In Japan, the term Junior Idol can describe young girls and boys in mainstream entertainment like BabyMetal, AKB48 and Momoiro Clover Z. Many of these performers are also produced in gravure, a genre of modeling descended from western pin-up photography. Though junior idol gravure does not feature nudity, producers often blur the line between art or fashion and pornography, inciting arrests and legislative reforms, international criticism and shaming.
Idol media is saccharine-apocalyptic, engineered to inspire a tear of loving pain for the desperate desires and hopes one faces in the matrix of competition and labor. This tear is『moe』which means “cute” in japanese. It began as a typo on the japanese messageboards. Users wrote 燃える (moeru: to burn, to get fired up) when they meant 萌える (moeru: to sprout, to burst into bud). Moe means pure sex-love and mimetic desire between a human and an “image character” (such as an idol or drawn character). In love-capitalist society, moe compels the consumption of sexual-subject-simulacra. Moe characters as pseudo-sexual-subjects are defined by their “transcendent emptiness,” and provide outlets for “affective identification” (Galbraith).
Compared with the classical myth of human intersubjective love, idol-moe is the myth of desire defined by its insatiability. It always emerges along with, and because of, the conditions of its own overcoming. In this sense, junior idols fit Zizek’s definition for a postmodern commodity.
Idols are beautiful packages of desire, but really only a semblance of desire, the way a Japanese candy perfectly resembles the taste of a custard tart or a concord grape. To distill this semblance and produce an ideal media image, the media syndicates don’t simply employ them to perform on camera, but control many aspects of their “private” lives. They are contractually forbidden romantic partners, political opinions, or any public action that might compromise their “kawaii innocence”. In this way the idol becomes a “model citizen as redefined by consumer society” (Tiqqun).
“Culture is less and less a specific sphere exempt from the market and more and more its central component. What this short-circuit between market and culture entails is the disappearance of the old modernist avant-garde logic of provocation, of shocking the establishment. Today, more and more, the cultural economic apparatus itself, in order to reproduce itself, has not only to tolerate but to directly incite stronger and stronger shocking effects and products… in the domain of sexuality, perversion is no longer subversive: the shocking excesses [are] part of the system itself.” (Zizek)
If perversion is no longer subversive, then moralism is no longer reactionary. This is why junior idol’s status as not-pornography is beside the point. In our neurotic patriarchy, just as sexual transgressions push barriers of visibility, so do sexual euphemisms continue to refigure the transgressive as the normal. To euphemise is to incur a debt, for which the original obscenity is the repayment. Sloterdijk says: “What has hitherto been called morality is the universalism of vengeance.” (4) All this explains how junior idols can be objects both of national pride and moral outrage. The imagified Young-Girl, alternately comforting and alarming, is an ideological tool we all use to pass blame and forgive capitalism.
We are writing new music to accompany junior idol videos. The music should activate these images with new context, to deconstruct their original seductive and provocative use-value. It should also praise idols and the Real girls they come from, using the spiritual power of song to cathect the void between ourselves and that impossible other. This is our current project.
The present mixtape is its negative: a survey of the original soundtracks we are redacting. By “redacting,” we are literally removing the old soundtracks from the videos and replacing it with our new music, to transform the frame. Transforming means that we sometimes imitate the original soundtrack, sometimes parody, transgress or transcend it. That is part of our broader research. The mixtape is a collection of the original soundtracks.
Junior Idol gravure dvds are usually sold in back-alley AV shops in Akihabara. We get them from online englishlanguage fan communities like Kawaii15 and Akiba-Online, and Japanese P2P network Perfect Dark. We are fascinated by the theater of appropriation and imitation these songs present: strange J-pop, R&B collaged from libraries of sampled vocal fills, 80’s butt-rock with applause, chopin in the shower. Interestingly, traditional asian music is rare. We hope you will join us with this complicated document, listen and meditate on the bizarre and beautiful expressions of globalization.
Dante Fuumo et al. are a collaborative research-based art collective based in Chicago. You can find them on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/dantefuumo.
1 Galbraith, Patrick, and Karlin, Jason. Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture. Tokyo: University of Tokyo, Japan, 2012.
2 Tiqqun. Preliminary Materials For a Theory of the the Young-Girl. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2012.
3 Zizek, Slavoj. “The Superego And The Act: A Lecture By Slavoj Zizek.” The European Graduate School, August 1999. http://www.egs.edu/faculty/slavoj-zizek/articles/the-superego-and-the-act/
4 Sloterdijk, Peter. Nietzsche Apostle. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e), 2013.
01 Kato Mizuki, “J-Moon” 10 yrs old (heart cross agency)
02 Mizuke Rin
04 (IV) Rin Koike, “phosphorus 13-year-old Aiimoto”
05 GOD-044 Saki
06 Sum Lori junior high school students: Ito Marina 13-year-old me sun
07 GOD-044 Saki
10 Sum Lori junior high school students: Ito Marina 13-year-old me sun
11 [PIST-038] Kimijima Ako – limit of Maiden ~ strawberry hip ~
12 Anna Oonishi
13 [PIST-038] Kimijima Ako – limit of Maiden ~ strawberry hip ~
15 [IV] [U-15] [LALS-01_1] L @ VE SCHOOL Jr Nomura Sayuki 14 ℃ of three semester – main –
17 [PIST-038] Kimijima Ako – limit of Maiden ~ strawberry hip ~
18 [PIST-038] Kimijima Ako: limit of Maiden ~ strawberry hip ~
19 Yukari Nakai, Kira Nanami: KU-009
20 Yukari Nakai, Kira Nanami: KU-009
21 Sum Lori elementary school: Erika 9-year-old ID☆L FARM