Andrew’s world in Japan

Andrew Artist & researcher based in KL since 2009, passionately exploring the creative process & connecting with other creative people.


Cigarette Smoke Joins The Pollen Assualt

Pointing Out The Obvious

It’s not clearly documented in our human historical archives exactly when did we identify ‘the sign.’ Regardless, today they are ubiquitous. In the urban environment with so many things going on, signs of various shapes, sizes and messages dominate the visual landscape. When you meet people they naturally ask for signs of ‘how did you end up here?’ or ‘how did you fi nd this place?’ As an avid traveler and explorer of back and side streets I try to be open to unspoken signs like certain worn areas of grass or holes in fences. Whole areas of study such as semiotics, epistemology, logic and language have evolved on the premise of better understanding communication, inherently signs. Some of us love to see signs, it reminds us of the comfort and security of other people, while others dread them as the scourge of urban madness. Highway traffi c signs, where to eat, what to buy, caution from some danger. Today, we recognize these as a necessary element of a city, very often even to the point that people judge a city based on it’s sign quality. For example, would you think the same of Hollywood if that huge sign wasn’t there? Well, I’ve drug my feet long enough in the mud, and we are here to talk about Japan. The photo reference for this issue is defi nitely a sign, yet one that takes a bigger step toward something interesting then the average need to read quickly roadside signage. Walking the streets digging into the nooks and crannies of places, I am usually lost without some reference point like street name signs. If you haven’t already noticed the photo for this article, you are probably thinking “is the word ‘sign’ going to be in every sentence.” I certainly hope not. I suppose the idea is a comparison between explicit and implicit. Between the obvious and the not so obvious. In a rather short period of time [ a few thousand years seems like a drop in the bucket to me ] we’ve created complicated mazes of space that carry baggage with them of various rules that continue to go against natural human curiosity to explore. In the wild, nature is often set to kick our legs from under us and tell us to back off. In the city, it is often less organic and natural. Often times, signs are there to help those who are unfamiliar with the territory. Travelers are those others. Those living in a city normally don’t have time nor interest to interact with these interlopers on their turf. So, our societies have created signs to direct people toward the most obvious questions. If you spend some time in Kuala Lumpur, you may often hear the complaint that highway signs are worthless if you can even see them. Maybe it’s depends on a spaces level of complication. That is to say, a city like Tokyo or Osaka has a lot of signs. It is a space defi ning the meaning of urban environments, jam packed with people, transport systems, environments. As I wander around a place like Osaka in this instance, seeking inspiration, unique angles, eye catching elements, essentially various kinds of signs; to encounter a nuanced graphic poster carrying a multilayered set of messages that not only reinforce cultural norms of the people, but help educate on scientifi c knowledge of health and wellness I am struck by the creativity that can be employed when the effort is there. Sometimes I wish I could look up at the sky, or feel the way the wind blows and know what the weather will be. Maybe some awesome designer will create a nice poster that will be placed outdoors explaining the ways to tell the weather. I’ll take a picture of it, and think fondly of the moment I paused to notice that sign.