A KaiKaikiki troupe member Mr. made his debut in the US, so curiousity drove me to Mr.'s "Live On" show opening at the Asian Art Museum ...not knowing what to expect, and I'm glad I came with a blank canvas because what I experienced was a visual and audio performance which shook me. Its good to have many heroes, and identify how they've influenced you: Kozyndan, 326, Tekkon Kinkrete, Toriyama Akira, to name just a sample. I'm putting Mr. in that short list. Line heavy, colorful, busy, contrasting complex themes explored, all appealling to me.
The show touched on many themes which struck to the core of the Japanese psyche. Contrasting the hey day 80's consumption boom with the 3/11 destruction recovery efforts with sprinkles of Showa period nostalgia, Mr. presents the viewer with imagery of destruction amidst consumption, utlizing objects he's consumed and related to.
Peppered throughout the pile of broken records, stacked Shonen Jump weeklies, and Tv streaming footage hang Mr.'s colorful depictions of exuberant youth and idolization. One must reconcile the exported visual goods of a highly functioning futuristic culture of excess with the flooring devastation of broken physical manifestations of those goods both contemporary and nostalgic.
How do Japanese persevere through rebuilding AND consume arguably unapologetic sexualized 'Neo Pop' as he coins it? Well Mr. intentionally or not hit that theme by thanking the expecting crowd with broken stiff katakana scripted english wearing a formal suit and a bow tie, groomed to the tee. Then moments after entering on stage with consecutive Karaoke performances wearing a pink wig and Sailor Moon cosplay unbashedly loosely singing while throwing kicks and punches in the air while swinging about his mic and shaking his money maker....his persona. Peppering his perfomance Kinpachi Sensei- esque hair flipping, semi dry heaving "bwa!" ブアs and self interupting narration, he leads the crowd through enka, anime, and the 80s with "We are the World".
He ended his Karaoke session by calmly placing the mic with both hands on the floor and described how this was how Yamaguchi Momoe exited her career performance the same way, a reference I'm sure sailed over all our heads as our mouths were agape. His mention of consuming anime, manga, and video games set the stage for the content of his chaos. I don't know the word which describes a mix of exuberance, feeling punked, trance inducing deer in the headlights paralysis, and inspired...but I do know that "Mr." sums that up and delivers.
I've compiled an album, which is a mere sampling, but experiencing this show is a must. I will be back to take it in again. I'm happy to have met Mr. and I'm looking forward to more Neo Pop!
My book Enfu: Cute Grit is now available at the SAM's Asian Art Museum.