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John L. Tran
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 31, 2017
Naoki Ishikawa: the full picture
Naoki Ishikawa does not seem to want to take fantastically dramatic photographs. He has travelled from the North to South Pole, climbed "The Seven Summits," the highest mountains of every continent, and traveled the length of the Japan, but his images are remarkable for their restraint and subtlety....
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 28, 2017
Singapore Biennale takes a good hard look in the mirror
Malaysian artist Azizan Paiman tells me that to lose weight, all I have to do is make sure that the calories I expend are more than the calories I consume. I already know that, but he's done it, and I haven't. He also tells the small group assembled in his temporary cafe that we need to love each other,...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 10, 2017
Jochen Lempert: The photographic seer
Jochen Lempert's exhibition "Fieldwork" at the Izu Photo Museum has an ageless feel to it. The intentionally low contrast pictures of wildlife and natural phenomena almost look like they could be archive photos unearthed from the mid-19th century. However, they also have the cool nonchalance of 1970s...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 3, 2017
The special effect of Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Apichatpong Weerasethakul pokes a little fun at Thailand's superstitions.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 20, 2016
Collier reviews the power of observation
To reframe Picasso's famously pithy remark "good artists copy, and great artists steal" for the contemporary art scene, appropriation can be used in an artist's work to borrow authority from history, or to subvert it.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 13, 2016
Tokyo: photogenic to its very core
Care to take a guess what the new exhibition "Tokyo, Tokyo and Tokyo" at the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum is about? In fact there are two exhibitions with the same name running concurrently, so it's "Tokyo, Tokyo and Tokyo" and "Tokyo, Tokyo and Tokyo."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 6, 2016
Early days for Sejima's Hokusai museum
At some point in the future, the new Sumida Hokusai Museum in Tokyo will be considered with great affection by a lot of people. Like Tokyo Tower and Starck's Asahi Beer Hall — which have had their fair share of criticism but are now an inextricable part of what makes Tokyo one of the world's kookiest...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 29, 2016
The alchemy of the avant-garde
"Abanga-do," the Japanese loan word derived from "avant-garde" has a relatively wider usage than the original French term. The political philosopher Henri de Saint-Simon (1760-1825) originally coined "avant-garde" as a rallying cry for art of the early 19th century to be a medium of social reform. In...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 1, 2016
Opposing today's rising intolerance
It has been a bumper year for chauvinism. Deplorables around the world who feel that their livelihoods, identities and values are under threat from "others" have let it be known that they're mad as hell and not going to take it anymore. If you don't think of yourself as being in the same basket as them,...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 18, 2016
Getting site-specific installations down to a fine art
Kenpoku Art 2016! is one of the latest projects to appear in an area for which art has been a relatively niche concern. Despite the fact that Okakura Tenshin, one of the central figures of Japanese art history, set up shop in Ibaraki Prefecture in 1906, and Art Tower Mito consistently provides top-class...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 11, 2016
Thomas Ruff: in the grand scheme of things
Thomas Ruff is one of the key figures of photography in the postmodern era, and his retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, will probably already be pencilled into your calendar if you have any interest in contemporary art.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Sep 20, 2016
Out of the ordinary comes a new art festival
I've never been comfortable with the idea that Japan has three "most beautiful" places. It's a tradition, or a received wisdom, if you like, to rank the triad of the land bridge Ama-no Hashidate, the rocky islands of Matsushima and the sacred torii in the water at Miyajima as the indisputable height...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Sep 6, 2016
It's the end of the world as we know it, and we still feel fine
Hiroshi Sugimoto's "Lost Human Genetic Archive," the inaugural exhibition for the reopening of the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (now the Tokyo Photographic Art Museum), is an erudite and elaborate exercise in gallows humor. The theme is the end of civilization and human life, but possibly...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Aug 30, 2016
Subtle messages lie hidden in a corporate collection
Tokyo Station Gallery is showing a pick 'n' mix exhibition, "12 Rooms 12 Artists," comprising a variety of modern and contemporary art acquisitions from the UBS art collection. There is no explicit curatorial imperative to connect or compare the works, so you're free to enjoy the visual confections in...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Aug 27, 2016
Who says printed books have a shelf life?
The printed page is not dead. Sure, many of its mainstream forms need a lie-down, and probably should be thinking about taking early retirement, but as text and images are being increasingly viewed in the same way — pristinely flat with glassy surfaces and shrunk to fit the size of the smartphone...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Aug 16, 2016
The pursuit of perfection with imperfection
The perfect Julia Margaret Cameron exhibition, according to Mark Haworth-Booth, curator of photography at the Victoria and Albert Museum between 1970 and 2004, would have to be vast.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jul 19, 2016
Spooky beasts keep haunting Japan's art
Seething masses of people crushed together in searing heat; empty-eyed wraiths, heads drooping in despair, shuffling to and fro — waiting for the time when they will be released their suffering. Tokyo can be hell in July and August. It isn't all bad though; there's an excellent exhibition on yōkai,...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jul 12, 2016
The fall and rise of the Empire line
The Pola Art Foundation is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and as part of this, the Pola Museum of Art has organized an ambitious exhibition that aims to present a cross-disciplinary view of art, product design and women's fashion of 19th- and early 20th-century France.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jul 12, 2016
Japan's dark fantasies thrust back in the light
In 1995, the multitalented Kyoichi Tsuzuki created a gorgeous, encyclopaedic book that visually documented the messy apartments of creative friends and acquaintances. The photography was beautiful, though Tsuzuki did not at the time consider himself a photographer, or have aspirations to be called an...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jun 28, 2016
Admiring the tarnished silver screen
Old chewing gum, cheap carpet sticky from spilled drinks, sagging seats pitted with cigarette burns: Satoshi Chuma's photographs of old cinemas on show at the National Film Center are fantastically evocative of the decline and fall of celluloid.

Longform

The Japanese government updated its English education guidelines in 2017 to emphasize communication over grammar and memorization. Public school teachers are incredibly busy, however, which means schools haven’t been able to implement changes uniformly. Private and alternative schools are attempting to remedy this.
The language of opportunity: Bilingual education is on the rise in Japan