Action x Action = Bction
Over 70 artists gathered together for an unusual art show called BCTION in one of the many buildings in Tokyo that are scheduled to be torn down either to make room for the Olympics or because they do not meet the improved building codes implemented after 2011 to make buildings as quake-proof as possible. Did the developers or property owner approach one of the artists or did some of the artists approach the owner or developers? Did the owners have a young relative who knew some of the artists? Don’t you wonder how these projects get started? Wouldn’t you love to have been involved? I would have jumped at the chance! Lots of wall space to draw or paint pictures as large as I wanted without the need to be too tidy. Sounds like a great idea to me.
Why are they called ‘BCTION’?
The organizers believed that action A triggers action B, starting a chain of creativity that will continue to expand and grow. They hope that by artists being active in their communities and transforming dead, urban spaces into vibrant, creative spaces artists can have more opportunities, more venues, and an improved market for their wares, and all parties can share in the many benefits. Maybe an art movement can even be started!
Urban art movement?
Art has been used in other cities around the world to enliven urban areas that are no longer vibrant. Winnipeg and other cities have displayed art from a wide range of artists in empty storefronts in an attempt to curb urban decay. I vaguely recall several Winnipeg artists, perhaps including Donnelly Smallwood, in the 1990’s creating installations in a motel that was scheduled to be demolished. Stores with artwork in their windows were more likely to be rented than those that were boarded up and empty. Murals are commonly used to brighten up urban areas with splashes of colour and to deter graffiti tagging by gangs. Wanda Koop created a not-for-profit community arts centre in Winnipeg called Art City, so everybody could have a space to dream, to imagine, and to create. She wanted to provide a space for art in every life. Bction seems to have similar goals.
Bction, unlike many formal art institutions in Japan, seem to have their finger on the pulse of the general populace. They had an in-house DJ playing music all day, local musicians had jam sessions in the building, a parking area was provided for strollers. Children of all ages, including those over 18, were invited to paint on the walls, floor, and ceiling. Somebody must have sponsored the supplies, because they had many new brushes, cups filled with several colours of paint, and brand-new aprons to protect the well-dressed who did not want to dirty their clothes. Social media was actively used to promote the event, and ticket reservations were made online. (If you did not have a ticket, you could still get in for free if you wrote down your e-mail address.) Many special events in Tokyo require you to reserve your space even if the events are free, and so Bction did the same. They probably also did it this way to create a mailing list for future events. They also posted pictures of the artwork on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and elsewhere.
Street art often features famous cartoon characters or original ones created by the artists, and the building was filled with kawaii or cute characters to create an environment that was friendly and enjoyable for everybody. Small children raced through the rooms, smiling and giggling in the rooms with bright cartoon-like colours and images but audibly shuddering in the darker, creepier rooms.
With splashes of colour everywhere you would think that people would gradually become experience visual overload and become immune to the details but they surprisingly did not. Somebody had painted an orange dinosaur near one of the light switches on the first floor. In the co-operative spirit, I picked up a brush and added a few details to enhance the dinosaur in its location. A little while later, a young woman passed by and commented to her friend that the dinosaur seemed to have changed and became great. Teamwork!
Bction, unlike many other not-for-profit groups, seems to realize that commerce is important for survival. Models were posing for photo shoots. Was Bction paid a courtesy fee for providing the location for the shot? I do not know, but it would be something to consider for the future. Asplund, a furniture company, must have been a sponsor, because their chairs were scattered throughout the building and their catalogues were stacked by the door. A rack of clothes and other items made by some of the artists were on sale. Their office on the top floor was humming with activity. Bction seemed to be well organized and savvy.
*Note: Please refer to Bction‘s website for more information about their group, individual artists, floor plans, or individual pieces of artwork.
Pop view of nature?
Blue birds and blue Care Bears
The music on this floor seemed to be a mix of yodeling and Mexican folk music. It was a very interesting combination. That blue blob on the floor behind the two men is a mutilated Care Bear. That must surely be a pop reference that suggests how old the artist is.
Lucky Asian lizards
Behind the gold door…
Kodak moments and other photo opps
Bright colours, big city