Friday, November 11, 2005


I checked out the Leonardo da Vinci ("The Codex Leicester") exhibit at Roppongi Hills the other day. I hate to point out the obvious, but he is one amazing guy. Among other things, he had drawn up detailed blueprints for complicated machinery utilizing hydroelectric power 300 years before the Industrial Revolution! He knew the Earth is round!! HOW DID HE KNOW THIS?!?

In stark contrast to da Vinci's genius, whoever designed the actual exhibit at the
Mori Arts Center didn't really know what s/he was doing. I don't want to b*tch too much about it, but I think Leonardo da Vinci deserves a decent exhibition space.

First of all, the venue is on the 52nd floor. To get there, you line up for at least 15 minutes to buy a 1,500JPY ticket, and then you're herded to the elevator hall, along with 35 other confused, over-excited, stampeding people. So you're crammed into this cell like a can of sardines, and then they shoot you up to the top floor. By the time you reach the front entrance of the exhibition area, you're so nauseated that all you want to do is lie down and breathe into a paper bag.

The exhibit consists of numerous large-ish, poorly-lit rooms, with pre-fab walls that act as dividers/hanging space/screens. Of course, all of these rooms are PACKED. It always cracks me up when people talk about how respectful the Japanese are. That only applies if you know who they are. Otherwise, under the cloak of anonymity, they turn into rabid little quarterbacks and I promise you've never encountered such aggression. But I digress.

Before you get to see the pages from the Codex Leicester (would it not be less awkward to call it the Leicester Codex? Well, what do I know.), there are some nifty videoclips about Leonardo da Vinci's life and works, all of which are shown both on a small touch-screen, as well as being projected on the wall. A bunch of us would be watching the big projection, and some poor person would come by and touch the small screen, re-booting the entire system and re-playing the footage from the beginning. We all turned around and glared, although half of us had been through the same experience moments before. What did I say? Stupid design. Anyway, I can't say I learned too much from the videoclips as nobody there actually succeeded in seeing one from start to finish.

I couldn't really see the pages from the Codex Leicester, because every time I approached the plexiglass case the lights would dim. I'm not being paranoid; it's true.
On the way out, I thought I would check out the "Tokyo City View", a popular feature of the Mori Arts Center, which was located on the same floor. As I walked toward the large window, a uniformed woman grabbed me and told me to pay an additional 500JPY for the privilege of looking outside. At that point, I decided it was time for me to leave. After a lengthy detour through no fewer than 3 gift shops and many more winding pathways, I finally made it to the elevator. The 50-story fall that followed was pretty uncomfortable.

Roppongi Hills is now covered in pretty blue fairy-lights, especially for the Christmas season; it had a marginally soothing effect after my unexpectedly stressful exhibition experience.


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