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Tour Guide: Shinpei Takeda

 July 21, 2021 at 1:11 PM PDT

Uh-oh, are we locked out? There we go... Hey...I’m Alan Lilienthal and you’re listening to Port of Entry… Por aqui? Alla? Gallery dos? Gracia s Alright. BEAT’s cross-border story is a bonus episode. We’re actually right in the middle of producing our next season… So we’re busy putting together new series and episodes that we’ll launch in the fall... But we didn’t want to leave y’all con nada for the summer… So…Over the next few months, we’ll be dropping a few more bonus episodes in the feed for you… We're going to Galleria where apparently Shinpei’s exhibition is. This one here marks the start of a thing we’re calling “Tour Guide.” Where transfronterizos/as show us through a space in the borderlands. Our first tour guide is Shinpei (Shin-pay) Takeda…(taa kay duh) Oh yeah, I see his name written on the wall... He’s an artist and filmmaker who has an exhibition on view at CECUT...the main art museum in Tijuana…through August 8. I highly recommend seeing the show in person if you can… Wow, that’s cool…[Footsteps] But for those of you who can’t, this audio tour of the exhibition that my producer Kinsee Morlan and I went on with Shinpei is a cool little trip… Hopefully your imagination can fill in the visual blanks. Enjoy… BEAT fade MIDROLL 1 BEAT We just walked in. I haven't been here in a long time because of the pandemic. So we're going to go meet Shinpei. I don't know much about him, but I've heard a lot about him, I have friends who work for him. He's a big presence in the cross-border region. I feel like you just hear his name a lot. Totally. BEAT Alan VO 1: So...Shinpei is well-known in our region as a border artist because he lived and made art in Tijuana and San Diego for decades... But these days...he's truly a global, sorta borderless artist who travels all over the world showing his art. Right now, he’s living in Germany...but his life actually started in Japan... Yes. I was born in Japan, in Osaka. Yeah. And then I was in, uh, my parents. But it worked for a company. They were always getting sent to different places. So I was in Germany for five years, my childhood, then I was in Chicago for a little bit. And then back to Japan and for university, I went to North Carolina and then from there I came to San Diego and I started this organization called the Aja Project... Alan: The AJA project, by the way, is a nonprofit that works with refugee youth and other kids by teaching them photography and other artistic and storytelling skills... Kinsee: It's a great organization. Great, thank you. And now it's been 20 years. And then, then I was, uh, kind of tired of, um, you know, American, um, I think what shall we say, you know, you come to us and you want, you learn language and you master any, you use it and you become kind of tired of your, um, Individuality, no? Too much “I, I, I.” Because when I first learned, I, I want, I, you know, and it's, it's a language you have to insist. I want, I think, I believe, you know, you know, you have to insist, you have to fight for it. That's the only way to survive in the American society, I think. And that leaves you very lonely, you know, I think with your “I.” So I got bored and I was like, wow, that's this distance between people, no? So when I came down, you know, because my friends wanted back then, he wanted to be, um, Lucha, Libra, uh, uh, like a lucha guy here. So I used to come down with him and he rented an apartment and I started living there. And that was the first time in Tijuana. That was 2004 or three or something. Yeah. And then the first people I met was in, um, artists know, artistas...,So, uh, so it was, yeah, but for me, the artists, it is a little different than artists. Now, when you say artists here, at least in Mexican cities at snore and TJ too, you have a different kind of responsibility. And I think they treat you a little bit like a, um, kind of a documentarian of the city. You are the, they treat you like you are kind of. Type, you know, documenting machine of what's happening now. BEAT Alan VO: So, after meeting more and more artists in Tijuana, Shinpei realized that he, too, had something to say about what was happening in the world… I started wanting to cause then my work was with the Aja Project trying to give voice to and work with young people. Uh, people from immigrants know, people, refugee kids know, and I was trying to put their work. So making the photographs so big and so on. And I realized, I was wanting me my voice. So I was wanting to find my voice in here in TJ say, people are just. So I was wanting to find my voice in here in TJ say, people are just. Doing things from nothing. And that really gave me a kind of, uh, courage and, and, uh, kind of a guts to start making my stuff. So this is like my, my art school in Tijuana, the city. So...And I found here, I think in TJ is like super great to like start something, you know, you don't think about anything, just let's do it. The explosiveness of starting something…. But I think here, I couldn't quite learn how to tie the last, not, you know, how to complete the works. it's hard to get into details because it's so much stuff going on here and it's like, Alan. You see like half-finished buildings all the time. Like, I don't see that anywhere more than in Tijuana, like this, like the explosiveness is there to create, but then to, to finish it, well, Yeah, it's a, it's a, that's the beautiful thing about it because it's so much space to do stuff, you know… BEAT Alan: So, because of this feeling of Shinpei's...the feeling that he could easily create things in Tijuana but could never quite figure out how to finish them… He decided to move back to Germany where he had spent part of his childhood. He says he felt like the country’s long history and its culture, which he remembers as being oriented toward efficiency and getting things done...felt like the necessary next step in his career as an artist. Kinsee: So is Germany forever or….? No, no. Germany is also as of right now it's super immigrant society. So. Yeah. You know, it's like a California 20 years ago in some ways. And yet there there's a part of it. They're like very conscious. They're more green there. You know, it's feels like it's a well, or, you know, society well-functioning society, but there's also a lot of frictions, a lot of friction. So these, in some ways they're are 10 years ahead of USA, but in some ways they're like 10 years ahead of, you know, behind California and just kind of dealing with other. How do you deal with others? Kinsee: So will you always kind of consider Tijuana home base? I mean, just, we see what happens after this. This show was like one of the something that I really wanted to put make. And after it’s here, it's like, it's, I'll have to find some new threads for my new future, you know? I mean, you learn in transborder life. I guess just do what you learn from the, doing a transborder life is that there's always so much way of going through the border and you always learn to improvise here. The point is not to break down the wall. But you just, you just, just, you have to find the back door entry, you know. I think that's why you learn, you know, because in Germany it's an exam. It's so interesting. It's you from where I am you drive 30 minutes to Holland there. When I was a kid, there used to be border. Like linea here. No, not so many, like three hours lines, but there was always a linea. I remember this and now there's like nothing, you see the remains of the checkpoint, so, oh, the borders come and go, you know? And this one is getting bigger and bigger from the time. I mean, when you, when I was first year was it was like this. Yeah. There was like nothing. I mean, you could still jump a little bit, you know, now it's gotten more hyper intense, no? But it comes and goes though I think. Alan: Borders come and go. They do. You gotta remember that. Yeah and you just have to keep finding ways to get through it. And don't try to go from the main entry point because it takes too much time and too much energy. I like it. Find the back door. Yeah. BEAT fade Alan: OK, so...after we got to know each other a bit….Shinpei took Kinsee and me on a quick tour of his exhibition…. So this ship is the, what greets people in the front wall. Alan VO: Shinpei started by talking about a very detailed pencil drawing of a ship he drew right on the museum's the very first thing you see when you walk into the gallery. So I was wanting to make a little bit of metaphor about these big ship that we've built by ourselves and how we can’t…. We don't even know what to do with all these big ships that we've made Alan: or like it's sustaining itself, but it's stuck in a, in a certain way. Yes. Yes. And that's the kind of a title “moral fantasy” is that, uh, it's a quote by, uh, Austrian philosopher. And he talks about, um, that, uh, we need to expand. We don't even know our capacity to produce...We can produce nuclear weapons and all these things...but we can’t even control it because we don't’ have enough imagination so we need to expand our imagination to keep up with our capacity to produce things. BEAT Alan VO: Next, Shinpei walked us over to a woven piece he made that’s hanging on the wall. And...Kinsee and I immediately recognized the symbol he wove into the design…we see it everyday. It’s an audio waveform...the squiggly line of the peaks and valleys you see when you load or record a digital audio file into an audio editing program… So one of the pieces is this, tapetes, how do you say it's it's it's a rug made, tapestry, Made in a Oaxaca. And then I had them, I had worked with them to make this kind of a sound vibrations and all that. A lot of my work has to do with these vibrations, behind these voices that you guys are recording. For example, you look at these diagrams and you cut and you edit. So this is kind of the, you know, how do we weave these. Not just the text and informations and transcription of these words, but behind what's behind these words and numbers, no? So this was kind of my symbolic piece here to begin the exhibition. Alan Vo: At this point, we walked over to a giant hole in the wall. It looked like someone made a someone had an accident with a sledgehammer and no one bothered to fix it. But, of course, it wasn't an accident. It was art. Or...more accurately, an instrument...Shinpei actually recorded the sound of the breaking wall for use in his experimental performance art band called Ghost Magnet Roach Motel... So the idea is that we’ve done these kind of things trying to get these cockroaches out of these walls and so on.. We made this as music....So this is kind of the manifested in this kind of really live. And we made this as a music also no? but there was two American musicians, um, and two Mexican artists. And then I was there also screaming and making noise. Alan VO: OK….I feel like I have to step in here real quick to play some noise music...because it is a genre of music that’s big in Tijuana and somewhat in San Diego, too. So, let's take a second to listen to Shinpei's band, Ghost Magnet Roach Motel. Ghost Music Clip So we like to think we had something to do with starting this kind of a noise. So is this all the sound that we were just knocking and breaking ... It's punk rock. Yeah. So that's the piece. A documentary Shinpei made about his performance art band, Ghost Magnet Roach Motel, plays on repeat. Clip from Ghost Magnet Roach Motel movie This is like a part documentary, part reality TV, part film, part punkFormance we call it… Clip from Ghost Magnet Roach Motel movie Alan Vo: up….we headed over to a series of wood-block prints hanging on the wall…. This piece I wanted to include in the early part because it's called the phobia project and I did it in Mesa college gallery with Alessandra Moctezuma and, uh, uh, she had me there for, uh, like a residency I did there and I had this little tent. Like a tent. I don't know if you see food on the cover of the city beat once or like in CTV in the sun. Yeah. There's like this, this tent I made and I had a whole museums and people may appointment with me and talk and we sat down for one hour and we talked about the phobias. Yeah, I have this, eh, not at SU I should have it in my day to day data. Yeah. So people would come in and kind of just like confess their phobias to you. And you would talk about, it's kind of a silly, interesting exercise, humorous in a part because you know, people, this is like the, or Neato phobia is people that have fear with. Oh, right. I go to phobia people open space. Yeah. Very me. It's like that. That's like, oh, they're all Greek weird word. I think it's something that was a driving people that has fear of driving. So I would carve them from them. Their writings as they're talking to you. Yeah. We will re we decide what the phobia is and they write, they write with their handwriting and I would carve them with my hands. And then that's as a, as an intense to try to take away their carve-outs their phobias. Did it work? You think, wow, it's an exercise. It's an art, it's an intent. And it's an it's a, and the art is a, it's a trigger, right? Did he need to get help? Get rid of phobias, let me, they helped me. It gave me an energy, like just kind of a fear is also like a kind of, uh, energy. And that's what I think is something that you see here in Tijuana is also this fear of violence, Paranoia, you know, is also like grit. It's a lot of energy and that leads to good parties that also leads to like good, some kind of automatic healing system. You know, because you have to heal because when you're here, there's a lot of violence and then you can't, you have to find ways to deal with it and move forward. So when you live here, I mean, it's a very different thing when you're looking from other side, but when you live here, it's totally different thing. And this paranoia also leads to more paranoia, but also there is some kind of automatically embedded healing system in this city. I think. Kinsee: I think you’re right about that. Alan: Yeah, I never thought about it that way.. Alan Vo: In the middle of the gallery, suspended from the ceiling, is Shinpei’s biggest piece in the show. It’s made of waves of woven fabric that droop down and then rise back up across nearly the entire length of the space. I had made these pieces mostly as a, as a way to talk about these difficult memories and violence. So all these pieces traveled to Dresdon, Hiroshima and Nagasaki many places in Vienna. So it traveled in that six years or so. It's, it's, uh, it's called beta Decay... it's as part of other name is anti-monument series because I like part of me I'm being critical of myself, wanting to make big things, monumental things, you know, because there's so many monuments and people are taking. So this idea of this is like making something that you can roll and pack, make it super small. I bring them in suitcases. So yeah, these, these small pieces fit in the suitcases. Um, and then the idea is that it's something that people can touch. They can cut it if they want. I mean, I hope not, but the, and it can change according to each space. A flexible, temporary portable monument. And it's not figurative. It's not so much about this one, you know, monumental winner, right. Or conquistador at all. I don't know, famous people, so it's just much more abstract. So like, I like to make it so that people feel and have a chance to think about their moral fantasies and their, um, reflections. Alan: And it can change shape to monuments, or you tend to be very rigid.This one, like depends on how you arrange it in the room. It can be a totally different thing. Kinsee: Yeah, it's beautiful. It's very striking Alan: In one corner of the gallery is another small room that Shinpei has plastered with paper covered with orange and black squiggles. Again, it's the shape of audio waveforms… and when you walk into the room covered from ceiling to floor in these hear audio playing from behind the wall… Clip from Shinpei’s recordings It’s actually recordings of interviews Shinpei did with atomic bomb survivors...people who lived through the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. This was actually a collaboration with a group called TJ in China, which is with the two artists who are my good friends here Daniel Ruanova and Mely Baragan. They had a space in China in Beijing in 2012. So I did a little project there and they had a space just like this size. So I had filled all this…. Alan: Yeah, it’s beautiful. And this is also like, kind of what you guys do. And these are like, I feel so bad, like editing these stories. So the part that's orange was like how I was editing, because you have to cut out some parts, you know, you always have to cut out stories. Right. And so if you're in Spanish, if you speak Spanish, you learned that Historia is history, but Historia is also story, right? So you learned that. I learned that I'm making history. Because I'm editing stories, no? With what judgment? with what qualification? with what ethics? No? So the ones I didn't use here will never, probably never seen the light of history. Right. They, so I was editing a lot about these, what happened with the people that survive atomic bomb. And there was a lot of those things that nobody knew that I haven't heard for example, but you had to cut it to one hour, 20 minutes. Or whatever. So this was this pain of having to cut that I was trying to deal with. So I just wanted to kind of have this pain and just guilt and leftover energy, you know, from my stomach. And I wrote them into these formats and I kind of really try to be self-critical about how, you know, we are making histories without knowing. And sometimes that leads to very dangerous things. Clip: Montage of interviews BEAT Port of Entry is written and produced by Kinsee Morlan. Emily Jankowski is the co-producer and director of sound design. Alisa Barba is our editor. Lisa Morissette is operations manager and John Decker is the interim associate general manager of content. This program is made possible (in part) by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people." I’m Alan Lilienthal. And hey...real quick….Our buddy Beth Accomando is releasing really great new episodes of her podcast Cinema Junkie...go find teh show and follow it wherever you listen to podcasts. BEAT fade

In this “Tour Guide” bonus episode, borderless artist Shinpei Takeda takes us on a tour of his exhibition, “Fantasia Moral” (“Moral Fantasy”), which is showing at the art museum in Tijuana, CECUT, through Aug. 8.