I probably shouldn't let this shit bother me, but almost every week it seems the New York Times, or some denomination thereof, pubishes something to piss me off--on the Asian front--thereby yanking me back from the brave new world of post-Asianness I am trying to swim to. Last week it was a photo essay in the New York Times Magazine. The cover package, led by "Tokyo Spring: the Murakami Method", dealt with the Murakamization of the international art world. Interesting. But then, of course, to go with the package, they included a photo essay, by Dutch photographer Hellen Van Meene (because Japan doesn't have any photographers, I guess), on what topic? Guess. No really ... guess. Yep, that's right, it's on "Tokyo Girls", what else? 'Cause, you know, we've never seen that before. Indeed, what better way is there to deepen and broaden our understanding of Murakami's and Murakami-esque Japanese artists' commentary on sexuality and pop culture than by reiterating their anime-inspired images of erotic Japanese girlhood? 'Cause, you know, the huge-breasted fiberglas sculptures didn't quite say it all. In case anyone wondered why, the NYTM explained their choice of photographer and subject thus: 'In today's Japanese youth culture ...innocence is pulled in multiple directions: exaggerated into mere cuteness in the kitsch of Hello Kitty; mock-heroically ennobled by the child heroes of manga (comic books); even distorted and sexualized in the submissive schoolgirls of the country's anime pornography. Lost in these extremes but captured in van Meene's work is the less stylized (but still stylish) vernacular of everyday Japanese girlhood. It is a look at once fashionable and ingenuous, tender but not without the occasional flush of teenage allure.' In other words, we needed the NYTM to commission a Dutch photographer to fill in the blanks about 'everyday Japanese girlhood' because Japanese artists weren't doing the job. Why the world needed to know about everyday Japanese girlhood isn't addressed here, so we're left to speculate on our own. Don't worry, I won't speculate for you, 'cause I'm not just post-Asian, I'm also post-feminist. Of course, in case you were worried that Van Meene was just documenting what she saw rather than shaping an extremely distorted, sexualized, feminized and infantilized vision of an Asian country that apparently continues to threaten the West on both cultural and economic fronts: 'Van Meene says she does not conceive of her portrait photographs in the traditional documentary way: while she does not exactly ''stage'' her subjects, neither does she try to capture their true, underlying personality or state of mind. Instead, she chooses to see her subjects as the raw material of her own fictions. ''This is not just you, now,'' she explains. ''This is a sense of you, created by me.''' Well, that's okay, then. As long as you're not, like, projecting your own ideas and desires on an entire culture through the bodies of its young girls or anything.
The previous issue of Hyphen is available in its entirety for your perusing pleasure. Almost as good as having it right in your hands!