Monthly Archives: June 2011

The previous post gets in to this blog in three ways:

1) Takashi Murakami shares a surname with Haruki Murakami, of Norweign Wood and Wind up Bird Chronicles fame.

2) Manga is literature.

3) Kuroda Seiki’s famous triptych, Wisdom, Impression, Sentiment, means  I get to write the word triptych, while reading a book which features ‘triptych’ in the title.

The coincidences just keep on piling up. . .

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Murakami @ Gagosian

‘I think the Japanese male sexual complex originated in the two-dimensional world –animation, games and so on – which then transferred to small three-dimensional sculptures. But before my sculptures Miss Ko (1997) and My Lonesome Cowboy (1998), it had never been represented life-size.’

– – – Takashi Murakami

big box pko2, 2011 – – Takashi Murakami

Recently I visited the Gagosian Gallery near Kings Cross to see the Takashi Murakami exhibition that is currently being hosted there.

Murakami is an artist I knew little about, but as you walk in to the gallery (6-24 Britannia Street: ground floor level, one single large room, white walls, high ceiling) you soon get an idea.

A giant manga sculpture greets you; a blonde girl in a maid’s outfit with exaggerated hair and huge, ponderous breasts. Another model stands a little to the right of that, a smaller, thinner girl, again manga, heavily sexualised. Other sculptures include a giant gold penis (the penis has a smiley face at the top) and equally giant silver vagina, as well as a 2D made 3D box shaped girl (pictured above).

As the press release states, this is a man playing with the ‘enduring obsession with sexuality in contemporary human society’.

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Things that slowly get to short story judges:

Typos, spelling mistakes

– obvious. Don’t do it.

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Swimming Pools

In hot countries swimming pools are playgrounds; blue oases surrounded by terracotta tiles and hot whitewashed walls. Children dive and run and parents wear sunglasses and sip cool drinks. In colder countries swimming pools are housed in glass and the shouts and yells of children are only loud because they echo and bounce and amplify off floor to ceiling windows. Lanes are drawn with floating ropes, and the water chills instead of cools. The chlorine makes the pool smell and the water feel soapy on my skin. I would dive below the water when I was young and wrap my arms and legs around the metal ladder, and hold tight. It’s not silent underwater; you hear the water move, like holding a shell up against your ear, the sound of blood pumping like the ocean. I’d wear goggles when I dived and, holding on to the ladder steps, blow air out of my lungs in small bubbles. Underneath each silver step there was a ledge and the air bubbles would catch here, filling the space and flowing together like liquid mercury.

Now I swim in lengths, up and down, until I have to stop and gasp and grab the hard edge of the pool and get my breath back . The muscles in my shoulders are tight and swollen, my mouth is dry and my body dehydrated. I turn and rest my back against the tiled wall and kick my legs out in front of me. I watch the other swimmers going up and down. A woman splashes in a plastic swimming cap and orange nose clip. A pale white man with a bulging belly does breast stroke in the slow lane, his legs kicking up the water and his head bobbing up  high with each stroke. Later on he stops next to me and takes a swig of water from a bottle he has on the side. ‘Tiring huh?’ he says, I nod and pull my goggles up and swim away, ten more lengths before a break. When I next raise my head from the water the man has gone and the woman is walking along the side of the pool, a towel wrapped around her body. The door clicks closed behind her.

I swim a while longer then stop. I breath in deeply, lie back. My lungs become a float inside my chest and I let my limbs hang limply down. My body hangs suspended. I drift.

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Transient moments

A woman sits on the train, a man stands next to her. They talk. Work colleagues. The tube stops, the doors open, they close. Hey, isn’t this your stop? she says, then laughs when he looks up. She pinches his  suit leg lightly. The train stops at Baker Street and the seat beside her becomes free. He sits. They talk without stopping, jumping in on each others words. His legs are crossed towards her, yellow socks. She leans in to him. Her blonde hair is tied up behind her, she wears sheer pale tights that bunch slightly at the ankles. She laughs. He grins. Neither wears a wedding ring.

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Murakami has his road, I have my bike

My thighs ache, my hands sting, I’m soaking wet, and I’m fucking cold

The warning lights are flashing and the barriers are down when we pull up to the level crossing. There is only one car waiting, a white Cortina with rust around back wheel arches. We squeeze though a narrow gap between car and verge and stop in front of the gates. Then we feel the first drops of rain.

The sky has dropped down low to the earth and the clouds are a swirl of black and grey. The wind has picked up. I notice for the first time that my legs and body are illuminated by the headlights of the car behind us.

The drops are big, large enough to splash when they hit the ground, and the concrete darkens beneath our feet. The rain gets heavier. We don’t hide in a doorway or under a tree, but stand in the open and feel our clothes grow heavier, and our skin grow chill as the wind whips water away from our faces. How often do you stand outside in a storm and just get wet?

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Paddling down the Thames

Something written a while ago about a trip I took once:

 

The paddles of the kayak oar cut through the water in a steady rhythm: right oar in, pull, lift across the chest, left oar in, pull, repeat, repeat, repeat. One stroke every couple of seconds, thirty strokes a minute, with breaks and rests maybe fifteen hundred stokes an hour. Ten thousand paddle strokes a day. By early evening the river water felt thicker than it had in the morning, resistant, like paddling through glue.

Our starting point was Cricklade, a small village about eight miles from the source of the Thames and the first point at which it is possible to use a kayak or canoe. More stream than river at this point, kayaking here is a struggle; the water is shallow and by late summer the stretch of river is chocked with weeds. Our first day was spent fighting our way through these grasping tendrils and feeling the hulls of our inflatable kayaks scrape worryingly against stones and submerged sand banks.

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