Melt-Banana, The Fin among acts at gig set in old bathhouse


Special To The Japan Times

“To get the community onboard with the show, we made some flyers with photos of us on that make us look like cult leaders,” she says. “We were trying to look as wholesome as possible, which didn’t really work too well.”

For curator Ella Krivanek, the way an art event interacts with its surroundings is crucial, even if the results can’t always be predicted.

For her upcoming art and music event “The Bathhouse Show,” everything from the individual rooms and the building to the surrounding neighborhood and the city of Tokyo itself forms part of the conceptual space within which the event’s various parts interact.

Preparing to depart Tokyo after a year spent running her Space Space Gallery out of a disused warehouse in the Tokyo suburb of Komae, Krivanek wanted to go out on a note that crystalized her ideas about art and the environment in which it exists.

She recruited her artist and musician friend Dorothy Siemens to collaborate on a show in an abandoned nearby building that was once home to a bathhouse and series of old apartments, using the building itself as a starting point.

“Because of the symbolism of water and cleansing that goes along with the public bath,” Krivanek explains, “and the echo of that within Tokyo as a city that’s constantly rebuilding and renewing itself, we felt that was a solid foundation from which to build up the themes of the show.”

The building is slated to be demolished and replaced by modern dormitories for railway personnel — something Krivanek feels is strangely appropriate, allowing her own departure, “to be a part of the ritual that signifies that change.”

To Siemens, who is participating in the exhibition as one of 40 artists, as well as curating the live music performances, the space also has a strong impact on the immediate experience of music.

“I’m really interested in sound and music being performed in a space that’s not a traditional concert hall,” she says, “and how that not only changes the sound of the music but also how the band makes sound and how the audience perceives it.”

Bringing in childhood heroes Melt-Banana, avant-rock veterans Hikashu, and relative indie newcomers Boys Age and The Fin, Siemens and Krivanek are interested not only in how the music and art stand alone, but in what visitors take with them from one exhibit to another when traveling between areas.

In the cavernous bathhouse with its Mount Fuji mural and the intimate apartments upstairs, Krivanek and Siemens see an opportunity to break art out of the little white boxes of commercial galleries and music out of the little black boxes of live houses, combining the conceptual and the immediate in a refreshing way for both art and music.

The Bathhouse Show takes place at Nihonbashi Sento in Komae, Tokyo, on Feb. 13 (5 p.m. start; admission is free). For more information, visit