Art Department

Back to Contents of Issue: June 2001

Graphic designer Hajime Tachibana has chosen a strange new canvas for his latest works: the cellphone screen.

by Andrew Pothecary

Click here to see images.

WHEN THE NET TOOK OFF, people immediately started creating art adapted to this new medium -- a medium that was based on low-res images and short attention spans but that had new possibilities, including immediacy, animation, and a large audience.

But what about keitai? Shorter attention spans, lower resolution images, minimal animation and, this time, even less text option. Why even bother?

But one musician and graphic designer, Hajime Tachibana, has given it a go. On his i-mode site The End (, he and selected collaborators make pictures that are essentially screen images to display when the phone is idle; they also write essays of a few hundred characters and compose alternatives to the usual chakumelo. Much of this you could, of course, do yourself -- and if you are no artist, the low-res screens may even disguise the lack of quality.

Tachibana changes the offerings regularly (indeed, a static i-mode site would lose the audience more quickly than a static Web site), and you can choose among the featured guests and artworks. A selection from the book "Fucked Up and Photocopied," for example, which is about slapdash punk flyer art, lends itself to further deterioration in repro quality. Tadanori Yokoo (see "King of Art," page 78, December 2000), whose work is known for its multiplexity, contributes images simple enough (almost) for even black-and-white screens. The weakest point on The End's site may be the tunes. A musician friend was not impressed with the site's offerings when I showed him. Tunes are no easier to compose on keitai than anywhere -- especially so, perhaps, for my non-harmonic phone.

Whether you want to pay ¥300 a month for the entertainment is up to you. It is a way to while away those moments waiting for a train -- or, as I often see in Japan, when you are bored talking with your partner in a restaurant. What's most interesting is simply that Tachibana is trying it out. And, as he told the Japan Times, he can get 10,000 hits a day -- 10,000 visits a month would make a hit in gallery terms. So, who's to judge whether a 120 x 120--dot image really rates as art?

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