Just at the moment, I am in deep information overload.
Thursday, train to Kyoto, check in at station hotel, walk along a gorgeous back street along a stream to Gion, dinner with the Keieijinruigaku (Anthropology of Administration) bunch at Professor Hioki's favorite Kyoto home-cooking restaurant, great food and lots and lots and lots of sake.
Friday, we get up early enough to hike over to Toji (a Buddhist temple complex) and get back in time to get on the bus that takes us to the Miho Museum, outside of Kyoto, near a famous pottery village called Shigaraki. The museum itself is amazing. Established by the founder of a Japanese new religion, whose husband was a massively wealthy businessman, it was designed by I.M.Pei and is approached through a tunnel and over a bridge in a way that is both utterly modern and a representation of a traditional mythic theme of how you get to Heaven. We were there for the opening of an exhibition devoted to Dogû, Jomon Era (roughly 11,000-1,000 bce) ceramic figurines, a rare ceramic tradition not associated with agriculture. Then came another long walk down the Kamogawa River after we got back.
Saturday, we took a train to Ise City, the location of Ise Jingu, the Shinto Shrine dedicated to the Sun Goddess, Amaterasu Omikami from whom Japan's imperial family is said to be descended. Checked in at the Japanese inn where we spent the night, had lunch at an amazingly good tofu restaurant a few steps away and spent the rest of the afternoon at the Geku (Outer Shrine).
Sunday morning was devoted to the Naiku (Inner Shrine). Then, after lunch, it was gather up the baggage and another train to a city called Tsu, the location of the Mie Prefectural Art Museum, where we had tickets to the opening of a spectacular exhibition devoted to Katagami (paper stencils, originally for dyeing patterns on kimono, later hugely influential on European art in the late 19th and earthly 20th centuries (Jugendstihl in Germany, Art Nouveau in France, the the British crafts movement)—We had done the English for the catalogue. Then came three hours on trains to get home to Yokohama.
What I am still trying to digest is the impact of the exhibitions at the three museums we visited, the Miho, the new museum at the Outer Shrine in Ise, and the Mie Museum of Art. All were spectacular and, I thought, amazingly effective. One thing I noticed, in particular, at the Outer Shrine and Mie museums was the amount of attention devoted to the craft behind the aesthetics, how works were produced as well as the works themselves. Very now, I thought to myself, recalling the popularity of the backstage footage included in movie DVDs. I also found myself thinking about the role of curators and the international networks through which they secure financial support from sponsors and assemble the works and artifacts on display at the exhibitions they create—temporary assemblages that may briefly survive if the exhibition travels from one venue to another but will ultimately disappear when the works are returned to their owners. All that is left behind are the catalogues (and now the videos created as part of the exhibitions), which become part of the ongoing web of genealogies by which exhibitions cross-reference each other.....I start wondering about the roles of works of art and artifacts that have been designated as "important" and thus come to qualify for circulation in this realm, the museums and other collections that own and circulate them.....
Like I said, information overload.
***A tip of the hat to Ryan Anderson, whose," How's things going with you?" stimulated my writing this.
A collection of 77 photographs illustrating this tale can be found on Facebook