Mark Rothko

Mark Rothko exhibition at Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna

With the dawning of a new era, I am sure everyone spent their time differently, with some enjoying the extended holidays, while others devoted themselves to working or studying as usual. I had not taken time off over Golden Week for the past several years, but I was able to take an extended holiday exactly in accordance with the calendar, despite being in the middle of filming “Followers.” This allowed me to return to Vienna for a while.

In Vienna, with the timeless allure of a tourist spot with a legacy left behind by the House of Habsburg, and famous composers such as Mozart, you do not need to do anything special, but a mere stroll through town is a meaningful way of spending time there. Compared to Tokyo’s population of around 9.3 million, the entire population of Austria is around 8.8 million, making it a surprisingly small nation. But Vienna, the capital of such a tiny country, is where a wealth of culture, including music, art, architecture, literature, psychiatric medicine and psychology, has blossomed (the highly renowned Freud and Adler were also from Vienna).

While in Vienna, I was blessed with the opportunity to hear Mahler’s Symphony No. 8 performed by The Vienna Philharmonic at the historical Wiener Konzerthaus. With the participation of a choir and eight soloists, it was a moving experience hearing the grand performance of the famous symphony by more than 200 people (it is frequently referred to as the “Symphony of a Thousand”) on stage.

Moreover, it is still light at 8 P.M. at this time of the year due to daylight savings time, and it is not unusual for me to take a stroll through town after dinner. So, I walked along the Ring Road lined with portraits of Holocaust survivors to visit the magnificent Kunsthistorisches Museum built under the orders of Franz Joseph I in the 19th century. My aim was nothing other than to see the exhibition of works by the painter Mark Rothko, whom I adore the most in the history of modern painting.

Mark Rothko’s pictures consist of nothing more than surfaces and lines painted in two or three colors, and at a glance, they exude tranquility, but upon closer inspection, I feel that they also exude fierceness.

Ever since I saw his works when I was around 20 years old, either at Centre Pompidou in Paris or the MOMA in New York, I have found his creations to exude agony as if portraying an unfulfilled longing to be understood by someone, which has taken my breath away every time I have come across his paintings. Mark Rothko, born Markus Rothkowitz, moved to the U.S. with his family as Jewish immigrants from Russia, and in his younger days, he experimented with a variety of painting styles. Although he was not a realist, he engaged in still-life and portrait painting, and dabbled in surrealism to try styles similar to Picasso, but the colors and motifs of his paintings became consistent from around the 1930s. He used fewer colors with increasing age, and his motifs also became increasingly simplified. As a result, each and every one of his paintings came to carry more weight, reverberating in the hearts of those who lay their eyes upon them. Later in his life, he felt that the rise of pop art through people like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein threatened the value of his existence, and he came to mistrust people, dying in solitude.

In 2009, I saw Rothko’s series of pictures representing the darkness of his final years during the Rothko exhibition held at the Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art, and I cannot forget the suffocating sensation I felt in my heart then. The exhibition this time only had a few of his dark paintings from the final years of his life, but I was offered a peek into how Mark Rothko’s paintings evolved from the diverse works of his earlier years to those that came to epitomize him.

It is in these ways that a stroll through Vienna is always so interesting, but come to think of it, there are many wonderful art galleries and museums in Japan, too. I am currently pondering on which art gallery I should visit next.

Followers


Art installation on the scaffolding at Schillerplatz in Vienna by Katharina Cibulka

Filming for a new drama series begins today. It is an original drama series to be streamed on NETFLIX, which until now, I had only enjoyed as a viewer. The name of the drama is “Followers,” and it is directed by Mika Ninagawa who is a photographer and a film director. Should I say, it’s a drama about women, by women, for women. There are many new ways for women to live (watch the drama to find out more). It is no longer limited to the traditional way of becoming a housewife, having children and looking after the family, but women can pursue their careers, or choose to cherish both their careers and families, and there are even some who become withdrawn from society, showing no interest in having a career or a family. Yet others may choose same-sex marriages, or become asexual, or go even further to seek men for reasons that until now were unspeakable and frowned upon. Through the filming of this drama, I have come to realize the reality that times are not so much changing in a way that people are beginning to accept diversity, but it is more that they have no choice but to accept diversity in gender, taste, lifestyle, religion, etc., regardless of whether they are male or female.

I will be playing the part of the heroine and photographer, Rimi Nara, in this witty, multiple protagonist drama, which realistically portrays the lives of women, with a touch of venom, in the motley city of Tokyo. The women all had dreams in their younger days, and instead of ending them as nothing but dreams, they strive boldly in pursuit of realizing them with a sense of responsibility. And it is because of this great mental fortitude that the women also feel a tinge of anxiety and fragility, which they reveal throughout the drama. The drama is fictitious, but Rimi Nara is said to be modeled after Mika Ninagawa herself, and stories based on the real-life experiences of people around her have been scattered throughout the 10 episodes. I am truly looking forward to the days of working on the filming for this drama series, which will come shortly. It will be announced eventually, but I have been blessed with an attractive cast of actresses (and actors too, of course), which I think will allow me to open up my heart during filming.

Incidentally, the special feature article in The Nikkei last year described how NETFLIX does not publicize audience ratings. Instead, it relies on a system that displays recommended programs on the top page based on analyses of individual viewers, using an algorithm that only gathers data on their taste trends, regardless of their age or sex. As a result of their strategy, I too, have become hooked on NETFLIX, and I have been watching not only movies and dramas, but also a constant stream of documentaries.

“Followers” is planned for streaming at the start of 2020, and it will be simultaneously released in 190 countries around the world. I recommend everyone to check it out.

Best Wishes for the New Year

Fireworks on New year’s eve

Happy New Year!

2019 is upon us already.

I am scheduled to start filming a new drama series this year, and preparations have already begun.

I am currently in Vienna, enveloped in a celebratory mood, where the launching of fireworks began at around 6 P.M. on New Year’s Eve, and continued through the night until a little while ago this morning.

The Japanese ski jumper, Ryoyu Kobayashi, has also been attracting a lot of attention in a ski jump race that people in Austria are highly passionate about.

Today, I have actually been given the opportunity to appear in the broadcast of the “2019 Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Concert” on NHK Educational TV, and I was asked to report live on the enthusiasm on-site from the Viennese Music Association building. During this customary New Year event, I hope to enjoy the cheerful and lively waltzes and polkas performed by the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of Christian Thielemann, while celebrating the New Year with everyone. The program will air from 6:45 P.M. until 10:00 P.M. I would like to call on everyone to join us in listening to the music brought to you from the Golden Hall of the Vienna Musikverein.

Announcement of My Marriage

The wooden swing shot in South Tyrole

I, Miki Nakatani, hereby announce my marriage to Thilo Fechner, a chamber musician from Germany. The viola is a musical instrument that is slightly bigger than the violin, but considerably smaller than the cello, and Thilo is a violist for the Wiener Staatsoper Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the Philharmonix, an orchestral music ensemble.

Although we live in Japan and Austria, countries on opposite sides of the world, it was a series of mysterious coincidences that brought us together in the fall of 2016, leading to the building of a relationship based on trust; a long story that I shall refrain from delving into here. Whenever we go hiking in the hills, he constantly adjusts his pace to suit mine, and prioritizes the happiness of others over his own personal enjoyment and interests, and I found myself drawn to his character. It is perhaps because he is a violist, who cherishes harmony by not asserting his own sound, but listening intently to the sounds of other instruments, such as the violin, that he was able to tame a person like me who loves to be free.

From now on, I shall work from Austria, and in doing so, I shall fluctuate between playing characters whose stories must be told, and being no one but my own self. However, I hope to continue putting my heart and soul into my work, and look forward to everyone’s continued support.

I would also like to kindly ask everyone to refrain from showering me gifts as there is a limit to how much I can send back to Austria, and I will unfortunately be unable to visit you to thank you in person.

Last, but not least, I would like to thank you all for your warm wishes and support.

Foam

The wooden floor of Salesian Junior High School

Lion has decided to launch a foam version of hadakara, a body soap with moisturizer that won’t wash away, leaving the skin moist and soft, and I was forced to return to Tokyo for just one night to film a new commercial.

My skin is such that pimples erupt the moment I consume carbohydrates, and it is so sensitive that I come out in a rash when I use strong cosmetics or face wash. I have allergic tendencies, so when I become too engrossed in my work and go beyond my limit, I sometimes end up with hives or even shingles. /Dietary supplements based on orthomolecular medical and nutritional prescriptions relieve me of many of my symptoms, and in particular, since I began taking high 15,000 IU doses of vitamin D every day, I have been feeling well enough to almost make me forget that I have pollen allergy. But having said that, whenever I get bitten by a mosquito in the mountains where I am currently based, my body overreacts and it itches forever. In fact, I was walking beside some grazing cattle the other day, and I was unfortunately attacked by gnats when I wasn’t paying attention. My back and hands became so hideously swollen that I had no choice but to undergo intravenous steroid treatment from a fear that I would not recover in time for the hadakara commercial! I am so delighted to hear about the launch of the foam-type hadakara, which even a person like me can use safely.

I filmed a profound, heart-stopping story at a mission school caressed by gentle rays of light filtering through the trees. Thanks to the outstanding teamwork of all the staff members, everything flashed by in the blink of an eye, and even my first-ever shower scene was over after coating my skin with soft, creamy foam and running my hand through it several times. Luckily, I was allowed to take home a few of the numerous bottles of hadakara, which had been used as props during filming, and I stuffed my favorite bottles of floral bouquet and green fruity hadakara in my suitcase before jumping on the plane.

The foam type goes on sale on September 26. I thoroughly recommend everyone to check it out at a nearby store.

Hugelkulture

Running my little farm with hugelkulture

Salzburg is bustling with people because of the music festival being held, and it is experiencing an unusual heat wave. Fortunately, I have been staying in the mountains where it is relatively cool, and I have been able to sleep comfortably both during the day and at night, but the heat has become a matter of life or death for a lot of people living and working in the city. Japanese people are used to the humidity and heat at the height of summer, and every household has air conditioners and electric fans. However, although people here have a full range of heating equipment from radiators to fireplaces, they had no need for appliances to keep themselves cool until now. Many elderly people died as the result of a heat wave that struck Europe several years ago, and that too, was because they were unprepared. Wine shop owners have been spending many sleepless nights lamenting that although their expensive wines, stored in wine cellars, may be protected from the heat, the hundreds of bottles of table wines lining the shelves inside their shops will be damaged.

The tap water in my house is supplied by underground water pumped from the mountains, and this precious water supply is shared among several of my neighbors. So, contrary to Western Japan struck by tragic floods, the amount of rainfall here is limited, and I tend to hesitate before watering my plants. But in spite of this, the raised bed of the hugelkulture farming method I am trying for the first time this year has been a huge success, resulting in bountiful harvests of leaf lettuce, arugula, tomatoes, Japanese basil, etc. The method involves putting down a layer of stones for drainage, layering branches and logs that had been left to dry for several years over the stones, and further putting down a layer of twigs and leaves on top of that, then covering it with fermented kitchen garbage from the composter and biosoil. It is watered as necessary, but the good drainage combined with fermentation by microorganisms and soil improvement by worms allow crops to grow well. Thanks to this method, my leaf vegetables have been growing well enough to allow me to enjoy harvesting them every day before meals, and I no longer need to buy them at the market or supermarket. Freshly picked, pesticide-free salad is surprisingly tender, and I have been eating it every day with all kinds of dressings made from argan oil, avocado oil, olive oil, linseed oil, pumpkin seed oil, etc., combined with white balsamic vinegar, local rock salt, miso, sweetfish sauce, and so on. As for basil, I have been harvesting it just prior to eating it to make Genovese sauce, which is tossed with ancient grain spaghetti. With sage, I have been making saltimbocca, and with coriander, I have been making kung op wun sen with Thai-style glass noodles and shrimp, and larb moo using minced meat. As for the Japanese basil, I had given up on trying to grow it because of restrictions on bring the seeds into the country, but fortunately, I was able to get hold of some seedlings here, and I have been enjoying eating it in prawn spring rolls and as a herb in hand-rolled sushi.

Here in Salzburg, people also avoid using screen doors for aesthetic reasons, so I have been forced to live with flies, bees and mosquitoes, but I have actually been finding this unexpected life of self-sufficiency quite pleasant.

Tomorrow, I plan to go into town to attend the concert, “Thus spoke Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss, who left an unforgettable impression on me in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Would You Like a Drink of Tea?

The great emptiness in Salzburg

Filming for the drama series, “Anatani-wa Kaeru Ie-ga Aru (You Have a Place to Go Home to),” finally finished and I have been spending some time in Salzburg regaining my daily rhythm.

All the members of the staff were wonderful, including Masanao Takahashi of TBS, who has been offering me compelling proposals for the past two years, Mahoko Takanari, whom I met for the first time in many years, and Director Shunichi Hirano whose masterly direction gave the story its dramatic structure. There was also Hiroshi Tamaki, who gave an unrestrained and comical performance, with exquisitely executed timing, of my hopeless husband, who was a mixture of gentleness and weakness. Meanwhile, Yusuke Santamaria gave a rich and yet acutely sensitive performance of a pitiful, sad, cuckolding husband who was twisted in his domination of women, and Tae Kimura gave a superb and well-controlled performance in acting out the fragility, seductiveness and even the luridness of women. I was blessed with such a dependable cast. In acting the part of a working wife every day, I struggled with the realistic, down-to-earth and tumultuous script written by Satomi Oshima. I strived to cast aside my sense of shame and self-esteem, and free myself of all inhibitions in my effort to act out the capriciousness of my character, Mayumi.

Incidentally, I have been devoting myself to doing nothing all day but mowing the lawn, transplanting vegetation, and planting vegetables and herbs while in Salzburg. The days just speed by, and I am beginning to feel as though I am busier now than I was during filming. As I devote myself to the farm work, covering my head with the hood of a UNIQLO UV-cut parker, and further protecting myself with a wide-brimmed straw hat, I forget that I was playing someone else only the other day, and find myself returning to being just another human being.

While spending my days in such tranquility, I had an exciting experience today. I have been working with Ito En for many years, but they booked an entire Nanagatsu Okabuki show which is currently being performed at Kabukiza Theater, to which their valued fans and clients were invited, and I was assigned the vital role of serving them tea on this celebratory occasion.

I have been drinking Oi Ocha almost all my life, since my teenage years, to the point that I can almost say “I have Oi Ocha, not blood, flowing through my veins.” Ito En has been making sweet and pleasant-tasting matcha tea known as “Gunkaku-no Shiro,” and I served the tea in aka-raku tea bowl and other such bowls made by the 10th Kichizaemon Tan-nyu of the Raku family. This was all made possible thanks to the support of all the people of the Tea Ceremony Club at Ito En. The brief time I was able to spend with the 300 or so customers who came, had tea, and left, is an experience that I shall cherish and etch into my memory.

It may seem as though I am rushed off my feet, but I am once again off to Salzburg, as I pray that it has rained and my Japanese basil seedlings are doing well….

The Most Potent Organic UV Protection Essence

TV&MOVIE Bright UV Essence 50

I am currently filming a new drama series, “Anatani-wa Kaeru Ie-ga Aru (You Have a Place to Go Home to),” which will begin broadcasting on April 13.

The drama series, based on Fumio Yamamoto’s book, is a story about the true feelings and secrets of two couples. I play the part of Mayumi Sato, a housewife who has just overseen her daughter’s junior high school entrance exams and returned to work, striving to juggle housework with her job. Her husband, Hideaki, who seems gentle, yet wanders off in unexpected directions in life, is played by Hiroshi Tamaki. Taro Nasuda, the moral-harassing junior high school teacher, who is a customer of the house manufacturer where Hideaki works, is played by Yusuke Santamaria. Meanwhile, Mayumi’s husband, Hideaki, finds himself attracted to Nasuda’s beautiful and faithful wife, Ayako Nasuda, played by Tae Kimura.

I spit out my stinging, yet comical lines expressing my feelings of discontent toward men, on behalf of all women who have no doubt felt the same way at one time or another regardless of whether they are married or single, despite normally refraining from expressing such words of abuse for the sake of decency. It seems to me that there are still many men who don’t help with the housework, and yet they demand so much from their wives and girlfriends. There are no doubt men who also brag about simply putting out the trash or bathing the children, thinking, “I’ve done my share of the housework.”

The drama tells a realistic story about the bitter, silent screams of women who have felt anger, sighed in disgust, sensed resignation and finally given up on the hopelessness of such men. But at the same time, the humor makes light of the theme, which would otherwise have turned the drama into a heavy and miserable story. I hope to portray a woman who gets through life with a tough attitude. But having said that, if I were to say a few words on behalf of men too, who seem to have nothing to cling on to except the titles on their business cards (how condescending!), it seems that they, too, have lots of feelings of discontent toward women, and the drama also includes many lines dredged from the depths of men’s thoughts.

The other day, when I was engrossed in the new script at a café on a beautiful sunny morning, I was overcome by convulsions of laughter. I burst out without a care in the world about the attention I was attracting, because of the humor in the script. It even prompted a stranger sitting nearby to laugh at me.

I battle it out daily with Mr. Tamaki, who plays my husband, in the charming cityscape of Kamakura of Shonan, where the story is set. I do not give in to the merciless sun blazing down on me, but rather thrive under it. Damage to my skin from sunburns is matter of concern around this time of the year, not only because of the glaring sunlight during filming, but also because it’s the season for enjoying hiking and riding my road bike. This prompted me to produce TV&MOVIE’s most potent organic sunscreen ever with an SPF 50 rating, known as Bright UV Essence 50. Centered on horse oil, horse placenta, strong manuka honey, black jack, and other beauty essence ingredients common on TV&MOVIE cosmetics, pearl has been added to the baby pink base color, turning the skin one shade lighter in color and giving it a beautiful appearance. The fragrance comes from the precious neroli oil, which has been extracted from natural materials only by a French perfumer, and it boasts great spreadability requiring only a small amount about the size of rice grain to cover the entire face. From now on, I can rely on this Bright UV Essence 50 to go outside without a worry in the world, and now I can spend every day spouting out abuse at my husband without a moment of hesitation.

The TBS Friday Night Drama series, “Anatani-wa Kaeru Ie-ga Aru,” will begin on Friday, April 13, at 10:00 P.M. The first episode will be 15 minutes longer than usual. I hope you all watch it.

There Is No Need to Understand

Dahn Vo Exhibition at Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York

I visited New York, although it was only for a few days. I went to see Dahn Vo’s exhibition, “Take My Breath Away,” at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, which I always visit. The artist, who is the same age as me, was born in Vietnam. However, his family set sail in a wooden boat made by his father when he was still young, becoming “boat people,” in order to escape the communist party. Fortunately, they were rescued by a cargo ship, and as fate would have it, they ended up defecting to Denmark.

At his exhibition were items displayed almost exactly as they were, unaltered, such as ready-made goods associated with the war and the history of colonization in the country of his birth. The items included rusted cookware and farming equipment, photos, a Rolex watch and a Dunhill lighter that his father took with him when escaping the country, the tip of a fountain pen, a gorgeous crystal chandelier from a hotel in Paris where the Vietnam War peace talks were held, and a letter written by Henry Kissinger. Of course it was Dahn Vo himself, who chose which items to display how inside the peculiar spiral gallery designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The exhibition tells a real and personal story that only Dahn Vo can tell. But his form of conceptual art originates from Marcel Duchamp’s readymade who once created a furor over his exhibition of toilet seats, or Joseph Beuys who sowed the seeds for much debate by exhibiting garbage, uncompleted artworks, signboards, etc., and as such, I also expect Dahn Vo’s exhibition to create great controversy among those who see it.

A valuable Greek sculpture made of marble, a wooden crucifix and an image of the Virgin Mary had all been slashed ruthlessly by Dahn Vo, then rejoined to create a new work of art. Whether you are able to appreciate the beauty of such a creation, or you are disgusted by its hideousness is entirely in the eye of the beholder, but I personally found myself attracted to the profound boldness of this creations, which seemed to be an expression of the inner struggle and contradictory emotions within himself.

Dahn Vo rose to fame in the world of art through his exhibition titled, “We The People,” in which he created a life-sized replica of the symbol of New York, the Statue of Liberty, in individual pieces of copper. At the exhibition this time too, there were several pieces scattered carelessly over the floor.

In an age when countries all over the world struggle with the problem of refugees and immigrants, it is no doubt very meaningful that Dahn Vo, a refugee himself, should recreate and exhibit the world’s most popular copper statue symbolizing freedom for the people who in the past crossed to America from Europe.

Dahn Vo’s creations make people uncomfortable, and sometimes even unhappy and uneasy. This is probably because his creations have the power to completely overturn our sense of values, which we held so dear to us. By boldly exhibiting junk from his past life at the Guggenheim that artists all over the world aspire to, Dahn Vo is apparently trying to be provocative, and perhaps even poking fun at the current monetary system, consumer society and the way we are being manipulated by the monotony of information available through the media. At the same time, by exhibiting ready-made products and letters written by other people, and modifying the works of others to turn them into his own creations, he is sowing the seeds for controversy as to who the works can be accredited to.

I have yet to fully understand his works. But I believe that you need not pretend to understand such works, or go out of your way to try and appreciate them. In fact, they are intended to invoke different emotions in each and every one of us, and the works only attain completion upon the intertwining of the different perspectives of all who see them.

I felt that the space at the Guggenheim was a little too narrow for this exhibition.
If the exhibition had simply been held inside a white square space, allowing us to appreciate it a little at a time, it may have left a different impression on me.

At night, I went to Carnegie Hall to immerse myself in the flood of sad yet pleasant dissonance of Adagio, the first movement of Symphony No. 10 composed by my favorite Gustav Mahler, performed by the Vienna Philharmonic, and conducted by Gustavo Dudamel.

For more information, check out my article series, “Fumi-wa Yaritashi,” in Shousetsu Gento.

Snow museum

Snow scape in Salzburg

I went to Salzburg for a while for some rest and recreation after driving myself to exhaustion on stage.

All the excitement has recently centered on Yuzuru Hanyu’s graceful performance resulting in his gold medal at the Olympics, but Salzburg too, is a mecca for extreme sports, bustling with people, both professional and amateur, who come to enjoy all kinds of winter sports. People here grow accustomed to snow since childhood, and they not only enjoy skiing and skating, but they also wear narrow skis to have fun skiing on the snow as if ice skating, enjoy the thrill of ice climbing on frozen walls of ice, and climb 3,300-meter snow-covered mountains that are only slightly lower than Mt. Fuji to ski down its slopes while keeping an eye out for avalanches, and they often do this on a daily basis. So it is not at all unusual for children of ordinary families to own around three types of skis for every time, place and occasion, and own avalanche beacons for emergencies, or for families to own avalanche airbags.

With my fear of heights combined with my fear of speed, I am unfortunately unable to ski, skate or snowboard. However, I began walking with snowshoes last year, and during my one-week stay in Salzburg too, I went hiking almost every day in the mountains behind the place where I was staying, making squelching sounds as I walked on the virgin powder snow that had not been trampled by anyone. The air temperature was minus 2 to 3℃, numbing the tip of my nose and turning my cheeks pink as if I had applied rouge on them. But all it took was for me to take ten steps in my snowshoes to start feeling so warm that I quickly became hot. It was a very peaceful time. In the tranquility of the mountains, all I could hear were the sounds of my own breathing, my feet sinking into the snow, and the wind gently caressing my cheeks, with the silence occasionally broken by the thudding sound of snow as fell from the branches of trees unable to withstand its weight. Far from my worries of having to remember long lines, or the hassles of filling out tax return forms, I was able to spend a moment of supreme bliss, not thinking about anything but simply spending time staring up at the sky, trees and snow as if meditating while walking. The delicate tracks of wild deer carved into pure white snowfields, with snow covering every delicate twig and leaf stretching across the empty sky, created sublime beauty that no art in any art museum could ever hope to capture.

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