Sound studies / Studies of sound

Earlier this year I came across the work of Steven Feld, a pioneer in sound-based cultural anthropology, and was delighted to find on his website a remark about “sound studies.”

I hate “sound studies”!

I love studies of sound; that’s not the issue. I hate the conglomeration phrase “sound studies” because…

“Sound studies” totalizes the object “sound,” and it presumes an imagined coherence to that object that one is supposed to know in advance.

[From Steven Feld, I Hate “Sound Studies” ]

I couldn’t agree more with his point.
In a similar vein, think about “Japanese culture” and “the culture of Japan.”
The former presumes a pre-defined set of authentically “Japanese” behaviors, while the latter evokes an openness and a willingness to accept the reality of how people in Japan are actually behaving. I like to think those unconscious actions and customs in everyday life make up the actual “culture” of a country. But they are hard to measure.
Sadly, I sense that the kind of nationalism and aikokushin (love for one’s country) the government is trying to instill in children through school education is based on the former. It tries to teach a “Japanese culture” that ordinary citizens have long lost touch with.
This deprives children of the opportunity to see the powerful but hidden connections between themselves and their culture– in other words, to have ownership of their values and the empowerment to change that culture if need be.
To see it from the other side, if we just added a no (“of”) to the curriculum title, it might unleash so much more flexibility in the way we think about culture.

What words can do, what images can do [2]







What words can do, what images can do [1]











あと、言葉が文字という形で与えられる場合、それは言葉であると同時にイメージだが、that’s another story…


Dan Flavin’s tubes aren’t going to last forever

I fell in love with Dan Flavin‘’s work back in 2013, during my first stay in London. The Tate Modern had a room dedicated to him at the time.


How could something make you feel so serene, meditative, peaceful–something that’s made of fluorescent tubes? Is there something about light that makes things look ethereal? I even remember sketching the works to see if there were any patterns. But they were all just a few types of ordinary fluorescent tubes put together. But they were beautiful.


Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo, 2017
“Monument” for V. Tatlin (1964-65) at Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo, 2017
Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo, 2017
Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo, 2017

Fast forward to 2017 and Espace Louis Vuitton Tokyo did a Dan Flavin show. And I had a question. What happens when the tubes expire someday?

2017年、エスパス ルイ・ヴィトン東京のダン・フレイヴィン展で、この蛍光灯が切れたらどうなるのか聞いてみた。

I asked a staff member there, who told me that in fact, yes, they will expire someday in the future. According to what he’d heard, people who purchased the work received a couple of spare tubes, which I guess was part of the idea because they were mundane objects at the time. Now, ironically, those tubes are becoming harder to find. So a body of work that most likely raised questions about mass production is now something akin to a candle. It is literally burning away its finite resources, as long as it is being exhibited.


And so the works now possess a unique quality of being static, yet finite. Unlike traditional paintings and sculptures. I found this to be an interesting example of how context changes the meaning of things.

Flavin probably didn’t plan this…or did he?