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MATTEmatters: Shokunin

By Marcela Filomena

The blog this week was originally going to be about single-minded dedication to craft- those creators who concentrate their efforts into a one-track channel.  Neurotic? Yes, of course.  Amazing results? No doubt about it.  However, I kept finding that many of the artists, designers and obsessives that I gathered turned out to be Japanese- so the blog ended up being (sort of) a new Japonism, the mid-nineteenth century term for the influence of Japanese art and culture on their European counterparts.  For some reason, that resulted in lots of fish.

designRei Kawakubo put the international fashion scene on notice with her Hiroshima chic dark-hued 1981 Paris collection.  She designs clothes coming from the perspective of a conceptual artist: leaving edges undone, transforming the human figure and refusing to obey the traditional confines of silhouette and bodyline, up-side down pockets, de-emphasized shoulders... I could go on and on.  Her design aesthetic and way of thinking influenced many new designers, such as Ann Demeulemeester, Martin Margiela and Helmut Lang, to name just a few.  However, today's post is not about Rei, but about her newest protégé Kei Ninomiya and his brand Noir.  Presented during the 2013 FW women's collection in Tokyo together with the other  Comme des Garçons brands, it's truly amazing and brand-spanking new, which explains the utter lack of english info online: laser cutting made to look like biological processes, knitted 3d appliqués, webbed flowers crocheted onto metal rings, cloth nautilus details on shoulders, basket weaved fabric- and all in perfectly tailored asymmetrical silhouettes.  Since it's a new brand it's next to impossible to find info on it outside of Japan, but the few pics I was able to find augur great things for Noir.  

filmI confess.  Until a few years ago, I was a sushi virgin.  I was disgusted by the idea of cold, raw fish wrapped in electrical tape seaweed with clammy rice. However, on repeated tastings (I knew that something SO popular couldn't be as bad as I thought- it quite clearly had to be my palate being ignorant), I ended up loving it.  Today it's basically my favorite meal, right up there with Elena Reygada’s Rosetta and chicken fingers and Fratello ice cream.  So, when I first saw Jiro Dreams of Sushi, I thought I'd caught a glimpse of heaven.  Let me explain.  Jiro Ono is the sushi master.  Period.  The octogenarian conducts his business in a tiny tenseater restaurant in a basement, and yet is the only three-star sushi restaurant in the world.  The process to eat there is incredibly convoluted, as reservations are next to impossible to get, and once you're even there, you must follow six rules in order to enjoy the privilege of eating Jiro's creations, which experience takes around 15 to twenty minutes for apprx $370.  Whenever I think now of a perfectionist, it is Jiro's face I see, whose invariable routine and stoic diligence is legendary among epicureans, because of his stoic diligence and invariable routine in his quest for perfection.  What Jiro offers is simple only in appearance, and goes beyond food to become artistry and experience.


artRiusuke Fukahori paints 3d goldfish, alternating layers of paint and resin to create art that straddles the line between painting and sculpture.  Cast in a variety of vessels, from wooden sushi basins to hollowed out black bamboo to the drawers in a low end table, Fukahori calls his fish living sculptures, capturing their incredibly animated and delicate life.  Each piece takes hours to finish, but during the process, seeing the fish form in dissected layers is amazing.

musicIn Japanese culture a shokunin refers to a craftsman, but with the technical proficiency comes social responsibility- he does his absolute best in order to contribute to the general welfare of the community.  The Bad Plus embody the term perfectly, with their rare ability to maintain accessibility and relevance while remaining artistically challenging and intelligent.  These musicians are far from being Japanese as per the theme this week (they’re actually from chilly Minnesota), but in terms of their fanatic attention to detail, they might as well be.  They've spent more than a decade redefining and reinventing what a jazz trio can do or be, from playing covers of Rush, Bowie, Nirvana and Aphex Twin, to seamlessly working together in selfless collaboration.  Having had the privilege of seeing them live in a very small venue, I can account to their particular magic: whether re-interpreting the dense score of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring or the refined one-note thuds of their own Reid Anderson’s Physical Cities, they’re amazing, incredible, spectacular, fantastic, mind-blowing, (I run out of adjectives with these people).  Do yourself a favor and see them for yourselves, become Bad Plus band-aids & follow them around the world: personal favorites are Flim, Thriftstore Jewelry, 1979 Semi Finalist, & Dirty Blonde, And Here We Test Our Power of Observation.


item - Have you ever wanted to wield a maguro bōchō with the proficiency of a professional fishmonger?  Look no more, as I have the solution for you: Kazuyoshi Watanabe, vendor at the prestigious Tsukiji Fish Market, in collaboration with Hobby Stock, has created the most professional–looking tuna model you’re ever bound to practice on.  Besides educating kids on how to break down a tuna into ten pieces, with a pretty sweet “knife” and cutting board, it comes packaged in a fish box similar to the ones actually used in the market.  Predictably still unavailable outside Japan, score yourself one on