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Keiko Otsuhata Created Pigeon Heels to Befriend the Pigeons of Ueno Park

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Many great ideas in Japan are often inspired by a simple pun. Such was the case for designer Keiko Otsuhata, who was thinking about pigeons one day when the word “hato-heel” jumped into her head. Hato is Japanese for pigeon, and, while acknowledging that it’s rather weak as a pun, she began imagining what hato-heels might look like, and whether or not she could camouflage her feet as pigeons.

a cheap pair of black heels, about to be transformed into hato-heels

the final creation

So she did what any creative designer would do: she ordered a pair of cheap heels online and went to work. She documents her creative process in an article she wrote but the results are quite fantastic. Using primarily felt and some paint and glue she created an adorable pair of hato-heels.

She then wore them to Tokyo’s Ueno Park, which is known for their abundant and sometimes overly-friendly pigeons. At first the pigeons are a bit standoffish but they soon accept Otsuhata’s hato-heels as one of their own.

Otsuhata has no plans on selling her hato-heels, but she does sell plenty of other whimsical creations in her shop such as water-puking lion broaches and fish cases.

Otsuhata and her hato-heels in Ueno Park

attempting to befriend a pigeon

Otsuhata sits with her hato-heels

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jepler
82 days ago
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infini
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Psychedelic, Graffiti-Inspired Artwork by Yoshi47

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Dr. Seuss meets Tim Burton is one of the many ways to describe the psychedelic artwork of Japanese artist Yoshi47. His signature motif is a deranged, smiling (but also sometimes frowning) sun with a mouthful of teeth that reminds you of the Cheshire Cat.

mural at Osaka Expo

After growing up in Japan, at the age of 20 Yoshi47 moved to California for several years where he studied break dancing and graffiti culture. It was in the Bay Area where his love for the outdoors also grew and he became an avid bicycler and surfer.

At one point in his career Yoshi47 got swept up in the world of bike-riding and almost lost interest in making art. It was a serious accident and a fractured shoulder that literally knocked him off his path. His long road to recovery eventually re-ignited his career as a productive artist. But his passion for exploration and the great outdoors is apparent in his work, which includes murals, acrylics, watercolors and installations. But whatever the format, Yoshi47’s paint brush seems to go on its own adventure, sometimes spiraling out of control.

Mural for “Forest For the Trees” in Portland

As an artist, Yoshi47 has collaborated with brands like Stussy, Kidrobot, Starbucks and Jansports. But this year he’s been preoccupied with his own work, and is preparing for an ambitious dual-exhibition. One of his primary muses is human greed and desire. To further explore that concept, from June 3 – June 18,2017 he’s staging one exhibition titled #無料欲望 (“Free Greed”). For the show he’s prepared 300 artworks drawn on USPS mailing supplies, which are free at any post office in the U.S. Visitors will be welcome to take the artwork for free.

In tandem with that show Yoshi47 is also staging “Internal Nature” (June 1 – June 30, 2017), an exhibition of 12 new watercolor paintings he’s made specifically for this show. The 12 works represent 12 months throughout the year and portray changes, both in season, but also internal changes within the artist as time progresses forward.

Internal Nature
6.1. – 6.30.2017 (opening reception 6.2)
Location: Space Orbit Gallery (map)

 #無料欲望 (“Free Greed”)
6.3. – 6.18.2017
Location: Manhood Gallery (map)

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infini
89 days ago
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What Does it Mean to Act with Humanity?

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Fabian Klose and Mirjam Thulin (eds.), Humanity: A History of European Concepts in Practice From the Sixteenth Century to the Present. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016. 324 pp. £75 (hardback), ISBN: 9783525101452

Reviewed by Ben Holmes (University of Exeter)

What does it mean to belong to the human race? Does this belonging bring with it particular rights as well as responsibilities? What does it mean to act with humanity? These are some of the big questions lying at the heart of a new edited collection from Fabian Klose and Mirjam Thulin, Humanity: A History of European Concepts in Practice From the Sixteenth Century to the Present (2016). Based on a 2015 conference at the Leibniz Institute in Mainz, the book, as the title suggests, is not a purely conceptual history of the term ‘humanity’.[1] Rather it looks to discover ‘the concrete implications of theoretical discourses on the concept of humanity’ [page 18]. In other words, how did ideas of ‘humanity’ guide European practices in areas like humanism, imperialism, international law, humanitarianism, and human rights?[2] The editors argue that despite the implied timeless, universal nature of the term, humanity is both a changing, dynamic concept, and has been prone to create divisions as much as it promotes commonality. Although the volume is a study of European conceptions of humanity, the contributions are transnational, displaying how conceptions of humanity were practiced in Europe and in the continent’s interactions with the wider world over the course of five-hundred years.

The volume is divided into four sections. The two chapters in section one explore how ideas of humanity developed over the volume’s five-hundred year period. Francisco Bethencourt demonstrates how, since antiquity, ideas of the humanity or sub-humanity of different categories of people have created legal and political divisions between the rights of free man and slave, civilised and barbarian, or man and woman. Although these distinctions have gradually eroded in response to more inclusive notions of humanity, Bethencourt warns that hierarchical ranking of peoples remains ‘one of the persistent realities of [the] human condition’ [page 49], thus disabusing ‘triumphalist narratives’ which would portray modern notions of ‘humanity’ as the culmination of an inevitable progress of enlightened beneficence.[3] Paul Betts looks more closely at the politicisation of humanity during the twentieth century. He also shows humanity was not the sole property of progressive politics; throughout the century ‘humanity remained a slippery term, and could be aligned to various causes’ [page 62], including fascist, communist, or racist ones which legitimated what many would consider inhuman practices like apartheid. Betts provocatively concludes by suggesting that an intellectual estrangement exists between the aspirational notions of common humanity today and those notions that characterised previous generations of internationalists.

The rest of the chapters in the book are structured according to what the editors describe as ‘three essential areas’ [page 18] that constitute sub-topics of humanity. Thus, Part II revolves around the development of ideas and debates surrounding morality and human dignity in the context of major transnational movements like humanism, colonialism, or missionary activity. Compared to the later sections, some of the chapters in Section II study humanity in a slightly more theoretical fashion than as a ‘concept in practice’. Mihai-D. Grigore’s chapter situates Desiderius Erasmus’s (1466-1536) sixteenth-century political writings as emblematic of a wider transition from theological to political understandings of humanity, and Mariano Delgado’s chapter presents the Spanish Franciscan friar Bartolmé de Las Casas’s (1484-1566) arguments for recognising the humanity of indigenous populations of Spain’s ‘New World’. In doing so, they provide a study of the changing ideological conceptions of humanity rather the practical implications of these ideas. This should not detract from two very useful case studies of sixteenth-century debates about human nature; but it does raise the question of how far one pushes the idea of a ‘concept in practice’. In contrast, Judith Becker’s contribution on nineteenth-century German Protestantism in India illustrates the practical implications of ideas of humanity by showing how the missionaries’ belief in the unity of mankind guided both the evangelistic and humanitarian aspects of their missionary work in India.

Section III examines themes around humanitarianism, violence, and international law, and illustrates how theories of humanity practically affected European attempts to remedy or restrain the violence of warfare or slavery. Thomas Weller provides an intriguing case study on the contributions the sixteenth-century Hispanophone world made to the arguments later famously espoused by eighteenth-century Anglo-American abolitionists in their protests against the transatlantic slave trade. While questioning any straightforward evolution between the arguments of sixteenth-century writers like Tomás de Mercado (1525–1575) or Luis de Molina (1535-1600) and eighteenth-century transatlantic abolitionists like William Wilberforce (1759-1833), Weller does highlight an under-researched topic concerning what he considers ‘humanitarianism before humanitarianism’ [page 151]. Picking up the antislavery story, Fabian Klose shows that while British abolitionist narratives about African humanity helped shape the national and international legislation that ended the transatlantic slave trade, these same appeals to protect humanity also legitimated new forms of violence, like armed intervention and colonial expansion in order to enforce the ban. Further emphasising that the relationship between humanity and humanitarianism is far from straightforward, Esther Möller shows the tensions over the concept in the Red Cross Movement in the second half of the twentieth century. Specifically, the implementation of humanity as the first of the seven Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross precipitated debates in the movement between those who saw humanity as a politically neutral concept, and those national societies involved in anti-colonial struggles, which argued that engagement with politics was a humanitarian duty. Humanity, intended as a principle to unite national societies, actually highlighted the regional and political divisions in the movement.

The final section focuses on how humanity has influenced social and benevolent practices like charity, philanthropy, and solidarity movements. Picking up the themes of Möller’s chapter, Joachim Berger shows the difficulties of using humanity as a rhetorical device to unite a transnational movement like international Freemasonry. In international forums for European Freemasons, humanity acted as an ‘empty signifier’ which papered over national differences, but these regional differences were re-exposed whenever practical action to support ‘universal brotherhood’, like transnational charity, was proposed [pages 246-248]. Studying nineteenth century Catholic philanthropic groups’ promotional campaigns for child-relief in Africa and Asia, Katharina Stornig highlights the at-times dissonant nature of European conceptions of humanity. These philanthropic campaigns used universalist rhetoric of a common humanity to present a moral imperative to save distant children, while simultaneously emphasising the ‘barbarity’ and ‘inhumanity’ of these children’s parents, who they deemed responsible for this suffering. Gerhard Kruip’s chapter, using church documents to explore the Catholic Church’s attitudes towards solidarity and justice, is part history and part call-to-arms. Kruip exhorts the current Catholic hierarchy to do more to promote global justice by becoming less western-centric, less centralised, ‘and more open to all the different cultures of the human family’, while also calling for greater state regulation and collective action to ensure a fairer distribution of ‘common goods for humanity as a whole’ [pages 281-283].

Johannes Paulmann concludes the volume by tying the big themes together with his four main perceptions on humanity. Firstly, humanity has often been defined by its antonyms, most obviously by behaviours of inhumanity. Secondly, the abstract nature of humanity allowed the concept to fulfil a diverse array of functions for a multiplicity of causes. Paulmann’s third and fourth perceptions question the static nature and universality of humanity. Not only was humanity dynamic, which its proponents often understood as a process and goal rather than a fixed reality, but many of these ideas of ‘progress’ implied notions of hierarchies in terms of civilisation or development. Paulmann’s conclusion provides a welcome theoretical summary, bringing together the volume’s diverse collection of topics.

The volume’s scale and scope will make this book attractive to scholars of humanitarianism, international law, and human rights. The structure of the volume, while generally clear, could have been explained in more depth for the benefit of non-specialists. For instance, dividing humanitarianism and charity into two separate sections may require clarification to anyone unfamiliar with the theoretical difference between the two. Moreover, some chapters occasionally skirted between themes of humanitarianism, charity, and missionary, which created a bit of confusion. Nevertheless, this is a very important collection of case studies exploring the European concept of humanity and its spread, and leaves the door open to future works focusing on non-European conceptions of the term and how non-Europeans may have actively re-shaped and reinterpreted European ideas.

———-

[1] For such histories, see Hans Erich Bödeker, ‘Menscheit, Humanitӓt, Humanismus’, in Otto Brunnter et. al. (eds.) Geschtliche Grundbegriffe. Historisches Lexikon zur politisch-sozialen in Deutschland vol.3 (Stuttgart, 1982).

[2] A vast corpus of works exist on each of these areas, which are too many to list here. For humanitarianism see Michael Barnett, Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism (Ithaca, 2011). For humanitarianism’s relationship with imperialism see Rob Skinner and Alan Lester, ‘Humanitarianism and Empire: New Research Agendas’, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 40:2 (2012), 729-747. On human rights see Stefan-Ludwig Hoffman (ed.), Human Rights in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge, 2011).

[3] For more criticism on ‘triumphalist narratives’ of human rights see Samuel Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (London, 2012).


Filed under: Imperial & Global History Tagged: Ben Holmes, Book Review, Fabian Klose, History of Humanitarianism, Humanity, Mirjam Thulin



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infini
91 days ago
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The Company Uniforms of Fashion Designer Naoki Takizawa

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Naoki Takizawa designed all the uniforms for the crew of the new Train Suite Shiki-Shima (all photos courtesy Naoki Takizawa)

When the luxurious Train Suite Shiki-Shima launched earlier this month people ogled at its sumptuous bar car, first-class dining room and lounge car with its large windows and couches. But when it comes to the service industry, one design detail that often gets overlooked are the staff uniforms. But this is expected. After all, it’s not a fashion show. The customers are meant to be at the center stage while the staff quietly orchestrate. But behind many great experiences are the people that make them happen. And behind many successful uniforms in Japan is fashion designer Naoki Takizawa.

uniforms for the crew of the new Train Suite Shiki-Shima

Takizwa got his start at Issey Miyake in 1982. After climbing the ranks, he became creative director from 1993 to 2006, during which time he was responsible for producing Steve Jobs’ iconic black turtleneck. In 2010 he spent a year at the helm of Helmut Lang and then joined Uniqlo in 2011 as Design Director.

But there’s an interesting anecdote about Jobs’ black turtle neck that also speaks to Takizawa’s design philosophy about company uniforms. And it also helps explain why corporate uniforms are more common in Japan. In his biography, Steve Jobs talks about going to Japan in the 80s and visiting a Sony factory. Here is the actual quote from his biography:

On a trip to Japan in the early 1980s, Jobs asked Sony’s chairman Akio Morita why everyone in the company’s factories wore uniforms. He told Jobs that after the war, no one had any clothes, and companies like Sony had to give their workers something to wear each day. Over the years, the uniforms developed their own signatures styles, especially at companies such as Sony, and it became a way of bonding workers to the company. “I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple,” Jobs recalled.

Sony, with its appreciation for style, had gotten the famous designer Issey Miyake to create its uniform. It was a jacket made of rip-stop nylon with sleeves that could unzip to make it a vest. So Jobs called Issey Miyake and asked him to design a vest for Apple, Jobs recalled, “I came back with some samples and told everyone it would great if we would all wear these vests. Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea.”

In the process, however, he became friends with Miyake and would visit him regularly. He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. “So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them.” Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. “That’s what I wear,” he said. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”

the uniforms for the security guards at New York’s Museum of Modern Art

Staff uniforms for the JP Tower Museum INTERMEDIATHEQUE

Takizawa maintained his own separate design office, where he’s created company uniforms for museums, restaurants, hospitals and, his latest, train car attendants. For Train Suite Shiki-Shima he created all the staff uniforms from train conductor and engineer with Summer and Winter variations for each (a total of over 20 different uniforms). The uniforms were inspired by the Tohoku region of Japan where the train will traverse, but each is also the result of studying the different movement patterns required for each job. Lacquered buttons from Miyagi prefecture and kumihimo braided cords from Aomori finish off the outfits.

But when it comes down to it, “the most important things is that the working staff feel comfortable,” said Takizawa. Functionality informs the shape; the design follows.

uniforms for staff at the Senri Rehabilitation Hospital

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angelchrys
96 days ago
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Overland Park, KS
infini
96 days ago
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Falling Leaves: Endearing Portraits of a Grandmother, a Grandson and a Tragedy

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“Falling Leaves” by Akihito Yoshida

Back in 2011 when photographer Akihito Yoshida visited his cousin living in a small rural town in Miyazaki prefecture, he discovered a very special relationship. The younger cousin, born in 1990, was living with and caring for his Grandmother, born in 1928. With over 60 years between them, they had done everything together. The grandmother had been there for every important day. “I grew up basking in the love of my grandmother, so it’s only normal that I care for her until her death,” the cousin told Yoshida.

Yoshida snapped a few pictures of the unusual pair and when he got home and was looking over them he was struck by an odd sensation. “Photographs have this special quality – like a filter – that allows us to objectively view things in new light that we may have gotten used to seeing,” said Yoshida in an interview. And it was around this time that he started taking periodic trips up to see the couple and photograph them.

“Images of the two holding hands while shopping in the supermarket, seeing one another off when one went out, watching until the other is out of sight, eating and sleeping together” – Yoshida decided that he would document this relationship until the grandmother passed away: an end that didn’t seem too far away. But fate would have different plans for the cousin, the grandmother and Yoshida’s photo-documentation.

One day in 2014 the cousin disappeared. There were no signs and no explanations. Calls and emails wouldn’t go through. Friends hadn’t seen him. For a whole year the grandmother, often by the window , waited for his return. Then one day they received a phone call. The cousin’s body had been found. He had taken his own life. He was 23 at the time.

The grandmother was devastated and, one year later, as if chasing after her grandson, she quietly passed away.

Yoshida underwent an internal struggle over whether or not to release the photographs. The cousin and grandmother enjoyed being photographed, and had given Yoshida permission to enter and document their lives, but now things had changed. In the end, Yoshida decided to move forward with the project and open up a dialogue with his photographs, which “gently shows us the irreplaceable warmth of everyday life that, although now gone, certainly existed.” Yoshida’s work is also a testament to the possibilities and limitations of photography. It’s a poignant reminder of what the lens captures, and what it doesn’t.

In the summer of 2017, Falling Leaves will be released as a self-published photobook in a limited edition of 111, the same number as the total number of years that his cousin and grandmother lived. The photographs are also on view at KyotoGraphie, the international photography festival that’s going on in Kyoto through May 14th, 2017. Yoshida will be speaking about his work on May 13th from 11:00 – 12:00.

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infini
102 days ago
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Random Obsessions

6 Comments and 10 Shares
I take the view that "open-faced sandwiches" are not sandwiches, but all other physical objects are.
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jepler
103 days ago
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wait bacon hasn't peaked yet?
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
jsled
103 days ago
Bacon is a constant obsession. The ur-obsession. It's a fundamental of the universe, and can be used as a way to normalize all the others.
infini
103 days ago
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Unless you are Scandinavian, in which case open faced is de rigeur
Asia, EU, Africa
Error_418_
103 days ago
Seems to be an Eastern European thing as well.
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4 public comments
nealkemp
102 days ago
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https://flowingdata.com/2017/05/02/sandwich-alignment-chart/
London
Covarr
103 days ago
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Is mayonnaise a sandwich?
Moses Lake, WA
chrisamico
103 days ago
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Congrats, Noah Veltman.
Boston, MA
alt_text_bot
104 days ago
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I take the view that "open-faced sandwiches" are not sandwiches, but all other physical objects are.
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