OR x TWELVE ARTISTS x OTAQUEST+DA.YO.NE is a project that aims to shine the spotlight on an up and coming artist each month. Musical events, collaboration items, pop-up stores, and other events will take place at OR, a cultural hub located in the newly re-developed Miyashita Park in Shibuya, Tokyo.
In November 2020 PAC CAT presented a series of works based on new forms of communication under a global pandemic and the stresses that arise from that. In December we had Miranda Yokota present an exhibition centered around goggles and unreadable drawings. Looking forward to January 2021 and beyond, many up-and-coming artists are waiting for their turn.
Today we sit down with Mr. Yasumasa Yonehara, the artistic producer and curator for this event, the designer behind the concept space ‘OR’ Abilio Marcelio, and OTAQUEST’s producer ☆Taku Takahashi to talk about the aim and significance of ‘OR x TWELVE ARTISTS x OTAQUEST+DA.YO.NE’.
Yasumasa Yonehara: There was originally a project called ‘+ DA.YO.NE.’ that was meant to be this sort of collaboration between all sorts of different artists and brands. I started it in 2019 and was going to put more weight behind it in 2020. That’s when I learned of OR. I thought being able to do ‘+ DA.YO.NE.’ at OR would be interesting
Abilio Marcelio: I gave it a yes without hesitation.
☆Taku Takahashi: Have you two known each other from before this?
Abilio Marcelio: Yes, we have. We often used to DJ at the same events so we’ve spent many days drinking and hanging out. Definitely a rowdy friendship (laughs)
Yasumasa Yonehara: The more I looked into OR, the more I realized all the people involved with it are people I know (laughs). There aren’t enough places for up-and-coming artists to show their snuff, so I was like “let’s do this flashy event for a year and see how it goes” and I got the all-clear.
☆Taku Takahashi: Speaking of which, OR is a beautiful space.
Abilio Marcelio: OR’s first floor is a pop-up space, the second floor is an art gallery, and the third floor is an art showcase. On each floor there’s a DJ booth and a bar counter as well. These days it seems like when people want to enjoy a certain genre of music they’re limited to certain places specifically for that. I made this place as a way for people who would normally not cross paths to spend time together.
☆Taku Takahashi: Abilio, you’re the creative director of OR, right?
Abilio Marcelio: Yes, that’s right. I’ve been involved in every step, from creating the concept to the layout of the space.
Yasumasa Yonehara: Abi comes from a background in fashion.
Abilio Marcelio: I’d done visual merchandising for many years and oversaw the layouts of many stores. In my experience, there are many shops that don’t embody any of their core tenets such as ‘fashion,’ ‘art,’ and ‘culture,’ even though they’re written in the concept. So for OR, I tried to do exactly what I had written.
☆Taku Takahashi: I can see that. OR definitely feels different to the average cafe or club.
Abilio Marcelio: On our website we call it a ‘cultural hub spot’ but I get asked quite often what kind of store we are (laughs). I’d like it if the people who come by are able to enjoy themselves freely. If you wanna dance, you can dance. If you wanna look at art, you can look at art. If you want to relax and chat with others, you can do that too. How Yone is using this space is exactly how I envisioned OR to be used.
Yasumasa Yonehara: It’d be great if we could use this as a launchpad for young artists to get their names out there.
Abilio Marcelio: The great thing about OR is that it occupies this piece of land directly between Shibuya station and Harajuku station, and yet it’s distinctly different from either city. I think it’s exactly for that reason that we’re able to display the type of content we do. Both Shibuya and Harajuku have a strong presence as cities, even on a global scale, but I feel that that image of them is fading due to different development projects.
☆Taku Takahashi: Are you saying that rather than development leading to innovation, it stifles creativity?
Abilio Marcelio: When large commercial buildings are built, the main spaces inevitably end up being occupied by the bigger brands. I feel it makes it a lot harder to feature underground and emerging brands.
☆Taku Takahashi: That’s true. While subcultures and underground communities form easily in a local scene, it’s really hard for them to branch out and capture a bigger audience. There should be more opportunities for people of various genres to create together, but it feels like the contrary, where people only associate within a narrow field of interests. Honestly, I felt there were more interesting pairings back before the Internet.
Abilio Marcelio: Nowadays it’s easy to dig up information on anything you’re interested in. So it’s really easy to dive deep into things you’re interested about with other like-minded people, but it’s also easy to shut out things you wouldn’t consider to be interesting. I feel like a lot of those random happenings are gone, or rather I think that the experience of being thrust into something brand new is decreasing.
☆Taku Takahashi: But at OR, you might just run into something you didn’t know existed.
Abilio Marcelio: yes, that’s exactly what we’re aiming for. That’s why this current collab with OTAQUEST is so interesting. It’ll bring OR to more people, which will bring a clashing of different ideas and minds, in turn leading to the birth of even more new ideas.
☆Taku Takahashi: The sound of Shibuya-kei was born, and that brought with it the creation of more record shops. Select shops gathered in Harajuku to make what we call today Urahara. We were able to experience these things, and the growth of Shibuya and Harajuku, in real-time.
Shibuya and Harajuku were melting pots, that is, places where interesting things gathered randomly from all over the world. But recently, I’ve felt that too many people have come here, and it’s gone from less of a melting pot and more into a tourist destination. I wonder if ‘OR’ will end up being a sort of antithesis to that.
Yasumasa Yonehara: I also like Shibuya and Harajuku. I even had a magazine called egg in 1995.
However, it was good that Shibuya and Harajuku always stimulate each other but never mix. While Gyaru rejuvenated Shibuya in the ’90s, Lolitas made Harajuku lively in the 2000s. However, whenever there’s a new wave in Shibuya or Harajuku, adults try and come in and capitalize off of it. For example, nails are a culture created by gyaru in the ’90s. Then these adults came in and capitalized off of this youth culture, creating nail salon chains and the like. Nowadays it’s a status tumbling to get your nails done somewhere expensive, but originally it came from young gyaru walking the streets of Shibuya.
☆Taku Takahashi: I see. And those youth that found it hard to be in Shibuya started going to Harajuku. I guess it’s sort of a cycle.
Yasumasa Yonehara: Exactly. Up until now Shibuya and Harajuku used to be a sort of safe haven if the other one became too commercialized. But nowadays both Shibuya and Harajuku are trying to become this singular entity. The youth that are driving forward culture in these areas, the same ones being targeted by these adults, are losing their place to run away to. That’s why I’m hoping that OR and places like it that aren’t quite Shibuya or Harajuku can become this new safe haven.
Abilio Marcelio: When I was younger I used to work in a clothing store on Cat Street. It was a very cutting edge store, one that stocked underground designers and British runway designers. Back then there wasn’t this thing called fast fashion, so we had a lot of younger customers. I used to call it larvae fashion, seeing all these young kids walking around wearing really flashy clothing. I have fond memories like that.
☆Taku Takahashi: Nowadays if you’re walking down the street it feels like it’s hard to tell if something Shibuya-like or Harajuku-like. That special flavor does seem to not be there anymore.
Yasumasa Yonehara: Humans like to wear the same styles in the same places. It feels good.
☆Taku Takahashi: I see, yeah it’s easy to see that the people around you also share your same interests.
Yasumasa Yonehara: Exactly. Nowadays places like that are getting harder and harder to come by.
☆Taku Takahashi: I think it’s amazing that being more open-minded and sharing different cultures in this era of diversity is becoming more accepted, but I feel that inversely that might make it harder for people to figure out how exactly they can stand out. I feel like there’s quite a lot of people in that boat.
Abilio Marcelio: If you consider social media there’s way too much information, and I think that makes it a lot harder to what interests you. I think in that sense the artists who participate in OR x TWELVE ARTIST x OTAQUEST+DA.YO.NE are all ones with an incredible sense of individuality.
☆Taku Takahashi: Yonehara, where did you find all of these interesting people?
Yasumasa Yonehara: Either online or on Instagram (laughs)
☆Taku Takahashi: All of them?!
Yasumasa Yonehara: Mostly, or at really small galleries and such. This time the thing I made most important was if I thought Abi would like them. How’d I do? Amazing?
Abilio Marcelio: So far, it’s been perfect (laughs)
Yasumasa Yonehara: it’s important to remember that these pieces are being exhibited in OR. I can’t have stuff that would make someone think “Why is this being displayed here?”
☆Taku Takahashi: Was there any criteria for what would be shown at this exhibition?
Abilio Marcelio: Hm… I guess I’d say how raw it is? I’d rather something be too rough and in your face than hold back and look a bit cleaner.
Yasumasa Yonehara: The thing I hold most important isn’t so much just how good a specific piece is, but rather how attractive the artists themselves are. Not attractive in the traditional sense, but more along the lines of what attractive means to Abi. It ends up being a question of what exactly is that, but it’s hard to put into words. It’s his perspective, how he views the world. Those things are hard to explain.
Abilio Marcelio: There’s this feeling that I get when I see a piece or when I see an artist, and that probably plays a role in deciding. It’s honestly something that’s really hard to explain… I guess that rawness that I was talking about earlier is this feeling.
☆Taku Takahashi: When you put it like that, I can start to see the rawness of the PAC CAT’s work, which is currently being displayed.
Abilio Marcelio: It manages to still retain a sense of stylishness whilst also being quite pessimistic. And he’s also able to throw in a bit of cuteness as well.
Yasumasa Yonehara: PAC CAT is the first artist in this series of exhibitions so I wanted to make sure I got someone I was sure Abi would love.
Abilio Marcelio: It was basically love at first sight.
☆Taku Takahashi: I ended up purchasing a piece as well (laughs)
Abilio Marcelio: Even with all these changes happening due to coronavirus, I feel that the importance of young artists being able to put their work out there has only increased. Not just online, but in the real world as well.
☆Taku Takahashi: I agree. With the increase in the availability of ways to enjoy music online, I feel it only brings out just how important it is to go and see that music being performed live in real life. There’s those smells and sounds and all the other stimuli at a like event. I feel those things have a huge impact on how the art is able to be appreciated.
Abilio Marcelio: Every month for a whole year an artist is presented and every month they showcase different styles of art and music, which is displayed in OR. That excites me to no end. I want to see things I’ve never seen before. And I want to share that with everyone else. Am I just trying make my own dreams come true? (laughs)
☆Taku Takahashi: No, not at all. I completely get where you’re coming from. When the people around you are having fun there’s a sort of energy that makes you also want to have fun and make things that everyone will enjoy. OTAQUEST wants every month to be entertaining and lively, and by streaming the parties on Twitch we’re able to bring this atmosphere and entertainment directly to our foreign fans, who might not be able to come to Japan due to coronavirus.
Abilio Marcelio: I often watch different DJs from overseas and love the impact that the atmosphere provides, so it makes me happy to be able to do the same and bring OR to people around the world.
Yasumasa Yonehara: Japanese people tend to appreciate things that are viewed well overseas. For example, if an artist gets sold at a foreign auction all of a sudden they’ll be in demand in Japan as well. While I don’t necessarily like that it’s like that, I do think it’s something that can be used to our advantage as well. I’d like it if we could have recognition from overseas as well.
☆Taku Takahashi: Of course, the most important thing is for people to come to OR. It’s not really a club, not really a cafe, and not really an art gallery, while existing in a space all its own. It’s a place that has so much potential, and having people come see that in person is the ultimate goal. Right now the only thing we can really do is stream. It’d be nice if we were able to showcase not just the parties, but also the different exhibitions over stream at some point.
Abilio Marcelio: I would love it if we were able to make that happen. I’ve already told all the artists that are going to displaying their work to try and make as much video art as they can. Seeing how they take their 2D and breathe motion into it.
Yasumasa Yonehara: Fashion, culture, and art. Having three people that represent each of these tenets come together and create something is, in my opinion, what makes this project interesting. Let’s work together to make this project even better through synergizing our strengths.
Abilio Marcelio: My dream is for OR to truly become a hub for culture, and through this year make it a place that is on the radar of artists all across the world.