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Q & A: Takashi Murakami

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The Scene: How does Tokyo inspire your work?

Takashi Murakami: Basically it's a big city, a super big city with a huge number of people. Japanese people have a lot of confidence now and this city is very, very creative. The people had lost confidence after the burst of the bubble economy but now I see a lot of confidence.

A lot of my audience is in Europe and the U.S. and I understand that they expect my work to be quite exotic. I pick up the latest exotic things in Tokyo.

TS: Is Tokyo a Japanese city or an Asian city?

TM: Tokyo is an Asian city. It is very open to outside influences. I've just been to Taiwan and Taipei is a very similar city to Tokyo. You get a very similar impression. All cities have very strong characters but if I have to put Tokyo in a category I would say it is more of an Asian city than a Japanese city.

TS: What do you like about Tokyo?

TM: Mostly I like the big scale of the city. But also people here know that one day soon there's going to be a catastrophe -- another big earthquake. The people here don't live in fear though. But that's why people want to enjoy today, now. Not the future. Not the history. Now is the most important thing. That's why everything changes so quickly, why everything is so unstable and so fast. Now I actually live in Saitama, a satellite area about an hour away. I really need to have a barrier around my territory. In Tokyo you cannot make your own space, or only a very small place. It's a young city.

TS: How did your collaboration with Louis Vuitton come about?

TM: If you look at Louis Vuitton's history, they've always been influenced by Japanese designs, such as the flowers on the kimono, ever since the 19th century. In a very natural way Louis Vuitton is in touch with Japanese culture. It's a very big turning point for me. Now I understand the fashion world a little bit. It's important because the European creative situation is very influenced by fashion and art and fashion are very closely linked.

TS: What do you want to do in the future?

TM: I would like to look for the reality in the media. What is the media for? The Internet, TV, newspapers, advertising? Japanese people want information. What is the media? I don't have an answer now but when I decided I wanted to be an artist I decided I wanted to communicate with people. That's why I make paintings and drawings. But now I have a much bigger desire for direct representation.

TS: You have your own radio talkshow. How did that come about?

TM: When I was in high school I was a big fan of the midnight program on this radio station, Tokyo FM. Then I had a chance to link up with the station when I designed a character for them for a special event. They asked me how much my fee was and I said, "If I can do a midnight show that's my fee," and now I've been doing it for four years. When I was a listener it was my dream to do a program like this. Now the young people listen to me. I understand their mentality so if I can reach them then I'm very happy. Because I am an artist, but what is an artist? I believe artist means dream-maker.



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