Monday, March 13, 2000:
Dutch performance artist Iepe B. T. Rubingh is being detained by Tokyo police after his Shibuya performance, "I'm very
sorry, said the Joker to the Shogun, but this is funny isn't it?"
Apparently the boys in Hanae Mori blue didn't think so. Rubingh was transfered from the Hachiko koban
to the main Shibuya police station shortly after the
performance at around 9:30pm Saturday Mar 11. The piece (and subsequent detainment) mirror a Berlin action
the artist did last fall.
In Tokyo, Rubinch stood atop a pedestal in a yellow and black "joker" suit, waving signal flags
in the center of the main Shibuya
Hachiko square intersection. The busy crossing, which was at its peak with the trendy traffic
that swarms the area on weekends,
had been quickly cordoned by persons unknown in a complete tangle of red and white emergency tape moments before Rubinch began.
The performance, which brought a joyous, chanting and dancing crowd to the center of the intersection, lasted about ten minutes.
Local recording artist and comedian Cloudy B. Bongwater, who was in the crowd and was also picked up by police during
the performance, has been released.
A group of local students who mounted what appeared to be a protest performance (in their underwear) at the same intersection
some thirty minutes after Rubingh was taken away, apologized profusely afterward and were sternly instructed to
disperse by police.
UPDATE: As of Sunday evening, Rubingh was still in custody. The police are said to be collecting (and tracing?) cell phone numbers
in an attempt to track down conspirators.
As there were no "unfortunate" incidents connected with the performance, a source has indicated
that the the artist may be released with a warning within the next 24 hours. Then again, he may not: Japanese law permits police
to hold people without charges for up to three weeks.
UPDATE: Late Sunday night there were rumors that Rubingh was about to be or had been released. Also, go
here for an eyewitness account on the performance from AL's Tokyo
man in the street R.P.P. Sherman.
UPDATE: Rubingh was released Sunday, but his freedom was short-lived: Around noon
Tuesday Apr 14, police arrested and formally charged the artist, who is
now once again in custody.
UPDATE: The performance and arrest have now been widely reported by mainstream Japanese media, who have almost all
dismissed Rubingh as a "jishou" artist (jishou can be translated as "so-called," the term has a sarcastic implication).
Although Rubingh distributed a press kit prior to his performance, no media have used any comments or quotes from it, instead they have echoed the police
line that the Dutch artist is not actually an artist at all, but rather some sort of degenerate. On the question of whether
Rubingh's non-conformist bent disqualifies him from being an artist, we at AssemblyLanguage say "No." A comment from the Dutch
Embassy's cultural attache Ernesto Braam: "Rubingh has an artistic background, he is an artist."
UPDATE: On Tuesday Mar 21 police contacted Friday Magazine- a popular local weekly, as part of their thorough
Joker investigation. Seems the police wanted to find out who had tipped the magazine
off about Rubingh's performance. Actually, there were dozens of media people there, a running account was
remote-broadcast live on Italian public radio even. Perhaps Tokyo police want to send a man to Rome...
UPDATE:After 12 days in captivity, Rubingh was fined 50,000 yen and released Friday Mar 24.
The Joker performance gallery