Artist Talk - Jun Tsunoda

We asked Jun Tsunoda, the godfather of <loosejoints>, about the potential of T-shirts as a platform for art and culture, and how to create a community where cool is always born.

Shun Sato (head of loosejoints / hereinafter referred to as " LJ "): I didn't think I would be able to ask Mr. Tsunoda, who quit his career as a designer a long time ago to concentrate on his work as a writer, to design a T-shirt, so I decided to join 21SS. I am honored to have you participate. Mr. Tsunoda, when I think of T-shirts, I have a strong impression of <Poetry of Sex>.

Jun Tsunoda (hereafter, JT ): I started doing poetry in 1997 when Chiba (Shinji (deceased), representative of <Poetry of Sex>) called out to me. At that time, I was mainly focused on design, but basically I refused T-shirts. Until then, I had a lot of music work, so I had a strong sense that band T-shirts and T-shirts were novelties. It's kind of like a bonus job as a designer.
Before Chiba asked me for advice, I happened to meet Richard Prince when I was designing an art book, and he told me, "You should become an artist. Start with T-shirts." When I asked him why he chose a T-shirt, he told me that the greatest American invention of the 20th century was jeans and a T-shirt. Jeans were originally canvas, so-called tent fabric and work clothes, but Levi's changed them into fashion and spread them around the world. T-shirts have become fashion, but they also have the potential to become art. No one had done it yet, so Tsunoda was suggested to give it a try.

richard prince, poetry of sex, art

JT : Immediately after that exchange, Chiba asked me, "I'd like to create a brand like <JONES> in London that I can bring to select shops overseas. Would you be willing to work with me?" <Poetry of Sex> started with the idea of ​​letting me do whatever I wanted.
After talking with Richard, I kept thinking about how I could turn T-shirts into art, so I decided to make Poetry a T-shirt brand. I decided to make a one-of-a-kind printed T-shirt, so I took Gokita (Mr. Tomoo), my assistant Ishiguro (Mr. Keita), and everyone else to the factory and stayed up all night to finish it (laughs). It's closer to the concept of silkscreen.

I was thinking about the difference between art and design when I was making it. In short, the design is a mass-produced product as a material property. But there is only one piece of art. But from a brand point of view, you can't eat just one item, so if you start by allowing up to 50 copies of one hand-printed product, overseas people will react relatively quickly, such as Mark Borthwick and others. Jack Pearson and (Wolfgang) Tillmans also wanted to do it, and the brand was formed.

By that time, I was starting to think I was done with T-shirts, so I decided to quit poetry. However, Chiba decided that he wanted to do something again, so I created a brand called <treesaresospecial> when I was finally fading out. Together with Gokita, we made the logo again.

LJ : Was that also the time when Mr. Tsunoda was transitioning from design to artist activities?

JT : Yes, it's a transitional period. By that time, I had reached a point where I could design whatever I wanted, but when I realized that my mind wasn't designed for designers, I started thinking that I should do whatever I wanted. Just because a blank canvas doesn't say anything doesn't mean I hate design.

LJ : T-shirts were also made with an awareness of art, and I think there was a process in which it became a culture and then a product. is it?

JT : Yes. Around 2000, more and more artists started to say they wanted to participate, and it started to function as a kind of media. I knew that T-shirts could be a medium for creating culture, so I wondered if that function would spread to the Internet in the future. I went to the canvas, something specializing in graphics.

LJ : The role of T-shirts is changing more and more. Since I was originally an editor, I still see T-shirts as an element of output, but I certainly have the impression that they have faded compared to when I was writing poetry. I think that what Mr. Richard said to Mr. Tsunoda, "T-shirts can be art," is true.

JT : I think it's a trend of the times, but back when it was a novelty, it was no different than a tourist souvenir. From there, it became art, media, and branding. Something with the NIKE logo on it, or something like that, it became a kind of branding that everyone wanted, and the T-shirt itself became something like a fashion brand. I think I'm on top of that trend now.
The <loosejoints> that Shun and others are doing now still has elements from when they were doing poetry, and the nuances are different from fashion brands. It looks like they are trying to find a middle ground between branding and art, and of course the era is different from the time of poetry, but I wonder what will happen in the future.

LJ : Thank you. We were in the culture magazine at the same time, and since we have been through poetry directly, it will continue to be one of our guiding principles.

JT : At the time, I was talking a lot with Gokita and others, but instead of showing it to older people, let's show it to younger people. We often talked about how it would definitely be more interesting to show it to younger people than to show it to someone who would die before us.

LJ : Sarah from <colette> in Paris came to buy the poetry T-shirt we were making while discussing such things, right?

JT : Yes. You knew Colette could do it, and Poetry had started a little while ago. As I said earlier, Chiba wanted to sell it to a store like that in Europe, so I suggested that instead of sending T-shirts, I should send him a poster, and Sara saw it and bought it. I came to.

client work, activism, social experiment

LJ : Come to think of it, when Mr. Tsunoda was working in advertising, he said that he wouldn't work with clients who didn't understand him when he showed them the direction he thought was good or the direction he wanted to go. Tell them what you want to do first, and then if you don't mind, I'll do it. When I started loose joints, I learned a lot from the idea that it would be okay for us to choose the target first. Because I don't want to wholesale to shops that are not good at handling the works of my favorite artists.

JT : I agree with that idea. Designers are inevitably passive, so although it's an automatic job of receiving work from clients, I thought I should make it a little more active.
At that time, the Internet was about to become commonplace, so I felt that if we didn't put out something core, no one would give us work. Or, I thought that design would be something that could only be done with big capital. It's like grabbing a large company client and listening to what they have to say to create something that is easy to understand for the masses.

With the opposite idea, it was precisely because Poetry was such a small brand that no one knew about it that human power was called into question, and that is why we were able to do something. At the time, I was also working on the graphics for <COMME des GARCONS>, but even if we made a T-shirt for Garçon, it wouldn't be a good evaluation for us, and it would end with "Garcon, you're cool." The reason I chose the silly name Poetry of Sex was because I wanted to compete on the inside. At the time, poetry was the most talked about T-shirt, but I think I wanted to prove my strength to my friends like Gokita.
I think it's an artist's way of thinking, but it's more important to see how far I can go than the client's name value.

LJ : It's very interesting to listen to, because it's like a grand social experiment in which your thoughts as an artist and your advertising perspective as an active art director are mixed.

JT : Maybe that's what you were doing after all. The T-shirt was just an experiment, so I decided to do it without getting paid. I don't like the responsibility of having to sell it if I get it. I'll make a minimum of works that will sell, so I'll let you do whatever you want. I thought that if poetry was accepted overseas and in the art world, it would be proof that software was accepted.

LJ : I still do a lot of client work myself, so when I talked to Mr. Tsunoda about a lot of things I thought about before, he told me how good it was to have a community like Loose Joints where you can do whatever you want. We are now realizing the meaning of it.

JT : We should be looking not only at quantity but also at quality, but when it comes to big companies, only quantity will take on a life of its own. First of all, if you try to pursue the quality that you are satisfied with, you often cannot do what you want in the client's contract work, and even the same client will change the way you do it depending on the stance. As a result, I think it will lead to a different form of branding.

Indie Magazine, Share, Community

LJ : Those words are very encouraging. By the way, how many years has it been since you narrowed down your career to writing?

JT : It's been 17 years since the design office closed in 2004.

LJ : You moved to Yamanashi before that, right?
JT : The first time I moved was in '88, and I moved back to Tokyo in '92. I think I was 32. For the next 10 years or so, the focus was on advertising. I was making advertisements for Parco and Seibu through the introduction of photographer Yoshihiko Ueda, but I started to think that I wanted to do it more freely. In retrospect, even though I was the client who gave me the most freedom, I thought that if it was a bigger job, I would be able to do it freely. When I actually start working for Toyota or Sony in two or three years, I'll be like, 'This is too noisy' (laughs).

So, I decided to change the weight of my work a little, and worked as an AD for an indie magazine called "barfout!" It was just around the time that there was a photo boom in the world. I asked them to take a picture with "barfout!".
This was a lot of fun, so while I was doing poetry, I worked as AD for an architectural magazine called "HOME" and sought out what I wanted to do more. Since around 2004, I've been focusing on my activities as a writer, and I feel like I'm still here.

LJ : The first time I met Mr. Tsunoda was around the time I left magazines. I've always thought that Tsunoda-san's place attracts Gokita-kun and other artists, as well as all sorts of other people. I have also met with various writers, but it was a very strange feeling. I didn't have the image of artists interacting with each other.

JT : I'm going to show and share all my experience and technical things first, so maybe people of my age or younger will gather. If you're a painter, I'll tell you right away what kind of art materials are good. It's probably normal to hide it, but there's something about me that's a little weird, and if I share my skills and someone comes out of it, I want to learn from him.

LJ : (Sakaguchi) You have that kind of relationship with Kyohei-kun, too.

JT : It's always been that way. Because I've been teaching you everything since the time of abstraction. Recently, things like Kyohei's landscape pastels have gotten crazy, but to the extent that I even started asking questions about pastels, I've already become more knowledgeable about pastels than I am (laughs). In that way, if I tell people what I know, and if someone comes out who can deepen it further and do it with a different approach, it will be fed back to my work.
Of course, we share the books we are reading, the music, and the knowledge we have. That's what makes it interesting.

LJ : When we went to New York to see Gokita-kun's exhibition together, when we went to an art museum this work was good, and if we went to a bookstore and didn't have it, why don't you buy it? He casually teaches me, and I'm always really learning.

JT : Of course, that's just my own opinion, so I can't say that everything is correct, but I hope that people around me will become specialists. Ultimately, you're doing it for yourself rather than for other people. Human beings are interrelated, so if we open up, they will tell us.

LJ : Tsunoda-san, I had a lot of seniors like that around me, so I thought it was normal, but it seems that's not the case at all.

JT : People say that a lot (laughs).

LJ : Recently, the mukkuri (an Ainu mouth harp instrument) has begun to spread like wildfire. (Photographer) Tatsuki (Masaru) and (AD Turtleheads) Higuchi (Yuma)-kun and others formed a solo solo unit before I knew it, and I became the master of Ego (Rappin) Yocchan's Mukkuri. I thought I was doing it again.

JT : The other day, there was a mouth harp competition, and the members of solo solo solo also participated solo, but the scoring system suddenly changed during the judging, and in the end, Yuma won (laughs). (Artist) Mr. (Michi) Nara seems to have been a regular customer at the venue, and he happened to be a customer and said, "You're still doing interesting things. What are you doing with your funny friends?" I was laughing out loud. There were 6 of us, but apart from the 3 solo solo soloers, 2 of them were Mongolians, and before I knew it, the audience was full of acquaintances (laughs).

artist, gallery, yamanashi

LJ : You're still free and carefree (laughs). Mr. Tsunoda and the gallery have a completely opposite image, but what do you think about the gallery system?

JT : Historically speaking, the gallery system came out with the industrial revolution. Until then, it was like a court painter or a waka painter for the Tokugawa Shogunate, and the gallery was created in France during the industrial revolution in an attempt to create a new system, and it continues to this day. Thanks to that, the world has finally become a place where freelance painters can become a profession.
I think there are various opinions, but if you belong to the gallery completely, there is a possibility that the parts you can control freely will decrease, so if you are on an equal footing, I would like to participate once in a while. I think it's good

LJ : By the way, Tsunoda-san, you moved to Yamanashi again, right?

JT : Yes, this is the third time (laughs). At first, (Higuchi) Yuma was looking for a house in Yamanashi, and we decided to go see it together, and I decided to live there.
It's been raining a lot lately, but it's been fun redecorating my house and studio. I'm making cobblestones for my house now. I've rented an atelier nearby and renovated it, and I've been working on a field with Yuma and others who have moved nearby, so I don't do much painting.

LJ : It seems that Mr. Tsunoda's paintings are not influenced by the environment.

JT : Oh yeah, I don't seem to feel that kind of change in the environment when I'm painting, but it's fun because my life changes completely. I've lived in Yamanashi many times before, but this time I'm in the mountains the most, so I feel like the feeling is really different.

LJ : I'm looking forward to visiting your home or studio once things settle down. My style suddenly changed (laughs).

JT : Yeah, come hang out with us.

Published: almanacs Vol.01 (2022SS)


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