KISHI THE VAMPIRE

                               Curated by Mi You

Transgression and Syncretism @ Asian Culture Centre, Gwangju, South Korea 2016

Kishi the Vampire narrates the life of Japanese bureaucrat, colonial administrator, economic planner, war criminal, prime minster and nobel peace prize winner Nobusuke Kishi as a vampire story. Kishi's long life, sexual corruption, greed and disregard for human suffering make him the perfect amoral protagonist for a phantasmagorical retelling of 20th century East Asian political economy. In the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo in Northeast China between 1935-39, Kishi created a model of syncretic economic philosophies, combining German industrial cartels with Taylorist assembly lines and Soviet Style central planning, enforced by authoritarian military government. Manchukuo was Kishi's failed, experimental state, a testing ground which provided the model for the post-colonial Asian state. Between his time in Manchukuo in the 1930's to his death in the mid- 1980s, Kishi would live to see the South East Asian tiger economies like Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea adopt the state authoritarian capitalist development model which was first brutally realized by Kishi in the cold expanses of Manchuria. The performance is accompanied by an anime that animates this ghost story from Asia's Modernity. The work borrows its visual style from the erotic graphic vocabulary of Japanese shunga prints and the decadent ero-guro nanesensu images from the 1920's which formed the subversive cultural parallel to the violence inflicted at pre-war Japan's colonial periphery. The video installation is narrated live by the artist as a lecture performance, dressed in a 1939 'propaganda kimono', summoning the ghost of Kishi that continues to haunt modern Asia.



2016, Kishi the Vampire, performance, omoshirogara kimono, table, tatami, cushions, mirror, single-channel video, 20:00

The Japanese title '昭和の妖怪' which translates as 'the showa era monster', refers to the nickname given to Kishi by many Japanese of the showa generation. The term 妖怪 or 'yokai' can loosly be translated as monster, demon or ghost and refers to the cornocopia of spirits in Japanese folklore. The work of legendary manga-ka Shigeru Mizuki served as an inspiration, based on his encyclopaedic work on collecting and retelling the stories of the different yokai in Japan. Interestingly, Mizuki also famously created a manga on the life of Adolph Hitler, in perhaps a continuation of his work on cataloging different forms of yokai from around the world. Kishi the Vampire is my homage to Mizuki and humble addition to his project.



This work also owes a debt to the films of Kaneto Shindo, Yasuzo Masumura and Masaki Kobayashi, who also dealt with the legacies of Japanese Modernity through horror stories.

The costume for the performance is a 1939 omoshirogara, or 'propaganda kimono' from Japan depicting the colonized territories of Manchukuo and Korea with a printed newsclipping referring to the 1931 Mukden Incident which was the catalyst for Japan's further occupation of China. Loaned to the artist specifically for the performance from the collection of the Johann Jacobs Museum, Zurich, Switzerland.



Excerpt from narration

To the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce, you pass beneath the red and blue glow and weave through the saturnine masses of young boys and girls who cruise the theatres and teahouses of Kobiki-cho Dori, being careful not to be tempted by the slit in a young waitresses kimono. In the offices of the Documents and Archives Section, Nobusuke Kishi relished the task of breaking up the ministry to promote himself while settling scores and devolving control of the economy to the New Bureaucrats. The state silk and poppy farms had been a tremendous economic resource during the war when silk prices were booming and morphine rose from 500 yen to 1000 yen per pound, but as the world depression progressed the Japanese began to experience an overproduction crisis as international exports shrank and domestic consumption slowed. In a proto-Keynesian gesture, the minister of finance passed a temporary measure to increase government deficit spending on armaments but it was not enough. The questions, which plagued Kishi and his colleagues, were what had caused the recession to last so long? Why were the balance of payments in deficit? Why were corporate profits so low and what could be done? The problems of the Japanese economy were continuous and the newly formed Ministry of Industry and Commerce sent Kishi to America where planning departments could do the thinking for all men. Kishi saw those vast iron lungs of dehumanized labour measured and quantified with time and motion studies by Taylor and his efficiency experts. In Germany, another have-not, Kishi absorbed the concept of ‘industrial rationalization’, where the government sponsored cartels and trusts to organize various key industries. Kishi admired this system of National Socialism in Germany and despised the Americans for their individualism and free markets. Away from the proscenium, neon lights and window displays, down squalid alleys, behind torn rice paper doors a solitary red lantern in the darkness might offer erotic grotesques delights which roused the senses of the most diseased sensualist. They established the Temporary Industrial Rationality Bureau as a state organ directly responsible for the administration of industry. Its duties were the implementation of scientific management principles, the improvement of industrial financing, standardization of products, simplification of processes and providing subsidies for domestic goods. The bureau set about forming export and industrial unions for each industry, organizing each sectorinto cartels which self-regulated prices and production. Scene 5. Often Kishi would visit cafes which offered ‘organ service’ where the waitress lay across your lap and sang varied notes as you touched different parts of her body. Sometimes, Kishi could not help himself and buried his teeth deep in the nape of a young girls neck. Sliding aside the screen door of the geisha house behind the Kabuki-Za, Kishi’s nostrils were stung by the odour of mutant flesh, an unspeakable formless meat pulp of hair, skin and fat was propped up in a kimono. Kishi was on his knees, filled with repulsion and desire as he undid his belt, the host whispered, ‘She comes from China.’
















Photos: Zurich Theater Spektakel. Copyright © ZTS / Christian Altorfer