Saturday, 29 October 2011

A Think Tank, Not Just a Museum

Robin Cembalest, executive editor of ARTnews wrote about MoMA, the Guggenheim and the New Museum having recruted experts

  from outside the art world to address problems in the real world

ARTnews Summer 2011, cover, p44 and 46

We learnt that the BMW Guggenheim Lab's first mobile lab, a think tank - community centre - public gathering space has been conceived  by Atelier Bow-Wow, Tokyo.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Arts and Humanities - Public Engagement & Creative Economy

We learnt with great pleasure from FutureEverything that Lancaster led Creative Exchange AHRC Hub project in the humanities has been awarded 5 million GBP  by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC). AHRC announced a 16  million GBP boost for Arts and Humanities researchers and the UK Creative Economy, an investment

reflecting the significant benefits that arts and humanities researchers bring to the creative business

With four leading institutions, University of Lancaster, University of Dundee, Queen Mary, University of London and University of the West of England, and partners including the BBC, Microsoft, TATE Liverpool, the British Museum, the project aims to contribute to the UK cultural platform's openness towards its public.

For more on cultural openness in the UK, visit the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement website.

Learn more about Investment in the Arts in England from Arts Council England, one of the most enviable resources of information and greatest sponsors of the arts.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Globe to Globe

For those of you planning to visit London in 2012, and for those already there, The Bosa Bosa Review recommends: Globe to Globe. The World Shakespeare Festival.

At The Globe.                                                                                                                In 37 languages.

Coriolanus  -  in Japanese  -  21 May & 22 May 2012 at 7.30 pm

Be part of the London 2012 Festival, finale of a 4-year amazing project: the Cultural Olympiad.

Review: Ways of Worldmaking Exhibition at NMAO Osaka

Ways of Worldmaking @ The National Museum of Art, Osaka

an exhibition of contemporary Japanese art
4 October – 11 December 2011

Curated by Yasuyuki NAKAI
Sponsored by Ando Tadao Culture Foundation, Nomura Foundation, Daikin Foundation for Contemporary Arts
In Cooperation with Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media YCAM, Uetaya Co., ltd., Ozu Kanban Inc.

Ways of Worldmaking exhibition flyer & catalogue
NMAO 2011

Ways of Worldmaking Exhibition Review
Copyright © 2011 The Bosa Bosa Review  
- All Rights Reserved  -    


Yasuaki ONISHI

Reverse of Volume (2011). Black fiber. White space. Floor-level lights. Transparent matter with fine fiber moving along and above our existence, while caught in a fixed moment, yet connected, fragilely, to something.


Paramodelic – graffiti (2011). Plastic design. The exhibit is still not ready. The world is in the fragments on the floor. Life is work in progress.

Ryoko AOKI and Zon ITO

The State One Reaches by the Age of 9 (2011). White illuminated paper. Projections of beginnings of lines as in children’s drawings. Circles, fish, balloons, honeycomb hexagons on grid paper. Designing the structure of the world with a school-pen. A wooden board. A circle drawn, a disk of wood cut in the middle and pulled back. Projection of colours on the disk. Glimpse of a child’s imaginary. A child’s moon and centre of the visual private space. The ceiling lamp.

Kengo KITO

Five works with walls of golden paper.

Royal (2007). A huge ball-like object, colourful and covered with rotating blades in Christmas tree decoration. Universe. Power supply.

Flimsy Royal (2009). Fluorescent lights. Fragile, non-aggressive ribbons. Pink.

Cosmic Dust Red (Frank Lloyd Wright) (2011). Red on green, blue, purple + Glitter.

Cousin (2011). Glasses. For salt, perfume, candles and curiosities. Empty glass objects.

Untitled (scarves) (2011). Transparent scarves surrounding the Flimsy Royal fluorescent lights. The universe is hand-made. The universe is attention to the beauty of detail. In the middle, the fragile, the non-aggressive flimsiness.


Eleven works. Blank Map. Model of Something series. Games, dance & the Constructions series (2011). Table with plastic or wooden objects, tape, matches, packs of flour, toys, pink roses, bottles, hangers, buckets, covered in snowlike white powder. Lots of games. A devolutionary world whose people are gone someplace else.


Got, exists (2009-2010) series. Rumor (2009) – a twitter-like space with the keyword (or including the word) Got in Japanese. Got-maggot-escargot flowing in fake real-time messages of digital minds cohabiting the same world without ever meeting, interacting. Branched World (2011). A screen collapsed to the ground, the wall scratched, with visible traces of having had something ripped off. Pray (2009). Computers and computer mouses shown as praying hands. The cursor is programmed to move across the screen, where a folder Got is opened, without being clicked on. (2009) with different search engines google, yahoo, msn, and different popular websites Wikipedia, train schedule information sites, showing again the results of the Got search. On the side, all kinds of ads for Toeic English tests, gourmet hot spots etc., which make up the world of what people need to know and search these days. Got is dead (2011). Poster in a dark room. The room is the same. The poster changes every morning. The writing on the poster is always different, always about tomorrow. The Got is dead event starts on 2011.10.21. Today is 2011.10.20. – sort of shocking exactitude in numbers.


The Tenth Sentiment (2011). We are in the middle of a deep darkness where a small moving light is showing what we do not see. When we arrive to see something, we instinctively move back to get a better look. Slow movement showing galaxies of forms, unknown geometries, patterns resembling ink-splashed beginnings, down to metropoleis of shadows, seen from roads surrounded by sky-scrapers, or religious domes flying over our heads, to a world of traffic signs, signs, conventions, restrictions and finally, shadows of busy people. The small light gets to the end of the line and returns to the departure point with great speed, reviewing everything backwards, as the mind of a dying person.

Masanori HANDA

Green silhouette (2011). Geometrically designed made-in-Spain tiles covered in buttermilk. The milk breaks. Universe in flakes.

Junko KIDO

Closer : Sound of Silence series. Fall series. Hole. Skypot (2011). Glass on a silver surface. Reflection. Half of what you see is fake.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Three New Exhibitions at NMAO Osaka

The National Museum of Art, Osaka, is hosting three new exhibitions: Ways of Worldmaking, Anri Sala and Nakanoshima Collections until 11 December 2011.

NMAO October 2011 News

Ways of Worldmaking exhibition flyer and catalogue

Anri Sala exhibition flyer

 Nakanoshima Collections exhibition flyer 

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Shiro Yamanaka won the Good Design Award 2011: Congratulations !

For those who know Shiro Yamanaka, this will not come as a surprise. Shiro's design is GOOD. We all knew that. But now that he has got the trophy, it is official. Congratulations, Shiro-san !

The UMEZUKI organic tea owners adopted an effective branding strategy: they employed Shiro to think of their tea. Tea, there is nothing special about that, one might say, we have got it all around, we drink it every day. Well, actually, here one might be wrong. How much do we know about the tea we choose to drink? What do we know about its nature, growth, or ethical behaviour?

Note that the UMEZUKI owners are independent. That changes a lot of things in the process of trading tea, in the way the owners try to connect with customers, in the admirable fact that they actually try to connect directly. UMEZUKI customers are not seen as simply consumers, but as people loving tea as much as the owners do. The concept behind Shiro's design is very simple: human + nature = true communication.

UMEZUKI approches you directly, and trades its ethical, organic tea for your pleasure. It is independent, and therefore does not trade ethical choices.

You can read about Shiro's winning project here:

SHIRO, that is of course him ...

... or better, his display window. If you are looking for a small design firm where an interesting independent young man allows himself to be creative, tenderly care for his young family and in the weekends, yeah, "rave", well, since it is not trying to attract attention at all, you will most probably not find it. But you will wish you did, for this place is super-cool. Have another look, it is right there, on the corner !

Or, if you wish to put a face to the name, this is, Shiro Yamanaka, the designer you might just need. ...

Once again, well done, Shiro ! 

Note: Someone was wondering what does UMEZUKI mean. These are the kanji-s: 梅月. The first kanji stands for ume, or Japanese apricot. See an image of ume flowers here. The second kanji stands for tsuki, or moon. Otherwise, "Umezuki" does not have any special meaning.

Monday, 10 October 2011

The 'Capital of Pain' in Haruki Murakami's After Dark

Book Review Copyright © 2011 The Bosa Bosa Review - All Rights Reserved -

Haruki MURAKAMI's After Dark
translated by Jay Rubin
© Harvill Secker 2007
purchased at Waterstones, 421 Oxford Street

               "Everything by chance
                             All words without thought
                Sentiments adrift
                Men roam the city..."
                 (Jean-Luc Godard, Alphaville)

              Here, we shall introduce Murakami's novel After Dark. We shall focus on certain aspects of the city, relevant to the idea of preservation and destruction of the memory of the 'self', as well as interpret the connection between the self and the idea of repetition as repetition of nothingness, revealed by the city. We choose to ignore the science-fictional aspect of the novel, and deal with the profound manner used by the author to make understand the city and its connection to consciousness, masses and individuals. Partly, we shall make reference to the original text and to the Japanese language as well, in order to better explain the complexity of the ideas involved.


The city, an entity full of contradictions. Like the ‘Alpha 60’ in Alphaville, the ‘creature’ which appears as a recurrent motive in After Dark (the octopus, the TV programme Creatures of the Deep etc) has the role of making the conscience self-destruct. There is a strong contrast between the details which are to be seen everywhere in the city and the details only a few know. At a first glance, we get the impression of the obvious: we are in a crowded capital, where lights, noises and people and mingling in a confusion of images. The space gives the eye more than it can absorb.

“A large game centre crammed with young people; wild electronic sounds…dark-suited men racing across diagonal crossings for the last trains to the suburbs.”

Yet, Murakami balances the landscape with images of non-landscape.

“(Eri) approaches a window and…strains to see outside. Beyond the glass, however, there is no scenery, only an uncoloured space like a pure abstract idea…all that reaches her is the unbroken sound of silence”

The possibility of having an unreal city developing just in front of the reader’s eyes is gradually taking shape. Still, it is too early to decide what is real and what is not. The description of people making the city a moving image does not help too much. Polarities give the reader the chance to grasp the metaphor of people being in the city without being in themselves.

"people coming and going-people with places to go and people with no place to go; people with a purpose and people with no purpose..."

 The night is the right moment to analyse the details, since during the day it is almost impossible to get a view of individuals, to separate them from the engulfing rhythm of the crowd.

"...someone writing on a laptop, someone text-messaging on a cellphone...another doing nothing but staring thoughtfully out of the window. Maybe they can't sleep. Maybe they don't want to sleep. A family restaurant provides such people with a place to park themselves late at night."

 When one loses identity and singularity in the middle of a too big city, anonymity becomes an effective solution that occasionally is taken advantage of. One example are the love hotels, where names, exchanges of glances or words are conveniently unnecessary.

"Guests at this (love) hotel choose their room from large photos on display in the foyer, press the corresponding numbered button, receive their key, and take the lift straight to the room. No need to meet or talk to anyone."

 Sparkles of criticism are to be noticed as well. Eri trapped in the emptiness of an unknown space sees most clearly what has become of her as a result of a society which perhaps tends to predefine the role everyone has to play in it. Behind her mask of beauty, there lies an ocean of regret.  

“I’m a lump of flesh, a commercial asset…”

, Eri says.  

The question of morality is raised, as in how do people interact and the attitude they take towards each other. An analogy between the millions of Tokyoites and the huge amount of garbage they produce is to be interpreted in a subtler way the moment Shirakawa, the customer of the love hotel, throws the belongings of the Chinese prostitute of which he had deprived her, after physically abusing her.

“…mound of garbage bags out front. (Shirakawa) adds his to the pile. Mixed in with a lot of identical garbage bags, his bag loses its distinctiveness instantaneously.”
 There is, in Tokyo, as in any other big city, a dark corner of the society where people are not treated better than trash. But we do apprehend the distinction made between people and surfaces, clothing, belongings. While the surface loses distinctiveness, the truth of the human being is to be understood as being detached from the surface. The true Eri, the true Guo Dongli are not objects, but subjects of consume and mockery they are not at all responsible of. Mari admits that the best thing she was able to do to maintain her self untouched was to create a world of her own. And throughout this novel, Murakami digs deep down into the realm of individual destinies, by showing the tragedy of their existence and the continuous struggle between a world trying to repetitively swallow up its people between dawn and nightfall and a cyclic attempt of identification by means of self-preservation or self-denial.

“I do feel that I’ve managed to make something I could maybe call my own world…in the eyes of society at large, that world of mine is a puny little thing.”

, Mari says.

 At the end of the novel, the rebirth of the cycle. Individualities are blending, the whole they make together has in appearance a clearly-defined purpose, work, which in reality is void of sense.

“Commuter trains of many colours move in all directions, transporting people from place to place. Each of those under transport is a human being with a different face and mind, and at the same time each is a nameless part of the collective entity. Each is simultaneously a self-contained whole and a mere part.”

 The repetition of nothingness drags people unconsciously in its whirlpool. However, as Bourke emphasises, it is not the societies, but the individuals who ‘remember’, ‘repress’, forget’ and ‘are traumatized’.

"If an individual showed hope of reclamation
he was sent to a chronic illness hospital where
mechanical and propagandistic treatments soon cured him"  

In order to provide a better understanding of the city and its people, Murakami makes use of different aspects typical of the Japanese contemporary society, such as the media. Information is one way to keep people united in sweet ignorance. It is interesting to observe the repetitive polarity in this context.  

"the city looks like a gigantic creature...sending out new data and collecting the old, sending out new contradictions and collecting the old, sending out new consumables and collecting the old."

Cities like Tokyo are full of huge screens that sell information at every corner of its main activity spots, to an extent that the amount of this useless information exceeds people’s capacity of remembering. At night, the visual noise allows the eye to rest on the concrete emptiness of the city.

"the giant digital screens fastened to the sides of buildings fall silent..."

 Eri will be the one summarizing the nonsense of all this.

“All information gives way to nothingness.”

 Morning news: in Shirakawa’s kitchen

“On the TV, a beep signals the hour and the NHK news begins.”

, morning papers

“Morning papers freshly delivered.”

 , news helicopters swarm all over.

“A news helicopter dances through the sky like a nervous insect, sending images of the traffic conditions back at the station.”

Interestingly, every single page of the novel contains within its borders the exact time of the action/non-action represented. This leads the thought to the image of the television screen in Japan, where, in the interval between the last programme and the morning news a single footage can be seen. It is a live transmission from one of the central places in the city where the programme is broadcast. The camera posted on one of its main roads shows the city at night, and the moving image of the traffic is all that is offered to the viewer for several hours. In the corner of the screen, time is shown. The images which are to be seen on television in Tokyo reveal the busy traffic in its main areas, such as Shibuya station area (note that Hiyoshi is six stations far from Shibuya), Shinjuku area (Koenji is one station from Shinjuku), Kasumigaseki area (one station from Tokyo station) etc. It is worth noticing that some of the names of places used in this novel are actually in the central area of Tokyo, which means that our characters are likely to become occasionally, in their day to day life, undistinguishable points on the big map of the city broadcast on the telly every single night. The impression from above is indeed that of a gigantic, chaotic creature. The many highways and railways piling up on top of each other whose headlights pass in a frenetic movement,  tell the story of a city where no clocks can control time, of a level of industrialization that is well beyond the comprehension of its own citizens. The image is repetitive to the Japanese consciousness, it is a substitution of images that would be expected on TV (music, films etc) with a real-time transmission of the city. The one watching TV in the early hours, passive and ‘static’ as one well may be, sees from home the city moving, active, dynamic. In the speed of urbanistic progress, the levels of consciousness overlap without even trying to hide each other; the disorder is excessive, strikingly obvious, drawing the contours of a specific kind of attitude towards the city and the self: habituation.
              Besides, what other role does the TV play in After Dark? Considering the fact that Orwell’s 1984’s influence is transparent throughout the novel, the reader is required to watch the way the characters and the city are watching and/or being watched. The forms it takes, whether as a simple point of view, when the city or the space of a room is being watched

"Eyes mark the shape of the city. Through the eyes of a high-flying night bird, we take in the scene from midair… is approaching"

“Allowing ourselves to become pure point of view, we hang in midair over the city. What we see now is a gigantic metropolis waking up.”

"We allow ourselves to become a single point of view, and we observe her (Eri)...our viewpoint takes the form of a midair camera that can move freely about the room."

“Our point of view draws back through the vacuum of nothingness.”

, intruder

"we are invisible, anonymous intruders...we observe but we do not intervene"

"the television is a new intruder into the room... (it) is neither quiet nor transparent. Nor is it neutral. It is undoubtedly trying to intervene."

, cameras

"...the camera circles round to the front...(the mysterious man's) face is covered by a translucent a piece of plastic wrap."

"You never know when there's a camera watching these days."

 , Big Brother

"(the Man with No Face) stays perfectly motionless, looking from his side of the picture tube, through the glass, into this side. He is on the other side..."

 , TV

"the TV is on and tuned to a comedy show."

"The television screen is functioning as a window on this room."

"...the TV camera begins to move along (the) line of vision (of The Man with No Face). At the point of focus stands a it sleeps Eri Asai."

“The Man with No Face…is gone…There seems to be a TV camera in the room on the other side capturing Eri’s sleeping form and sending it here.”

“…we decide to transport ourselves to the other side of the screen.”

“We can see the TV screen. It shows nothing but a sandstorm of interference…We stare at the sandstorm for a while to no purpose.”

“…now it is impossible for her to pass through the transparent glass wall and return to this side.”

, innocent gaze when Mari is watching the city from a window like the ‘cousin’ in Hoffmann, without the paranoiac fear of getting out though

"(Mari) breaks off her reading and looks outside."

, looking for the self

"(Mari) ...leans close to the mirror and stares at the reflection of her face as if she expects something to happen...But nothing happens."

"Shirakawa inspects his face in the mirror...he holds his breath and never blinks, fully expecting that, if he were to stay like this long enough, some other thing might emerge...that other thing never emerges."

 or being watched by the self

A closer look reveals that Mari's image is still reflected in the mirror...The Mari in the mirror is looking from her side into this side."

"Shirakawa's reflection is still there in the mirror. Shirakawa-or...his image-is looking in this direction from within the mirror."

 , there is always something or someone watching. Even a little detail like a pencil can be seen as a sort of high-tech micro-camera.

"(Shirakawa) uses a ...pencil stamped with the company name: VERITECH."

"(Eri) picks...up...a pencil...stamped with the name VERITECH."

  We could speculate that Veritech is, rather than a name, a wordplay. On one hand, a literal translation such as 'true technology' would be, without doubt, most suitable for a high-tech country like Japan. On the other hand, phonetically, Veritech is close to the French 'vérité', which leads us to the genre of documentary films typical of 'cinéma vérité'. After Dark is highly evocative of the 'cinéma vérité' and from this point of view, Eri proves to be the main protagonist of the novel. A contemporary TV-lover would probably perceive all the sequences with Eri as a sort of reality-show where real people are filmed in real situations and where the hot moments of the day are broadcast nationally.

"This is a live image being sent to us in real time."

Repetition is threatening the consciousness of the individual. Placed among things which send the same subliminal message of self-destruction, the human being is forced to adopt an unusual manner to save the self. With Eri back in her room, sleeping, the cycle is literally confirmed

“A cycle has been completed, all disturbances have been resolved, perplexities have been concealed, and things have returned to their original state. Around us, cause and effect join hands, and synthesis and division maintain their equilibrium. Everything, finally, unfolded in a place resembling a deep, inaccessible fissure. Such places open secret entries into darkness in the interval between and the time the sky grows light”

 Is memory of the self a struggle?

As far as individuals are concerned, it would be essential to engage in analysing the idea of memory by means of concrete objects and abstract ideas, their level of consciousness towards the self through dreams and the symbolism of water, the way realities and identities overlap, the metamorphoses taking place, the pain, fear, illness depicted, the way they deal with logic and emotions. The first sign of hidden symbolism that would make us understand better the essence of each character is given by their own names.
It is more than significant that Murakami is using different alphabets to name his characters. There are only three characters whose names are written with ideograms, making it easier to visualise the meaning of each name and also, by contrast, neutralise all the other names, whose ideograms we can only imagine, yet not always affirm with certainty. The three names using ideograms are: Shirakawa, which represents the male character working in an office at Veritech, Guo Dongli,  the Chinese prostitute and Asai, the family name of the two sisters, Eri and Mari. 'Shirakawa' 白川, is a combination of two ideograms, shiroi 白い=white and kawa =river. The choice of 'white river' raises great interest when considering the meaning and value of 'white' in Japanese culture, the visual image of a white river and the direct contrast with the repetitive idea of darkness that is to be found also in the title of the novel. Within the Japanese culture, white is the morbid colour of ghosts and death. The image of a white river, just like the image of a snowstorm, is an image of disorder in things, disaster and death. The first name of the Chinese young girl, Dongli  冬莉, combines (in both languages) two ideograms: dong =winter and li =jasmine. 'Winter jasmine' is a yellow-flowered Chinese jasmine whose peculiar aspect of blooming during the winter produces an impression of curious rareness, a flower lost on the realm of the wrong season. The name Asai 浅井is interesting from both a visual and a phonetic point of view. The most relevant aspect is the phonetic one: 'asai'  浅いis an adjective with a slightly different writing meaning shallow, superficial. Graphically, it is a combination of two ideograms, the above-mentioned 'asai' 浅い and 'i' (most commonly known as part of words like 'ido' 井戸 =well, shaft) . We would like to point out that the name Asai could be interpreted in the novel's context as a 'well of superficiality', especially if we were to take into consideration the part Eri Asai is playing in it. Nevertheless, we are not going to overstress this interpretation, since the variety of possibilities of interpretation resulted when considering the two ideograms connected, makes it difficult to prove the pertinence of any of these theories.
All the other names receive a neutral surface, being written in katakana, one of the Japanese alphabets which represent words only phonetically, usually used for non-Japanese words, or for emphasising Japanese words without showing the specific ideograms. In the latter case, the meaning of the word is not always obvious, since it is not uncommon for several words with completely different meanings to have the same pronunciation. Here, the meaning of most names shown in katakana can be detected instantly: Takahashi  タカハシ高橋as 'high bridge', Kaoru as 'fragrance', Korogi as 'cricket' and Komugi as 'wheat'. Yet, Murakami engages in a subtle wordplay by using the names Takahashi and Takanashi, the low-fat milk. This is made obvious in the following description:

"Shirakawa goes straight to the dairy case and grabs a carton of Takanashi low-fat."

"(Takahashi) grasps a carton of milk, but he notices that it is low-fat, and he frowns. This could well be a fundamental problem for him, not just a question of the fat content of milk."

 Even though Takanashi タカナシ高梨 is a real name that could be written by using the ideogram of 'high' and 'pear', phonetically it has a more interesting meaning. 'Nashi' is the typical equivalent of the English suffix '-less', so 'lacking~', and it is a commonly used derivate of the negative verbal form 'nai' with the meaning of 'does not exist', 'does not have'. The fundamental moral problem, in Takahashi's case, is that a Takanashi low fat-milk is, more than just a commodity sold in a convenience store, a symbol of low quality. 'High bridge' cannot accept anything 'low', whereas Shirakawa will have no problem with purchasing something that, in a metaphorical sense, suits him morally.
Mari and Eri are the names that have the greatest freedom. It is possible to think of different ways of attaching ideograms to these names, still, we may not choose at will. The most pertinent way to interpret these names is resorting to an analysis of the impression given to the reader by pure phonetics. If we really were to choose the ideograms we considered closest to the personality of our characters, the following names would seem quite suggestive: Mari as 真理 pure+reason, and Eri  絵理 as picture+reason, reason trapped within the frames of an inflexible, unmoving image. Even though both names would most probably contain two ideograms each (as you can see, the second one being identical, as the text suggests), as a whole, they might create a stronger impression than when studied according to syllables, which is probably what a Japanese reader would notice above all. Mari, a name resembling 'marui'=round, creates the image of cuteness and roundness. Moreover 'mari' is the name of a certain type of ball which was used in aristocratic sports, reason why the name Mari has a rather distinguished resonance. On the other hand, with regard to Eri, her name can also be taken as a common noun ‘eri’, with the meaning of carving. The verb 'kizamu', directly related to the noun 'eri', is used as such, to cut, to chop, to carve, as well as in expressions: 'toki wo kizamu'=to keep time, to tick away.
We owe the reader a detailed explanation for the title chosen ‘Capital of Pain’. The issue in question now is the individual.

"We live in a void of metamorphoses
But the echo that runs throughout the day
that echo beyond time, anguish or caress
Are we near to our conscience, or far from it?
There are words I don't understand

Just like in Godard’s Alphaville, Tokyo is represented as a city of logic, where emotions are repressed. Words like “logically, theoretically, analytically, numerical formulas, numbers” do appear in the text, whereas feelings are far from being a central topic. Just like those condemned in Alphaville for behaving illogically,

“...He wept when his wife died",

Mari’s emotions will break through the surface at the end

“Soon, without warning, tears begin to ooze from her closed eyes-large tears, and totally natural.”

 The pain underlying this cold rationality is visible in different parts of the text. The pain in the hand (Shirakawa, Eri), the memory of pain

“Korogi pulls her shirt up, exposing her back. Impressed in the skin…is a mark…and it appears to have been made there by a branding iron. The scar tissue pulls at the surrounding skin. There are remnants of intense pain.”

“…(Shirakawa) opens and closes his right hand slowly. This is no ordinary pain he is feeling: it is a pain with memories.”

are signs of physical pain that compete with illness (Takahashi’s mother’s cancer, Eri’s allergies) and above all, with fear: Takahashi on the death sentence:

“all of a sudden I got this absolutely hopeless feeling…it was like the whole world’s electricity supply suffered a voltage drop....Little tremors started going through my body, and I couldn’t stop shivering.”


“I get so scared when I start thinking about (death)…I can hardly breathe, and my whole body wants to shrink into a corner.”

Or again Korogi:

“Sometimes I feel as if I’m racing with my own shadow.”

The general feeling is unitary: either flayed of identity or receptacle of other people’s identities, individuals are occasionally driven to despair through fear of their surroundings. Walls separating different destinies become “papier-mâché” and collapse, people arrive to live inside of those they interacted with or be somehow lived by them. Bodies melt into each other and the mind cannot bear the pressure. 
How does the loss of identity manifest itself in the human mind? References to consciousness are frequent in the text:

"total surrender of consciousness"

"(Shirakawa) follows the flow of the music half-consciously"

“the possible quickening of consciousness that Eri is beginning to exhibit.”

“Her consciousness seems to resist awakening.”

“To objectify all the senses, to flatten the consciousness, to put a temporary freeze on logic, to bring the advance of time to a halt if only momentarily-that is what (Shirakawa) is trying to do.”

“You got a lot of people with guilty consciences working in this world.”

 More importantly, references to dreams (both Takahashi and Korogi are always having the same dream) and water are being made.

“(Eri) floats face up on an ocean of pure thought devoid of waves or current.” ; “Waves of thoughts are stirring. In a twilight corner of her consciousness, one tiny fragment and another tiny fragment call out wordlessly to each other…A unit of thought begins to form in this way…and the fundamental system of self-awareness takes shape.” ; “I might be riding on a large ship, and the windows are sealed to keep the water from splashing in.” ; “…the room, its existence forgotten by the world, was plunged to the bottom of the sea.” ; “Strange, (Shirakawa) thinks: the ocean is nowhere near here.” “Heavy silence, sleep of frightening density. Waveless, mirrorlike surface of the waters of thought. (Eri) floats there face up.” ; “Consciousness just happens to be missing from (Eri’s face) at the moment: it may have gone into hiding, but it must certainly be flowing somewhere out of sight, far below the surface, like a vein of water.” ; “ With her eyes closed, sleep comes for (Mari), enveloping her like a great, soft wave from the open sea.”

 In psychoanalysis, the water represents through its contrast of surface and deepness the subconscious, and this becomes a tool of characterization in After Dark. While Shirakawa is trying to forget, Eri is trying to remember. In both cases, the subconscious plays the role of memory, whether destructive or defensive. As a result, Shirakawa will not be able to sleep, and Eri might not be able to wake up. 
The Freudian question of whether we are remembering in order to forget or forgetting in order to remember is more than relevant to Eri’s character, in particular. We start from the conceptualisation of ‘Eri’ in a space where even the reader, the observer has to dematerialize.  

“(Eri’s) body interior…is becoming a cavern. Some kind of hand is…stripping away everything that constituted her as Eri until now: the organs, the senses, the muscles, the memories. She knows she will end up as a mere convenient conduit used for the passage of external things.” ;  “All we have to do is separate from the flesh, leave all substance behind, and allow ourselves to become a conceptual point of view devoid of mass…When we pass through the wall and leap the abyss, the world undergoes a great transformation, splits and crumbles, and is momentarily gone.”

Concepts are essential to representation in this novel.

“(Shirakawa) is considering aspects of the interrelationship of thought and action.” ; Korogi: “ I can’t understand nothingness. I can’t understand it and I can’t imagine it.” ; “They are just an ordinary quilt and an ordinary pillow. Not symbols, not concepts; one is a real quilt, and the other a real pillow. Neither gives (Eri) anything to go by.” ; “…(Shirakawa) tries to think of something…mundane, without deep meaning. Or possibly something purely abstract. But nothing comes to mind.”

   Francis Yeats, in his book The Art of Memory, writes about the manuals for storing knowledge in the 15th-16th centuries, where by means of hierarchising the objects the keeping in mind of ideas was being made possible. The way ideas are attached in our memory to objects is inverted by Murakami when emphasising the importance of concepts and their superiority over objects. It is not the real object that brings about the memory of ‘oneself’, it is not the object that helps one identify oneself on the realm of nothingness. Eri is placed in void, like a pure concept that is to be understood on philosophical grounds. Experience and perception are detached from her being, and the real Eri faces the abstract condition of trying to comprehend herself as disconnected from her surroundings, from anything that might influence or cause her behaviour. Moreover, Eri

“Disoriented and confused though she may be, she is exerting all her strength to comprehend the logic underlying this place-the basis of its existence.”

 The physicality of the world surrounding Eri has its own properties to which she is of automatically subjected. Whether the place is the cause and Eri the effect or the other way round, this physical abstract space full of emptiness invites us to concentrate on concepts. It would be quite interesting, we think, to try to break out for a few instants from the physical world and see the physics of the space in question. The first law of thermodynamics in a Newtonian space reveals an aspect of great interest to our interpretation. Penrose explains the time-reversible laws of mechanics when applied to a glass of water falling from the edge of a table, shattering into many pieces, with the water splashing all over. The question was, in a space characterised by time-reversible laws, where the energy-conservation is valid, namely where the energy gained by the glass while falling goes into heat, why is it not possible to actually see the fragments of the glass reassembling themselves, the water returning to the glass and the glass naturally jumping back on top of the table? The physical explanation is linked to the concept of entropy

“the entropy of a system is a measure of its manifest disorder.”

 It seems that the “manifest order in the assembled glass gives a low entropy value”, which means that “comparatively few different possible arrangements of particle motions are compatible with the manifest configuration of an assembled and filled water glass”, whereas the entropy of the tiny pieces of glass spread on the floor and the water absorbed into the carpet etc. is very high. In the latter case, there are “many more motions which are compatible with the manifest configuration” of the object/s. Now let us try to imagine Eri as a scientific object of interest to Newton’s law of thermodynamics. Eri can be seen as an object revealing a certain state of entropy, or manifest disorder. As opposed to the scientific explanation given above, the world Eri has fallen into, in the past few months, is a world where Eri is less fragmented than before. She is beautiful in her sleep, she is more beautiful than ever. In the dimension of her ‘true’ reality, the fragments cannot, are not willing, or do not know how to get themselves back together in a whole. The way Eri escapes from her own fragmentation is a continuous sleep, an illness whose symptoms apparently have no precedent, therefore no cure at the moment. In the same time, the new Eri is not ready yet to go back to her old self, to change from this convenient Sleeping Beauty to what she used to be, what constituted her as a human being. As far as the idea of disorder is concerned, the new Eri, nevertheless on the way of becoming a forgotten entity in a forgotten space, seems to have a lower entropy than the fashionable Eri of the past. The question is, since her choice breaks, in a metaphorical way, the Newtonian rules, namely that it is almost impossible for the random motions of fragments to get from a high entropy state to stability, to a low entropy state, what makes this reverse of the status of disorder possible. The question of whether the reverse of the reverse can become an option is somehow left aside by the author, left to the reader’s imagination. We believe it is precisely the preservation of memory, the fuel to stay alive, that makes the phenomenon possible. The pain of memories proves that in reality, there is no such thing as a pure state of consciousness. Eri is simply trying to reduce to the maximum the manifest disorder created in her by pain, by others’ ambitions concerning who she ought to be. Detached from the city, the self starts configuring subconsciously in the continuous darkness of her sleep, in a different kind of nothingness.

We have here analysed the role of memory and repetition in the representation of the city of Tokyo in Murakami’s After Dark. Key issues such as the city in pain, the masses and the individuals in pain, the media, and the subconscious have been partially studied. We believe that the novel in question would also deserve a deeper research on the connection between memory and time. 

After Dark has been translated by Jay Rubin for Harvill Secker in 2007.