The shoes (heel-less shoes) that Noritaka Tatehana created, inspired by the geta of courtesans, captivated Lady Gaga. 「It's always the others who die」 an exhibition by Mr. Tatehana, an artist who continues to present Japanese traditions in a modern way from his own unique perspective, is now underway. curioswitch's representative, Konoe, interviewed Mr. Tatehana, an old acquaintance as a member of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Edo-Tokyo Kirari Project. The two have something in common. The interview proceeded with a focus on their common ground: traditional culture.
How the artist Noritaka Tatehana was born
Konoe: I saw the exhibition, and to be honest, I didn't think there would be that much variation. I was especially surprised by the two-dimensional works. They were not only interesting as pure graphics, but also had a unique sense of thickness or gravity. I really enjoyed the show.
Photo by GION
Tatehana: Thank you very much. Basically, I create everything in this studio.
Konoe: That's too awesome ....... Mr. Tatehana, you graduated from the Department of Crafts at Tokyo University of the Arts.
Tatehana: At first, I wanted to go into fashion design and was thinking of studying abroad. However, in order to be active in the world, I thought that learning about Japanese culture, which is also my identity, would be a shortcut. So I majored in "Dyeing and Weaving" at Tokyo University of the Arts in order to learn about the Japanese tradition of kimono, which is relative to fashion.
左 curioswitch Creative Director近衞 右 舘鼻則孝氏
Kondei: You studied "tradition" at the University of the Arts, didn't you?
Tatehana: Yes. I went to school to learn traditional techniques. However, I did not want to become a kimono designer. I spent the four years systematically, keeping in mind that I could start a fashion brand or study abroad. And when I sold my graduation project to the world, I immediately got a job with Lady Gaga.
Photo by GION
Tatehana: I believe that unless the style and format of traditional culture is renewed to fit the times, it is just a revival. That's why I don't think it's good to use the traditional format for "kimono" as it was in the past. Even for heel-less shoes, the format is "shoes". Not geta. That's what's important. Rather than denying the Japanese culture of the past, what we should present to the world as "a new culture that Japan can transmit" in our modern lifestyle is an important issue.
Konoe: I agree with you. Originally, Japanese culture has a story. For example, Japanese kimonos are not sewn to fit the lines of the body. It is not a three-dimensional form, but a two-dimensional form that remains flat. Moreover, they are constructed almost entirely based on the width of the kimono, so when they are folded, they become flat as the width of the original kimono. Issey Miyake's "Pleats Please" is also made from a single piece of cloth and can be folded compactly, which is a kimono-like concept that has spread to the world in the context of fashion. From the context of traditional craftsmanship, a modern story has been created.
Tatehana: This reminds me of something related to that story. I remember the reaction when I announced my heel-less shoes. In the foreign media, they would assume that the person was Japanese, and after researching the relevant context, they would ask about it in depth. However, the Japanese fashion media would always ask, "Where did you get the inspiration for this?" even though they should be able to understand the background of my work by reading my profile. But they always ask me, "Where did you get your inspiration for this? I felt that culture was being neglected and only the information was being consumed. It is important to have a cultural background and how to work now as an extension of it.
Konoe: You are right. However, it is also very difficult not to let "tradition" become a hindrance. Many families with a long history and inheritors of traditional culture and performing arts are suffering from the fact that they cannot deny "tradition. Fortunately, my parents raised us freely, so I myself am not trapped in that curse. Thanks to them, I was able to enter the Department of Visual Arts at Musashino Art University. However, I am still not free from traditional culture. I am involved in the "Uta-kai-hajime" event held every January at the Imperial Palace, and to be honest, at first I thought it was a very formal and confusing world. At first, I thought it was a very formal and confusing world, and I had a hard time learning the etiquette. However, one day it became clear to me that this was an event for nation branding in a broad sense. Didn't our ancestors in the Heian period also use poetry festivals and other events to promote the existence of sublime literature in this country and to brand the image of the country? Isn't that a creative agency, an event production company? The Emperor is not my client, but I am in the field of events in the service of His Majesty. In essence, I think it was and still is the same.... In such a situation, I am voicing out a poem composed by a junior high school student or a young person in a modern language, so "Uta-kai-shachi" is actually a very interesting event.
Tatehana: So tradition and innovation, past and present, coexist in this event.
About the Edo-Tokyo Kirari Project
Konoe: The Tokyo Metropolitan Government's "Edo-Tokyo Kirari Project," in which Mr. Tatehana and I are involved, is a project that "aims to further increase the number of inbound visitors and to pass on the traditional skills and products of long-established businesses in Edo-Tokyo by refining them from a new perspective and communicating their value and attractiveness as a brand representing Tokyo both at home and abroad. This project aims to increase the number of inbound visitors and to pass on traditional skills.
Konoe: What are your thoughts on the third year of the project? Personally, I think it is becoming more difficult to reach a consensus because of the wide range of candidate businesses.
Tatehana: But I think we are at the starting line.
Konoe: You are right. Come to think of it, it will be a tailwind for the Edo-Tokyo Kirari Project that Mansai Nomura, a Kyogen actor, has been appointed as the person in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics. Speaking of the Olympics, France has entrusted the opening and closing ceremonies to a director named Decoufle in Albertville. Duchoufle was appointed when he was 28 years old, and three years later, in 1992, Albertville went live. It's amazing that the Olympics can be entrusted to a 28 year old young man.
Tatehana: Really amazing! But it's very important to have someone with avant-garde ideas as the decision maker and leader.
Kondori: In Europe, once an artistic director is chosen, that person has absolute authority. He or she takes full responsibility. In Japan, however, it is difficult to do so.
Tatehana: That's true. Jack Lang, who renovated the Louvre, was a politician, but he was not a conservative but a challenger. He started by excavating the basement of the Louvre, then asked the Ministry of Finance to move out of the palace and transformed the entire palace into a huge museum, Le Grand Louvre. For the Ministry of Finance, a new land was acquired and built. I was invited to a symposium at the University of the Arts in 2018, and it was still an amazing crowd. He is very kind to artists. He is very kind to artists, and is always ready to support them. They are very tolerant of starting something new. I was impressed by the policy of France as a country.
Axis of expression
Konoe: While you are creating new creations using traditional cultural formats to suit the times, is there anything that you would like to express in the future? Your main focus is on fashion, but do you also do art in parallel?
Tatehana: At first, I was only interested in fashion. But after graduating from university, I only worked for Lady Gaga for about two years. Since then, I've tried to diversify my expression in various formats, not just shoes. What I want to convey is the same. How can we create the current Japanese culture as an extension of the ancient Japanese culture? Whether it is shoes, sculptures, or paintings, I do not feel it is a hurdle for me. Of course, you have to make it a business. But it's easier to work in the big picture of a format rather than art. For example, when I did the Bunraku performance at the Fondation Cartier pour l'art contemporain in 2016, I was the artistic director like Konoe, and we worked as a team.
Photo by GION
Tatehana: It's different from working with your hands in shoe production, but we do the same thing. When we hold an exhibition, we usually work in a team of about 20 people, and I think it's the same with Bunraku performances. Even if it is your first time, you can do it if you all aim in the same direction. We are very fortunate to have an environment where various organizations, such as the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art, allow us to do things for the first time on a large stage.
Don't create something that will be judged by today's standards.
Konoe: What is the ultimate life work for you, Tatehana?
Tatehana: I don't know. ...... I think it is important to keep changing with the times. I'm 34 years old now, and I don't know how old I'll be when I die, but I'm sure the times will change until then, and the most important thing is to respond and react to those changes. As an artist, there is no such thing as a finished work. For example, I have no intention of making a national treasure or anything like that. Making something that can be judged by today's standards is not new. The basic premise is to create a new sense of value.
Konoe: So your expression as an artist is at the center of your work?
Tatehana: Yes. For example, in Bunraku and Noh, I think it would be great if we could create something new and innovative by working closely with traditional industries and performing arts.
Konoe: Let's work hard together.
Tatehana: Let's do our best!
Konoe: Anyway, we have to make something interesting.
After the interview, Tatehana-san and Konoe continued to talk about traditional culture. Why don't you come and see Tatehana's ever-changing latest works for yourself?
(*"It's always the others who die" exhibition has ended today.)
Photo by GION
ポーラ ミュージアム アネックス（2019年12月22日まで）
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