Japan has multiple ways to say “I”. Artist and multiple-self David Blandy tells us this half way through his new film Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark, a film itself part autobiography.
The Japanses have a dynamic way of speaking in first person, which relates to the present company; and what artist keeps such interesting company as gamer and hip hop geek Blandy?
But despite immersion in these cult-like worlds, an artist will always report back to an art audience, as embedded reporter from a land some would rather ignore.
Perhaps Edo Wonderpark is the first time that hat tips like Ulysses 31 and MCM Expo have made complete sense. The artist has long demanded you give them some attention.
And so we come to his latest assimilation: the “I” of 16th century explorer William Adams. Yes, this figure was a well paid European samurai. But no, he was always an outsider.
(Some modern comparison with Japanese footballers who sign up for the PL. It is not clear what the gaffer has in store for them. Perhaps the marketing departments know.)
It has been said that artists must be outsiders. But in a networked society with mass media and hives of trade and blockbuster exhibitions, this tradition maybe on the wane.
Blandy has found an imaginary land, somewhere that, on account of his height, his looks, his tongue, he cannot fit in. His art, in that sense, is really outsider.
Another strong point made by the film in question is the discovery, “300 years after the Renaissance”, of Japanese prints. Blandy is one who credits them with the birth of modern art.
If that be true then our ignorance about Japan is an ignorance about our own visual culture. Seen thus, the confessional script of Edo Wonderpark says is of urgent importance.
The least that might be said is that all artists need a Japan of the imagination, an uncanny home from home. “A cypher, a receptacle”, says Blandy, who may yet be as captive there as Adams.
Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark can be seen at Rose Lipman Building, 43 De Beauvoir Road, N1, until October 26. See Create London website for more details.