Tokyo “de-light” part 2 Lara Baladi (Egyptian-Lebanese artist/photographer)


Photo of "Girls empty their bag on their knees-a mirror, an eyelash squeezer,make up"

Girls empty their bag on their knees-a mirror, an eyelash squeezer,make up

In the background,so far but so present,the Iraq war is about to start. My relationship to Tokyo cannot help but be influenced by it. How am I supposed to look at dolls?I am attracted by war games and cyber-notion so distance and disconnection through digital screens. I lie somewhere between the 15th and the 26th century, trying to make sence of the meaning of life while sending emails through my Ketai(mobile phone)to friends in Cairo.I have discovered the adrenaline experienced by millions of the Japanese“thumb”generation..My hand mans the mobile,switched on camera mode,like a contemporary Sherlock’s magnifying glass,a detector of hidden treasures.The image on the tiny screen vibrates and changes as my feet step forward like a serpent.Sexy high-heeled or creatively accessorized legs lead me.Eroticism is an inherent part of Japanese culture. How can even select images to accompany this text? They all seem impregnated with sensuality which,out of context,may be seen as provocative given the different value systems which will filter them.
The lraq war has started.It all converges. Dolls meet video games.Video games 1ook like war scenes in the media.Local TV channels broadcast programs of Japanese housewives learning to dance on 80's disco music. Heroic female mangas chase treasures in ancient Egyptian temples while being attacked by monsters. I discover world of the national manga virus. The post office's envelopes,the subway signs,the cash distributor's and cohi(coffee)machine's animation characters bowing and thanking with kawai(cute)voices,all carry the signs of a visually shared language.America invades lraq and mistakenly uses its arms against its British allies(woops).


Photo of ShibuyaShibuya

Japanese peace groups protest in Shibuya,while Starbucks abound in Tokyo and serve the least tasteful coffee. It all seems like an overwhelming dream,wonders and horrors,a child’s world in hell or hell in a child’s world,Alice in Wonderland,Through the Looking Glass and back.
I am becoming familiar with many heroes. I can now recognize in some of the younger generation's fashion style,a direct inspiration from La Rose de Versailles, Dolls or Sailor Moon. Reality is the most intense of all anime.
My favorite museum is the street and its people,a never ending spectacle I am immersed in. My interactions with ambiguous real-virtual protagonists has become routine.
Nobody is driving the train. On the Yamanote line,sitting upfront,I too,am a character in a postmodern manga Blade Runner type film. Tokyo.I surrender to your mystifying energy.


Photo of Shibuya Hatchiko square,Shibuya

Hatchiko square,Shibuya

-Lara Baladi is an Egyptian-Lebanese artist/photographer.
-Her work was exhibited in the Middle East, New York, Europe, Japan, etc. and is part of contemporary art collections such as the Fondation Cartier in Paris and the Museet For Fotokunst in Copenhagen.
-Her work is part of the exhibition Afrika Remix , which started in Dusseldorf in July 2004 at the Kunst Palast Museum and will tour the Hayward Gallery in London and Beaubourg in Paris in 2005, and the Mori Museum in Tokyo in 2006.
-She will have her first solo show at the Bildmuseet in Sweden in October 2004.
-Lara Baladi was granted a fellowship from the Japan Foundation for the year 2003. She is a member of the Beirut-based Fondation Arabe pour l'image. She lives and works in Cairo.


(This article appeared in "WAVES-Culture from Japan" (Autumn 2004) issued by Japan Foundation Cairo Offfice.