tokyo is divided into districts so you need a map for each district. We located the Panasonic Museum, where the exhibition was to take place, on Google maps. We thought we were sorted. However street names are often either only in Japanese or not evident at all! Sometimes they are on the ground and sometimes high up on a pole. Getting lost becomes a past time for visitors. Having set off in the wrong direction we quickly realized our mistake, retraced our steps and found the museum. It was situated right next to the oldest railway station building in Tokyo. This railway line is long closed down and the (re)building sits dwarfed by the massive skyscrapers all around.
The Panasonic building is very impressive consisting of 42 floors. The upper two are occupied by restaurants. These are around the perimeter of the building so that one has to eat or drink there in, at vast expense, to get the view over Tokyo. We passed on this delight. The exhibition was on the 4th floor. It was very interesting showing wooden or polystyrene models of old and new Japanese houses. The expo had been put together by 4 French architects, one of whom lives in Tokyo.
We then took to wandering the very chic streets of Ginza. Every chic fashion house is represented here. At midday precisely police blocked both ends of the main thorougfare and the street became pedestrianised. Masses of people thronged on to the street. It was amazing.
Lunch was had in a beautiful small restaurant which had long open windows on to the street. There is no eating on the street, as far as we have discovered, so this was the nearest we could get to outdoor dining! We reckon it is the Japanese obsession with hygiene which prevents street cafes.
Small observation: does anyone know why very many Japanese have turned in feet?
This starts with last night’s dinner. A truly unmemorable affair. We had nothing planned and had not seen anywhere locally which took our fancy. So we meandered down the big wide street on which our studio is situated. We tried one place but it was fully booked. The next place was empty – we did not heed that obvious warning. It was Chinese not Japanese. We had to order from pictures. We had no idea what we had ordered and we’re still do not know what is was. The place was not clean but we were too tired to care and just wanted to get back to bed.
This morning dawned bright and sunny and we had both slept well. Our studio seating is Japanese style so with my wonky hip I cannot risk lowering myself to floor level. Hence breakfast has to be taken in bed!!
Our Airbnb host had left 24hrs of Wifi usage. This was running out fast. We also discovered that the plug adapter we had bought in London supposed to be for Japan was not indeed the correct model. We therefore needed to find a wifi provider who would give us temporary access and adapters for our appliances.
We set off for the shopping area just 2 metro stops along our line. This was some experience. Throngs of people and blaring noise. The famous “scramble crossing” is situated in this area. It is well named. Pedestrian crossings criss cross the intersection. When the traffic lights change people converge on the crossing from every direction. It is organised mayhem. However one is at no risk from motor vehicles, it is from bicycles that the greatest threat comes…. The are crazy and cycle on footpaths, the road or any available spot.
We were witness to the Tokyo’s police reaction to a very loud protest group. Several cars were broadcasting loudly as they drove along. The police closed in, threw barriers across the road. A Paddy wagon arrived, we assumed to remove the protesters.
We checked a suitable eating establishment for tonight. It was French. We would have preferred Japanese but as restaurants go this was superb. It was not expensive either. Three courses for me, five for Barry and a 1/2 bottle of French wine cost about 80€. All well and good until we went to pay. Neither of our credit cards would work. This despite we had informed our banks we would be travelling. The restaurant owner phoned his bank but no joy. He told us not to worry we could come back tomorrow! In fact we were very near our studio so Barry hopped back and got cash. Meanwhile they fed me more delicious mint tea.
This is typical of Japanese people. I was waiting for Barry outside a shop today and the owner came out with a glass of ice cold water.
Yet again our little cinema offered this documentary by Laetitia Moreau & Olivier Dubuquoy. It was about the production of Aluminium at Gardanne.
Gardanne is a sleepy town which lies to the north of the Calanques which is the beautiful rocky region which runs along the south coast to the east and west of Marseille. We have passed through it on the train to Marseille. The presence of the Aluminium works dominates the area. We remarked on the red dust covering the vehicles around the station area. Little did we realise what was hidden behind the hills surrounding the town.
In the documentary we see an areal view which is like an alien landscape with its red mountains and lake.
Aluminium is not a metal which is found in its pure form. It is always found imbedded in bauxite. Bauxite is mined along the Equator. The process of extracting the aluminium is the problem. It takes 30 to 40 tons of bauxite to create a single ton of aluminium. The material left behind is full of toxins. The plant at Gardanne was set up in 1963 and the mountains and lakes of residue have been building ever since. At one time it it was decided to create a tunnel from the production plant to the Mediterranean and flush the red lake through into the sea. This was done for many years causing the fish in the area to die at worst but to live with a coating of red dust at best. The fishermen were irate but they were powerless against the might of the aluminium producers. Eventually the practice was stopped but the mountains of red dust grow ever higher in Gardanne while the great minds of Europe try to work how how to make it disappear and the area of the Mediterranean sea where the effluent rushed out for years is now dead.
For those of you who understand french here is a link to the documentary:
Pour ceux d’entre vous qui comprennent le français, voici un lien vers le documentaire
What is to be done? The other metals could be extracted from the residue but that would be too costly so the mountains grow ever higher. The documentary interviewed some of the people living in the area who talked about their own ill health and that of their neighbours. The number of cancers among the people in the immediate area of the plant is very high but no one seems to be paying attention. The French government talk about the loss of jobs in the area if the plant closes but no one is talking about the fishermen who cannot fish the area where the red liquid killed the fish. No one is talking about the people dying of cancers which are apparently being caused by the red dust which whips up when the Mistral blows.
France needs aluminium but it does not need this growing mountain of bouxide as it is called. Over the years the authorities have tried to come up with names for the toxic material which are less alarming but the fact remains people are being poisoned by this material.
A solution needs to e found at a worldwide level or at the very least at a European level.
This BA degree in Visual Arts is an outreach course which takes place on Sherkin Island off the south west coast of Ireland. It is the only outreach degree of this kind in the country and has been running for many years.
The idea of the course is to give students, especially islanders, who missed out on a university education when they were younger, the chance to return to college to pursue a degree qualification in the arts. Because of their diverse backgrounds the students bring a wealth of talent and experience to this course. The competition for places grows year on year. The resultant standard is extremely high.
Seventeen students submitted their final degree projects this year. The students present their work in various locations around the island. This exhibition is open to the public. The 2016 exhibition is entitled Uncover.
I was unable to visit every student’s work so apologies to those whose work I was unable to see.
Much of the work is concerned with conceptual art. I have rarely been so moved by work as I was by that of Lesley Cox. She investigates the connection we all have to the uterus.
Other work, which I found outstanding, was Imagination-Emigration by Philomena Smith. The work represents this idea by linking Philomena’s life in the textile industry to her sense of misplacement or not belonging.
Detlef Schlich’s work, also struck me as very professional. It consisted of a film installation in three parts. The work is concerned with developing an alter ego. His work can be seen here
Deidre Buckley Cairns was a stained glass artist before she started her A Visual Arts course and this influenced her final project. This is about the link between colour and memory.
Other beautiful work included Brigid Madden’s project on the invisibility of displaced people in our world
Although many students used photography in their exhibits there was only one photographic project and this was the work of Jean Dunne which was truly stunning.
Since much of the work was conceptual it was tricky to photograph. One such project was Whispers by Daireen McMullan.This was about how the wallpaper is a witness to our secrets and our hidden lives. the room was dark with only a single lamp. It made me shiver to enter this space. The silhouette of the child struck me as meaningful so I left him in as he is not recognisable.
Lucy Cox’s work is concerned with environmental, political and spiritual elements.
Some of the images I made did nto do justice to the students work so I have not included them – for that I apologise.