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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: April 8, 2005
Latest Update: April 8, 2005

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This lecture is based on From a Mushroom Cloud, a Burst of Art Reflecting Japan's Psyche< Art Review by Roberta Smith in the New York Times at p. B 31 on Friday, April 8, 2005. Backup.

One of the things Ms. Smith says in this review of "Little Boy: The Arts of Japan's Exploding Subculture, " . . . "orchestrated byTakashi Murakami, is:

"The show is a sociological argument made with visual evidence, but because this evidence comes from one of the world's most aesthetically sophisticated and refined cultures, it packs a tremendous visual punch. At times one can do nothing more than hang on for the ride. The first gallery is dominated by a tank-size head of the robot Gundam. Behind it is an imposing phalanx of Hello Kitty ephemera, including wallpaper. To one side are Aya Takano's drawings and paintings of wide-eyed prepubescent, but sexually knowing, waifs. To the other side, cute goes monstrous in five plush, big-headed puppetlike costumes for yuru chara, regional mascots that represent nearly every local government in Japan. They suggest cuteness as public policy.

Sometimes the show progresses with almost textbook clarity: thesis, antithesis, synthesis. Looking from the assortment of cuddly Doraemon toys to Shigeru Komatsuzaki's action-packed watercolors of World War II sea battles, which once decorated the packaging for model kits of destroyers and fighter planes (and influenced the first anime artists), is to contrast pure cuteness with equally childish fantasies of violence and power."

We need to back away from the dualities of good and evil and to recognize the complexity of what is. My sweet, gentle kittens played with the little mouse until he died. Are they evil? Are they good? They are cats. Natural-born enemies of mice, not because they disagree with them politically, but because of their enthusiasm to play, and the mouse couldn't survive it. No, they're not hungry. Just look at the tummy of Pharaoh on the right. But the mouse runs and maybe shrieks, and in the process becomes an attractive nuisance, unless I can install enough displeasure with the game that my three avoid that displeasure. But they are cats. What shall we do when our young are heedless?

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