Friday, November 07, 2008
Swimming Between The Flags
"Sprawled across the backseat of a taxi stalled in traffic on the Rainbow Bridge, I peer out through the front windshield at clusters of grey, neon-edged towers spilling away from the harbour's low-lying shores, their upper floors just an eerie glow within ragged scarves of low grey cloud. On days like this, Tokyo feels like a futuristic battlefield imagined by sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison and rendered by an otaku game engineer."The city is too conducive to the manic mis-wiring of my psyche. It’s too easy to be swept up in its unrelenting momentum, the raw energy of 30 million intense, tightly wrapped souls teeming through its arteries, the hyper-electric jolt of its too bright neon and plasma, office lights always burning, the visceral rumble of its streets – deeper, louder even than New York – and the heightened sensitivity to data swarming like tsetse flies in the ether around you, stirred up by millions of tiny CDMA phones. "There are also times when I’m oppressed by the stifled emotions, the compressed sense of space and the contrary social protocols that combine to amplify the ever-present neurotic jitter that infects every minute of life here."Often, when I'm travelling in Japan and south-east Asia, I think about abandoning my home and studio overlooking the ocean in the beachside suburb north of Sydney and immersing myself in a major city such as Tokyo or London, where there's a sense that culture matters to the place and its people. Not much matters in Australia. The living is easy, the culture is white-bread bland and homogenous, inspired by prime-time TV consumerism and uncommitted to anything more than careless surf-urban comfort. It's no place to be an artist.