Oyaji Uke

Tiger and Bunny_birthday animal

Detail from the Japanese BL fan comic Birthday Animal by Akou Susugu (Scanlated into English by Vices and Devices) In this story Tiger has a dildo-like tail (a birthday present from Bunny) which gives him sexual energy but also seems to have a life of its own.

I produced a zine for the Parasite Exhibition Ten Million Rooms of Yearning: Sex in Hong Kong which takes place in five venues in Hong Kong and will be open until August 10, 2014. My zine comments on a collection of Boy’s Love fan zines and slash fiction about tow anime characters,  Tiger & Bunny, and focuses on a reappraisal of the middle-aged male character as “bottom” (In Japanese Oyaji Uke)

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The Cabinet of Miss Ma

 

A few days ago I managed to meet with Miss Ma. She is a tailor who makes costumes for the costume players who live around Communication University of Beijing. We were hoarded into a dark alley by one of her young mates and customers, named Woody. The smell upon entering the cabinet was fantastic and I could only imagine what Miss Ma had been up to.  There was a huge tree growing through her tiny shop where she also housed her morobike and various machineries for sewing together immensely complex outfits.  We started a conversation and I noticed that she likes to talk. She told me that she was happy with her line of work but just wanted more business–as the cosplay fad has dimmed a little. We were all glued to her lips during our short visit, at the end of which Miss Ma pulled out her magical scroll.  Hundreds of drawings and photos of people’s favorite animation characters which she had tied together with a string.  People had brought her all these drawings and sketches, knowing that Miss Ma would turn them into a great outfit. We talked about our common friend Atom who likes to do male characters. She showed Atom’s golden brown kimono waiting to picked up. The visit to Miss Ma was short and sweet. I will surely remember it as an unusual afternoon–when time slows down and we feel teary stepping out of the grind.  

Schizoid with Vocaloid

I continue   my search for people’s virtual characters and end up following cosplay photographer Francesca. We meet at the old communist factory-turned-art-district “798” where they have also preserved one of the old Chinese coal trains. Francesca uses this setting to take photos of her good friend Phoenix.  Phoenix here is doing the  girl character of the virtual singers from the voice synthizer software Vocaloid.  People can submit their DIY songs to the Vocaloid site which are then interpreted and sung by a family of virtual singers.  Phoenix was inspired by a song about a cute girl who is a train conductor from the Japanese war era. To her the girl with green ponytails and green uniform represents an element of nostalgia and fantasy in times of darkness.

Earthy and Dirty

I just arrived in Beijing at Renmin University where I will give a talk about animation fans and how they use alter egos and virtual siblings, or even entire imagined clans and families. I want to find out how and why they fantasize about alternative families and how they deal with pressures of the bio-family.

But what are the first impressions of Beijing coming from Hong Kong? Beijing is earthy and dirty. Hong Kong seems to have lost its sweat glands and body odors. Maybe it is just a cliche that in Beijing one smells wafts of urine everywhere (comparable to those in Paris and Brussels.) But certainly it is true and brings relief to see that people look more relaxed and “healthy”, grubby and chubby, moist and tanned.

Then I also brought with me my pale Hermina, who is is named after the sister of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.  She came with an electric guitar and I also got her a skate board. The doll brand is named Pullip and is made in South Korea as a competitor to the much bigger Japanese companyVolks or SD (Superdollfie) The CEO of Volks  (A Japanese man taking on German features) launched the fad of ball-jointed dolls as virtual siblings about a decade ago. When assembling and buying a “daughter” from Volks, one can go pick her up in Kyoto and she will be handed over to you in a Christian-like ritual of baptism. Yes, these strange fashions are the spiritual and chaste version of the sex doll. Actually, one can see that many of those daughters live  out the fetish dreams of their owners but the adult here is supposed to shut up and play.

So here she she is … my mean little Hermina. Yes, she does have an esoteric personality and those piercing blue eyes–that would a swift Korean business ideal.

Love My Others

Eureka, Summer of Love, by Hybridre

Excerpt about love from my previous interview with Beijing costume player Francesa. Francesa’s photographs can be found at hybridre.deviantart.com/gallery

F=Francesca, or Hybridre, Cosplayer and Photographer

K=Katrien, Interviewer

C=Carol, Translator/Interviewer

C: Can I ask a question? Assuming that you and your lover are both cosplayers, when you cosplay two characters in love with each other, would you feel that you two are actually in love?

F: Actually I can’t completely split the real love from the love in fiction. Sometimes you feel that the character you are going to cosplay is so similar to yourself. And your partner is also cosplaying a character that is very similar to him. When you two are cosplaying, maybe you will feel that you are performing real life. It’s convincing.

K: If you and your partner can both accept the characters, it will be very powerful. For instance, when my current partner first met me, I was actually dressed up like the character Libidot (not  a cosplay character)  I was so worried that he would not like me as my real self, but it turned out to be ok. He just really liked me dressed up like that. If you two can accept each other’s characters and love each other, it can be very powerful.

F: I often wonder whether you like the person or you just like the character. It’s hard to say. The experience of playing roles is also influence by our relationship.

K: Maybe you start with cosplaying together, and then it moves into other things, and then everything. That’s life.

C: If your favorite character is cosplayed by someone that you don’t like, could you become very annoyed?

F: Of course. I can’t understand why you would cosplay that character if you are not so good. But we should at least respect them if they love the character too.


Extraordinary Dresscode 8-9-10 december, CityU and Videotage


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SYMPOSIUM

City University of Hong Kong 8-9-10 december

http://www.english.cityu.edu.hk/ExtraordinaryDressCode

The Extra / Ordinary Dress Code Symposium brings together scholars, writers and artists from diverse nationalities and disciplines to address the subject of fashion in its aesthetic, cultural, ritual, social, performative and historical dimensions.

(Photo: cross-dresser Maggie Leung and friend)

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EXHIBITION The Rest of Us – December 10 to December 24, 2009

Videotage, Ma Tau Kok Road, Kowloon.

Opening December 10 at 6 pm

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http://extraordinarydresscode.blogspot.com

The Rest of Us is a visual exhibition and an opening night cabaret presenting everyday fashions direct from the streets of Hong Kong, along with queer masquerades derived from Cosplay and its various sub-cultural tangents.  Photographs by Andrew Guthrie and Cosplay Costumes.

+++++FLASH CABARET++++++++++

Videotage, Ma Tau Kok Road, Kowloon.

Opening December 10 at 6 pm

INFORMATION

http://extraordinarydresscode.blogspot.com

Hosted by M/C extraordinaire–Diane To, this upbeat evening will show live performance art, video screenings, refreshments, and costuming games involving Hong Kong uniforms. Hong Kong artist Movana Chen will do a live performance session to demonstrate how she knits books into fabrics  in her newest project, Traveling Into My Bookshelf. Toronto-based artist/sexpert Louise Bak will dig and scratch underneath layers of doll costume to reveal a bodily essence. Hong Kong artist Him Lo will enact Leave Me + Build Me, a project in which he covers himself with an uncanny body suit to test how people gaze and react. Austrian artist Nino Jaeger will give  a performance lecture about gender and clothing through the sculpture Pipistrello: Dolce Vita, based on the lyrics of Mozart’s Le Nozze Di Figaro. Evening meal and refreshments will be provided together with new video art by Mia Chen and Robert Iolini. Free of Charge for those wearing any type of clothes. Extra Special Bonus For Dressing Harmoniously.

Urban Nomad Film Fest (Taipei) Goes Cos

My Japanese doll complex movie is playing in a film program about ‘Cosplay,’ (costume play or animation and J-rock fans who dress like their favorite characters) organized by the Urban Nomad Festival

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Let me confess right here that my movie would have been a flop without the support of Sean Hsiao, who introduced me to the Kigurumi cosplayers and the mask-maker King Fabulous; who helped me get the rights to a song by the Taiwanese band Won Fu; who provided priceless info about Taipei’s sex zones; and who spotted “hidden” online student gossip when times were rough.

And thanks to Mia Chen also for being a partner in crime in the cos zone. Check out Mia Chen’s movies as well & don’t forget that we have a big related event coming up in Hong Kong in December 09 entitled

Extraordinary Dresscode: Costuming and the second Skin in Asia

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Hong Kong Cosplayer Mizuki as ‘Marie Antoinette’ from

the Japanese shojo-manga ‘Rose of Versailles.’

Reunion with Friends, Maids, Dolls in Japan

I just returned from Tokyo and Kyoto where I took hundreds of photographs and shot about 5 hours of video.  You can access the photo galleries by clicking on the links in the text. First of all the trip was a reunion with my friends from Boston, Shujen Wang and Chris Fujiwara–and their super cute kids, Maya and Ken-Ken, whom I had not seen before (Maya was born right before I moved to Hong Kong and Ken-Ken was born in Tokyo. They are not brother and sister but like to hang out with each other).

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Despite the Japanese government warnings about the swine flu pandemic, we all decided to take a tiny risk and meet in Tokyo. Chris actually lives in Tokyo now and had recommended a great inn called Ryokan Sawanyao (near Ueno Station) where we stayed to catch up and explore the city. Chris, Shujen and myself also had to give a talk at the Society for Cinema and Media and were all asked to signs a variety of forms and wear surgical masks anywhere inside the university buildings.

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Then a few days into the trip, I met up with Anne Peirson-Smith and Andrew Guthrie (yes the one) and we visited one of the maids cafes near Akihabara. (even though the maids suck in Fujiwara’s opinion). Those cafes have a very strict “no photography” policy as they try to sell their own polaroid photographs to customers. The girls are dressed in very beautiful and elaborate uniforms–taking on submissive positions and whimpering with high-pitched voices–but they totally rule the scene and concoct many rules and games for their patrons. These maid cafes are totally non-sexual  and patrons are not allowed to even touch them, though they make great efforts to chat and stimulate their clients by serving food and playing games. The central concept of experiencing this kind of fantasy zone would be expressed by the Japanese word ‘moe’ –which is a word derived from the ‘otaku’ culture (geek or nerd culture) and means that one is passionately and happily-deeply involved in activities or hobbies.

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One Sunday afternoon we visited the district of Harajuku whare several Cosplayers and fans of Visual Kei had gathered to pay tribute to one of the rock bands and to show off their fantastic alter egos and costumes. We were lucky because it was the birthday of a famous rock star (darn…I forgot his name) and hordes of Cosplayers and rockstar impersonators showed up on the Harajuku bridge. (and here are the photos by Andrew Guthrie)

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Then Anne and myself took the bullet train to Kyoto and headed towards the  Superdollfie museum, owned by the company Volks, where we managed to interview two of the curators and took lots of photographs of the famous (and super expensive) ball-jointed dolls and the doll owners. When entering the museum, visitors are greeted by a Madonna statue carrying a doll and surrounded by angels. According  to the curators, the Madonna with child is not a Christian symbol. She is to be seen as a universally benign source of love and power to all people who wish to have a child in the guise of a Superdollfie doll.  (He he… maybe my very last option) . The angels who surround the Madonna are gender-neutral  beings and will later turn into males or females. The doll museum also performs ceremonies in front of the Madonna, in which customers gather and formally receive their brand-new dolls. The dolls can be ordered online or inside the Kyoto “laboratory” store and they are carefully assembles and customized according to a “full choice system.”  There are a variety of head molds, limbs, hands, feet, eyeballs and hairstyles for people to choose from so that each customer can create (and endlessly recreate) a perfect doll as “fantasy offspring.”

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We ended our  visit in the museum garden, where we unpacked our Korean ball-jointed dolls Zaphy and Delphine, , made by the rival company Pullip. We shot a few cosy scenes celebrating the love between Zaphy (male) and Delphine (female). We ended out trip to Kyoto with a visit to the Inari Fox Shrine, which is a must-see for every Japan traveler, normal or otaku alike. We took a few hours climbing the hill and saw hundreds of historical fox statues and wandered through thousands of orange poles forming a unique gate. Moe!

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