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Japan's Maverick Geeks

East London's Maverik Showroom showcases the weird and wonderful creations of Japan's thriving geek art scene

Travelling from the Far East to the east of London, a collection of artworks from Japan’s self-confessed "geek movement" takes up residence this week at Maverik Showroom. Counterpoising the work of three generations of contemporary Japanese artists, the Otaku The 3rd
In contrast, the work of the older artisan Otaku shows a tentative severing of ties with traditional Japanese forms; the heritage of woodblock imagery forcing its way into reinterpreted Manga-inspired prints, while architecturally structured photographs substitute ancient dojos with underground concrete tunnels and minimalist housing blocks. With the exhibition launching today at London’s Maverik Showroom in Shoreditch, Dazed Digital spoke to two of the artists showing their work, Takao Aoki and Shinnosuke, to find out more.

Dazed Digital: Tell us a bit about your work and the main themes you address.
Takao Aoki: The main theme of my work is the idea of finding things that usually you don’t see while looking and responding to that by creating work that can only be expressed in photographic form. I think there needs to be more investigation into new forms of expression through a deeper understanding of Japanese identity and what can be created out of that.
Shinnousuke: My work is kind of playful and based on a mixture of old Japanese folk tales and neo-futuristic robots.

Dazed Digital: How would you say the work of the artisan Otaku differs from the subcult Otaku?
Shinnosuke: The first generation of art Otaku still have a close relationship with galleries and are more dependent on the recognition bestowed by major art critics. Without links into that network they are not considered a successful artist it seems. Also there are times when they must make work for a museum or famous gallery or put all their efforts into just one piece. Subcult Otaku are different from the artisan Otaku in that they have had regular access to the internet. We can individually upload our work and get immediate feedback and critique from peers.
Takao Aoki: I definitely agree that new ways of inviting feedback have emerged among the generation who grew up with the web. It’s allowed for a completely different set of tools to be created that encourage different ways of generating interest and exposure and lead to a range collaborations that wouldn’t have been possible before.

Dazed Digital: Do you feel like the space you and the other Otaku artists inhabit is under attack from more mainstream artists and institutions? Are they stealing your style?
Shinnosuke: The main difference between mainstream Japanese artists and subculture is that we are not creating art for art’s sake. Increasingly it feels like the mainstream adopts the forms created within the subculture and expresses them in a more immediately recognisable art form - like with Takashi Murakami.  Ultimately though I think that subculture art, along with the people working at the edges of the main artistic trends,  is still the same as it was. I don’t think we feel like our space is being encroached upon because we’re constantly redefining and mutating, so there’s always going to be a cat and mouse game going on.

Otaku the 3rd runs from Tuesday 13th April – Sunday 18th April at Maverik Showroom.
68-72 Redchurch Street, London, E2 7DP, 020 7739 6002