Colin Marshall sits down near Nara, Japan’s Tōdai-ji temple with artist, critic, and teacher Christopher Olson. They discuss his thoughts, as a Winnipegger born and raised, on Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg; the displacement, discombobulation, and respectable bullshitting of Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil, a copy of which he keeps at all times on his phone; high-risk art, and the stuff that requires more time spent absorbing than creating; the still-exciting art school idea of limitations and restrictions as the engines of creation; whether or not Japan is “a land of images”; why you can’t resist photographing your food in Japan, and what this has to do with the cultural sense of doing things properly or not doing them at all; the utilitarian, quick-and-dirty mindset of our North American homelands, which we notice with special force after having spent time amid Japan’s superlegitimacy; the modern west’s lack of filial piety, which he came to understand after getting involved with a Japanese lady (in a relationship that endured its Griffin and Sabine period); life in Japan as a constant process of auditing one’s assumptions, especially those instilled by western Buddhism; freeloading on the Japanese social contract as a foreigner, and enjoying the liberty to “create your own Japan”; the gaijin you meet in Japan, including the “weeaboo” and the last-refuge English teacher; how Japanese vending machines could possibly not be trashed, robbed, and stripped of all saleable metal; Vancouver, the city where Canadians go to figure their shit out; the benefit of the foreigner’s anti-inanity language barrier; how the force that makes Japanese trains run on time also causes the occasional Japanese to jump in front of one; the lack of ambient ambition in Japan, as opposed to the aspirational culture in North America that generates both resentment and a certain charge; his turn toward writing and criticism after an “I’m just not that good” moment in the visual arts; his desire to recapture that Chris Marker sense of delirious displacement in day-to-day life; and how he’s ridden that distinctively Japanese sawtooth pattern of culture shock.
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