Creative Junkie

In my third installment from my travels in Japan last year, I visit the district of Akihabara: birthplace of the unique recipe that is Japanese Pop music - home to the aesthetically formed and manufactured forty-eight piece AKB48 Pop idol band - and land of the technologically advanced. You can and will find anything your digital heart desires.
It is not called Electric Town (Denki Gai) for nothing. Down the light-fantastic boulevard of Chuo-dori you are welcomed by loud music, promotional noise, anime-ted visuals and a series of adopted, broken English words paired together with guerilla finesse onto storefronts such as 'Teen Idle', a firm favourite of mine and a fine case of Engrish phonetics at its poetic best.
Design + Food = Taiyaki
Akihabara was also the site of my first introduction - and thereafter-addiction - to Taiyaki, a red bean cake made into the shape of a sea bream that makes for the ideal accompaniment when exploring the area.

The side streets off Chuo-dori are a warren of repair shops, video game stalls and the most curious of all curiosities, the Maid Café. A fantasy world of subservience, banana splits and omelette rice, all trimmed in frills and glitter. Waitresses dressed in maid costumes act out the role of master (or mistress - Butler Cafés also exist) and servant in a bizarre innocence that has seen its popularity grow into an international franchise. Remember, very little specifically caters for foreign tourism in Japan and Maid Café's are no different. Expect the unexpected. A French maid costume does not mean fluent French, or English for that matter, but this is an experience not to be missed and is a slice of observing the creative imagination and fanatic culture of everyday Japan. 
It is only natural therefore that the area's high-octane creative soul, if somewhat manufactured, should also be home to one of Japan's most exciting art centres. Launched in 2010, 3331 Arts Chiyoda occupies the renovated Rensei Junior High School to form a hybrid multi-level space for exhibitions and independent galleries and studios. With its mission to break down the barriers of inaccessibility, commonly found with art institutions, 3331 is an art centre after my own heart . The space is open plan and welcomes a wide audience to use the converted schoolyard-now-public park; to attend workshops and events around art education in the old sports hall and view the works of both native and international practitioners at the artist-in-residence programme throughout the year.
The focus on community is represented in the centre’s name – ‘3331’ originates from the traditional Edo custom handclap, Edo Ippon Jime, with a series of three hand claps three times, ending in a single clap, and performed when one wants to share emotions of happiness and encouragement. 

 Seiko Iwasaki at Akibatamabi 21
3331 has successfully made a name for itself on Japan's art scene and is now a creative hub linking the country's various regions to a wider network in Asia with the intentions of presenting art in a new light. The idea of 'hub' is evident as one roams the floors and hallways with the old school’s drinking fountains still intact. The vibe is young and conscious of the mission in which its housed - galleries, publishers and designers all share facilities and networks, promoting contemporary art with an awareness of non-traditional art viewers. From the billboard installation that decorates the building’s façade to the open plan studios which visitors can look through and observe artists at work, 3331 may no longer be a working school, however it continues to provide an education and platform for the new direction art should be packaged and presented in the twenty-first century.
Visit 3331 Arts Chiyoda for more information about their exhibition and events programme as well as details on their tribute to those affected by the Tohoku earthquake a year on with Making as Living, the Great East Japan Earthquake Regeneration Support and Action Project. 

3331 Arts Chiyoda
6-11-14 Sotokanda
Chiyoda-Ku Tokyo



It smelt like teen spirit yesterday night at the 2012 BRIT Awards in London. Pop art legend Sir Peter Blake worked his unique formula of music-inspired-art with his trademark Sixties aesthetic that is now synonymous with the zenith of British music of the era - he redesigned this year's award statue with a splash of Britannic red, white and blue as well as granting the set designers use of his signature icons of hearts, targets, stars and rainbows. Adding to this nostalgia was most notably the comeback of Outstanding Contribution to Music winners Blur who rocked out to a decidedly #highlife set.
All the Girls & Boys wishing it was the Nineties all over again...



Lovers & Haters

Sweet roses, summer rain and purple shades of evening were lost in translation somewhere down the line in the commercial-overload that is now Valentine's Day, but rest assured this is a zero-percent-cocoa-content-and-flammable-animal-toy free zone. For the lovers and haters of 14th February I give you the gift of song - here's British Pop Band Unit 4 + 2's 1965 hit Concrete and Clay to get you tapping and swinging to the beat. Heartbeats optional. XOXO


New Look

New week, new look. I'm currently busy working on setting up a new platform for all my practices and the first to get a fresh new logo is my beloved blog. Many of you will remember my post last August that launched the #highlife and #lowlife hashtags to encompass my own personal interests of art, culture and lifestyle that are presented through my online activity. 
Between The Lines - at the private opening of Michael Craig-Martin's 
graphic Pop sensibility on the New Art Centre estate, Salisbury

Many people ask me what it all means and I always reply that it can mean whatever you want it to mean - what I find interesting are the boundaries of high brow and low culture that are increasingly crossing over in the creative realm and I hope the hashtags will be used beyond their face value assumptions and stereotype of high and low culture. From art and design to lifestyle and taste, I hope the use of the hashtags on my own posts as well as my follower's social media activity will produce a record of views attributed to creative collaboration from around the world and the balancing act between exclusivity and the wealth of association that comes with it with popular consumer demand fuelled by profitable aspiration.
What's French for "Edgy"? - banlieue graffiti artist Kongo brings street style to 
French luxury house Hermès AW11 carré collection

I'm very interested in this concept of balance and the evolving interpretation of collaboration and expression and I intend to document high- and low- perception and the value of taste within twenty-first century society. I have interpreted this idea into my new blog logo as well as creating a couple of seesaw designs (below) that express this investigation, which I hope you will enjoy...
Get in touch and tell me what you think - you know the score, join me @JMVELARDI for the #highlife and #lowlife of the everyday...


... it's OK to be going nowhere. 
As long as you have your suite of bespoke luggage, it's all you will need. 
The Darjeeling Limited, 2007



It has been a while since my last post and with the weight of guilt growing with every letter typed for my other projects I'm currently working on, I decided: it's Friday, the weekend is nearly here and I need distraction. So since there's nothing better than music and visuals to forget about work and the winter freeze that is engulfing the UK right now, I thought I'd share M.I.A.'s new music video that has been released today. Bad Girls, a track first featured on her 2010 Vicki Leekx mixtape, has all the M.I.A. trademarks, only this time around the scene is hot Middle East swagger with a booty of Nineties' references, all given the midas touch. Directed by Romain Gavras, desert grit-meets-bling along the oil pipeline that acts as bleachers onto the spectacle of old school BMW E36s and Alfa 156-boy racers, only it's not boys behind the wheel, but burqa-clad women. The opposite sex has played no small role in the Arab Spring across the Arab states - mounting pressures on Saudi Arabia, so far saved from uprising through internal repression, unfortunately have done little to overturn the driving ban for women and whether this a politically-charged message, "Live fast, die young / Bad girls do it well" or satirical stereotype in song, "My chain hits my chest / When I'm banging on the dashboard", M.I.A. is on the money turning the cars, chicks and guns formula upside down. I'll leave you to make up your mind about the burqa back up dancers...

Have a great weekend everyone!