Fluorescent Chrysanthemum at ICA

Fluorescent Chrysanthemum


Like 2016, 1968 was a turbulent year with seismic social and political change taking place across the globe. It was the year when the civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy were assassinated; Apollo 8 and three US astronauts orbited the moon; 800,000 students, teachers and workers went on strike and protested in the Paris Streets; student protests against the Vietnam War across the US, and in London, Paris, Berlin and Rome; Andy Warhol was shot by radical feminist Valerie SolanasAnd in Japan, avant-garde Japanese artists were gaining global recognition for their experimental art and photographic work that reflected the political restlessness, which also laid the initial groundwork for the contemporary art of Japan today.


Fluorescent Chrysanthemum


In 1968, ‘Fluorescent Chrysanthemum’ exhibition, originally curated by Jasia Reichardt, at the ICA in London was the first presentation of experimental Japanese art, music, film and design in Europe – showcasing a group of artists never before seen in the UK, including Kohei Sugiura, Jiro Takamatsu, Ushio Shinohara, Tadanori Yokoo, Seiichi Hayashi, Yoji Kuri and Tatsuo Shimamura. The show exhibited sculptures, miniatures, posters, graphics, kites, music with visual scores and films. The show’s title was inspired by the fluorescent effects found in the many of the graphic works, whereas Chrysanthemum referred to the flower that is used as the Imperial Seal of Japan.


Fluorescent Chrysanthemum  Fluorescent Chrysanthemum

Photographs of the sculptures created by Japanese artists from the 1968 exhibition


In its 70th anniversary year, the institute examined the importance and impact of the 1968 show through its archive material at a small exhibition of the same title in The ICA Fox Reading Room from October 4 – November 27.


Kohei Sugiura's poster for Fluorescent Chrysanthemum  Tadanori Yokoo's poster for Seibu

Ushio Shinohara at Fluorescent Chrysanthemum

Top left: Kohei Sugiura’s eye-catching poster for the exhibition; Top right: Tadanori Yokoo’s poster for Seibu; Bottom: Ushio Shinohara’s ‘Doll festival’ (1966)


Although the exhibition was relatively small, it contained some fantastic graphic posters by some prominent and living Japanese artists and designers like Tadanori Yokoo, who is known as the ‘Grandmaster of Japanese Pop-Psych Art’; and Ushio Shinohara, the founding member of the Japanese Neo Dada group and is well-known for his ‘boxing paintings’. He and his wife were also featured in the bittersweet documentary by Zachary Heinzerling called Cutie and the Boxer in 2013.


Fluorescent Chrysanthemum

Fluorescent Chrysanthemum

The exhibition catalogue


Graphic designer Kohei Sugiura was responsible for the exhibition graphics (see the poster above) and the highly distinct installation of the show. The cool catalogue was printed on a large folded single sheet in two versions (one black on white, the other white on black), both of which unfolded with the exhibition poster printed on the other side.



img_8990-min  img_8992-min

Short animation and traditional Japanese symbols


There were also some short experimental films animations showing at the exhibition, and it would be fair to say that the concepts, graphics and styles still stand the test of time. Even though it would have been fastantic to have visited the original exhibition at the time, I think this archival exhibition provided a glimpse of the ground-breaking Japanese art movement at the time which had a powerful impact on artists from the later genertations.


Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016

Jack west metal work   Anna Bunting-Branch

Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016

Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2016 is currently showing at the ICA until 22nd Jan 2017; 2nd row left: Jack Wests lasercut metal; 2nd row right: W.I.T.C.H. (“Women’s Internation Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell”) posters by Anna Bunting Branch









Andy Warhol’s Time capsules

andy warhol exhibitionandy warhol exhibitionandy warhol exhibition

Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal exhibition in Hong Kong ( Dec 2012 – March 2013)


I can’t say that I am a fan of Andy Warhol, but after watching a documentary on the artist a few years ago, I started to change my opinion on the artist and his work. Earlier this year when I was in Hong Kong, I went to see the touring exhibition, Andy Warhol: 15 Minutes Eternal organised by the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, I was quite pleasantly surprised by his fashion illustrations from his early career and his photographic work.

Though what really struck me at the exhibition was seeing contents from his “Time capsules” projects. It is not an exaggeration to call Warhol a ‘compulsive hoarder’, he started the project in 1974 and managed to fill 612 cardboard boxes full of stuff that he collected from his daily life since 1950s. Each box was sealed, dated and stored away after they were filled, so nobody knew the contents until they were rediscovered and opened after his death in 1987.



A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now at the Old Selfridges Hotel


When I found out that there would be a live stream event, “Out of the box”, where two Time capsules boxes ( the last batch of unopened ones) would be opened in Pittsburgh and streamed live at ICA’s new offsite project venue, The Old Selfridges Hotel, I was intrigued.

My friend and I got there early and wandered around the cool and very raw space before the live event. This offsite project, A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now ( until 20th October) explores London’s creative past and the present through installations, videos, images and fashion, seems like a perfect setting for this event.




However, my friend and I decided to leave after about 45 minutes because the picture and sound quality of the live stream was not that great. I was glad to have seen part of the event, though it was a shame about the technical issue.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Time Capsule boxes, you can go visit Time Capsules 21, a website that examines the contents of box 21. Or you can watch director, John Waters ( hilariously) exploring Warhol‘s photo collection.



Essentially, the project is about memories ( wanted or unwanted) and we all have our own personal “Time capsules” ( which exist in both mental and physical forms), the only difference between us and Warhol is that we are unlikely to have over 600 boxes of them nor will curators and hundreds of strangers gathering to see the contents! Warhol was right about everyone being famous for 15 minutes in the future ( which is already happening in our culture today), but his own fame has lasted way longer than everyone else’s. And I bet he probably predicted it too.


The Bruce Lacey experience

bruce lacey

The Bruce Lacey experience at Camden arts centre


I have heard of the eccentric British artist Bruce Lacey before, but I wasn’t familiar with his work until his exhibition at the Camden Arts Centre ( one of my favourite galleries in London which is not actually in Camden) back in the summer.

The exhibition was eye-opening and extraordinary, there were paintings and objects related to mythicism and ritualism, childhood memorabilia, graphic posters, videos clips of his live performances and even robots and machines all invented by the artist. The exhibition was co-curated by Turner Prize winner Jeremy Deller, who also made a documentary on the artist with filmmaker Nick Abrahams.


bruce lacey

Graphics for ‘An evening of British Rubbish’, theatrical performances in the 50s


Last week, I attended the screen of “The Bruce Lacey experience” at the ICA with a Q & A with Jeremy Deller and Nick Abrahams. And like the rest of the audience, I couldn’t help but admire the artist’s eccentricity, passion, humour, creativity, his anti-establishment and ‘young at heart’ attitude to life. The 85-year old’s motto is “never lose the child within you”, and by the end of the documentary, you would be convinced that he does live by this and happily so.


the Bruce Lacey Experience – teaser 2 from nicholas abrahams on Vimeo.



Fourth plinth

4th plinth

Powerless Structures by Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset ( February 2012 – present))


For those who are unfamiliar with the ‘fourth plinth’, it is the a plinth in Trafalgar Square ( originally intended for a statue of King William IV) that has stood empty for over 150 years due to insufficient funds. But since 1999, it became the backdrop for temporary sculptures by contemporary artists. Over the years, there has been continuous debate over these art work and the most controversial being Antony Gormley’s One & Other ( 2009).

A total of 2,400 members of the public were selected and each spending an hour on the plinth over a hundred consecutive days. They were allowed to carry anything and do anything they wished to ( including being nude) on the plinth. A lot of people questioned the artistic value of this, but I thought it was daring, creative and very ‘London’ ( if there is such a term)! One of the most popular was Gerald Chong, who made a set of cardboard replica of the London skyline while dressed and performed in a Godzilla costume. You can watch his post on Youtube here.


4th plinth4th plinth4th plinth

Yinka Shonibare: Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle ( May 2010 – January 2012)


Currently at the ICA, there is an exhibition showcasing more than 20 pieces of art work, including pieces that were shortlisted but didn’t make it by artists like Tracey Emin and Anish Kapoor and Jeremy Deller. There is also the maquette of the forthcoming giant blue Hahn/Cock by Katharina Fritsch ( see below).

One of the interesting part of the exhibition was to read the news clippings and quotes by artists and critics related to the fourth plinth. I especially like Marc Quinn‘s quote ( see below), whether people like these art pieces or not is beside the point, the fourth plinth actually sums up what London is about, it’s about diversity, freedom, tolerance, creativity, traditions, innovation and evolution.


4th plinth4th plinth4th plinth4th plinth exhibition


Fourth Plinth: Contemporary Monument at the ICA will end on 20 January.



See Red Women’s Workshop

see red women's workshop


Coincidentally, after writing my previous blog entry, I saw an exhibition on See Red Women’s Workshop, an organisation fully committed to the ideals of the second wave feminist movement, and used graphics ( mainly screen prints) to explore and question the role of women in society from 1974 to 1990.

The screen-printing workshop designed and printed of their own posters, postcards, calendars, took on commissions and conducted talks and demonstrations on screen-printing. Their posters campaigned or raised consciousness on subjects such as sexuality, health, childcare, domestic violence, sexual equality, male sexist attitudes, treatment of women by the media, and oppression of women in a wider political context, both nationally and internationally.


see red women's workshopsee red women's workshop


I love the strong, raw graphics and colours, in many ways, they remind me of the Soviet Propaganda posters. Apart from the eye-catching graphics, slogans like “So long as women are not free the people are not free” also deliver a powerful message. One of the funniest posters at the exhibition is a self-defence guide/ poster with the slogan, “Underneath every woman’s ‘curve’ lies a muscle!”. The poster lists parts of the women’s body (and bag) which could be used for self-defence and the ‘weakest’ parts of the men’s body which she could attack. Hilarious.


see red women's workshopsee red women's workshop

see red women's workshopsee red women's workshop


When I was standing in front of the Margaret Thatcher poster, the women next to me commented, “Everything depicted in the poster is happening to us allover again…” And she is right, with all the budget cuts on public services and raising transport fares that is happening now, it’s like deju-va!

And slowly I left the venue feeling slightly wary of our future…


See Red Women’s Workshop at the ICA will end this Sunday on 13th January.




The super cool Art Drive! exhibition

The entrance and interior of the lift


Like I mentioned previously, there are endless arts and cultural events happening all over town during the Olympics, but the Art Drive! exhibition organised by the ICA is probably one of the coolest in town at the moment.

This 2-week free exhibition at the a multi-storey car park in Shoreditch ( yes, the entire car park has been turned into an exhibition space) showcases BMW’s art car collection from 1975-2010. I can’t think of a better venue for this exhibition esp. in an area like Shoreditch where street art and graffiti is in every corner. There are many big names like Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, David Hockney and Roy Lichtenstein etc, but it’s just wonderful to see them being displayed outside of a gallery/ museum space. Honestly, you don’t have be one of the ‘boys’ to be excited by these super cool cars!

Catch it before it ends next week!


Jenny Holzer, César Manrique, Frank Stella


The pop masters: Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein


Esther Mahlangu, M.J. Nelson, Robert Rauschenberg


Jeff Koons and Sandro Chia


Graffiti in Shoreditch


Art Drive! at the NCP car park ( 35 Great Eastern Street) will end on 4th August.



Documentaries marathon

Since the ICA would be closed during the Olympics, I decided to do a mini documentaries marathon, seeing three documentaries in 2 days… I have been more ambitious before but ended up feeling nausea afterwards, so I have learned not to overdo it.


Marina Abramovic: The artist is present

This is an engaging, spiritual and well-paced documentary on the performance artist, Marina Abramovic. If I didn’t see this, I would probably misunderstand her work and its meanings, but now I am very intrigued by her and her work. She comes across as a very spiritual being, and I felt quite moved watching her ‘performance’ with the public at MOMA. Once again, it ensures me that people are essentially the same no matter the age, race, background, and profession. Her work may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but she is definitely a charismatic and unique individual.




Nostaglia for the light

Patricio Guzmán‘s Chilean documentary is beautiful, heartfelt and extremely powerful. It ties an unlikely link between the nation’s fascination with astronomy and its country’s past political turmoil under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. The documentary is not overly sentimental, but it would be hard not to empathise with the women who lost their loved ones ( executed) under Pinochet’s dictatorship.

This link questions the way we think about time, space, memories, past, present, losses and pain. It is so thought-provoking that it must be seen again to fully digest the scope of the topic.




Eames – The architect and the painter

This is quite a fascinating documentary on Charles and Ray Eames, who were America‘s most influential industrial designers. However, it does not match the standard of the documentaries above; it is overlong and a bit boring at times. As a designer, I am interested by the sources of their inspirations and design processes, but as a story, I think the material is slightly on the weak side.




‘The price of sex’ by Mimi Chakarova

I hope that my blog title will not attract the wrong crowd thinking that this is a porn site! It’s actually about a documentary that I saw at the Human Rights Watch film festival currently showing in London.

Before launching the website, I found the whole idea of social media quite daunting. Little did I know, 6 months later, I am constantly blogging and twitting online… all in the name of business! I used to wonder if anyone would want to read what I have to say or if I can come up with interesting things to say, but now, my attitude towards voicing myself has changed completely.

I don’t want to use this platform as a political/ religious/ social issues forum and I certainly do not want to be preachy or patronising. But I realised that if my blog can help to raise awareness of issues that I care about, and even if only a handful of people are going to read it, it is better than thinking about it quietly in my bedroom. At the end of the day, it’s up to the readers to judge what really matter to them.

A few months ago, I saw a Swedish film, Lilya 4-ever, directed by Lukas Moodysson, about a young girl being sex trafficked in the former Soviet Union. Loosely based on a true story, the film had a profound impact on me and I knew the story is not an one-off. I started doing research on the topic and tried to find ways to help but it didn’t go very far as there are too many NGOs doing similar work, yet I wasn’t sure which was credible.



Then yesterday, I went to the ICA to see another excellent and moving documentary, The price of sex, directed by photojournalist, Mimi Chakarova, and once again, I felt the urge to do something. The film focuses mainly on three Eastern European women and most of the filming took place in Istanbul and Dubai, where they were trafficked. As explained in the film, sex trafficking is a complicated issue and it’s more to do with power than sex. Being one of the oldest trades in the world, we all know that the sex trade can never be eliminated, but it’s still daunting to see how little has changed even with so much money and effort being put in to combat it. At the Q & A, Mimi, who spent almost 10 years working on this project, seemed quite emotional at times, and as the audiences, we could feel how personal this project is to her.



I don’t know if there are real solutions to this complex issue but raising awareness is the first step, and we need to know that these stories are taking place everywhere in the world including the U.K. It annoys me when I hear people here constantly moaning about the economical downturn and how it’s affecting their lifestyle i.e. cutting down on the son’s swimming classes or not being able to go abroad for holiday. If self-indulgence and self-absorption is the price we pay in to live in the civilised society, then we have certainly reached a critical period in human history. If all us can see a glass as half full rather than half empty, then we will be much happier and be more generous towards those in need.

Mimi urges the audiences to tell at least 5 people about the film, I managed to tell 4 so far, so hopefully, I will get at least one reader who will read this and spread the message to more people! If you would like to find out more or give support, you can check out the Poppy project set up by Eaves, a London-based charity, to help trafficked women.

There is also an e-petition calling on the Government to stop detaining trafficked people, you can click here to sign up.

The ‘new’ ICA

In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955


I used to hang out at the ICA when I was an art student many years ago. It was the ‘IT’ place for ‘cool’ art and art house films, I even remember seeing Derek Jarman‘s film for the first time there. I don’t remember when I stopped going there, but its appeal slowly diminished over the years. And not surprisingly, for many years it has had to go through financial problems as well as identity crisis and management changes.

After the departure of Ekow Eshun, Gregor Muir took over as the Executive Director last year, and finally, the ICA is back on form again. After being a Barbican member for two years, I decided to end the membership and joined the ICA for the first time.

There was an issue initially because my membership card arrived about 1 month after I signed up and I had to call a few times to get it sorted! Not a great start but luckily, things have improved since. Last Friday afternoon, I went to see two documentaries almost back to back, which reminded me so much of my student days! It felt good to relive and be in that kind of spirit once in a while…

The first documentary, Marx reloaded (2011) was sold out soon after it was released about 2 weeks ago, proving that the return of Marx is not a myth! The film investigates the current global social and economic crisis that we are facing under capitalism and how Karl Marx‘s ideas are making a comeback due to many’s dissatisfaction with our current situation. I have not read Marx‘s manifesto but I have read of his ideas through other sources and I am quite curious about the subject. Although many critics accused of his ideas as utopian, I think they can be used as basis to explore more… but realistically, something new/ innovative needs to surface soon to rescue our problematic society!

The second documentary, Axis of Light: Eight Artists from the Middle East (2011) is a a poignant documentary directed by Pia Getty, which depicts the on-going conflicts and struggles in different parts of the Middle East seen through 8 leading artists from the region. I have always been fascinated by the culture and arts in the Middle East (I blame this on watching too much Sinbad cartoon when I was child!) esp. Arabic calligraphy and architecture. Hence, I find Rachid Koraichi‘s work completely memerising, but overall, it was eye-opening to see and hear from these artists talking about their work and inspirations. Having just seen Youssef Nabil‘s exhibition in Paris (see my Paris exhibition entry), it made me understand him and his work more after seeing the film. This is a very touching and genuine documentary that should not be missed.

Apart from the cinematic revival at the ICA, the current exhibition, In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955, is also very intriguing. It exhibits the lesser-known serial publications produced by artists around the world from 1955 to the present day. The highlights for me included American photographer, Eleanor Antin‘s 100 boots postcards (1971-73) … although I have the book, it is not quite the same as seeing the postcards in person! Another surprise was to see Japanese photographer, Araki Nobuyoshi‘s black and white photocopies, Zerokkusu (1970) bound beautifully in a traditional way.

If the ICA stays consistent and continues with impressive exhibitions and screenings like these, I think it will attract a lot more visitors or member, though the downside is that either events will be fully booked all the time or they will have to seek a larger premise!

Axis of Light will be screened until 4th March and In Numbers: Serial Publications by Artists Since 1955 will end on 25th March. Both the screening and exhibition are free of charge. Click here for more info.