Takashi Murakami: There is a sci-fi television show that I recently discovered called Battlestar Galactica, and there's also a new Japanese animated show called Macross Frontier. The common thread between these two shows is that both of them are stories in which humanity has had no choice but to abandon Earth and fight for survival in outer space, battle with both non-Earth beings and robots, and question the meaning of life. I guess you could call them somewhat stereotypical. But the concept that is important to me is the one of outer space. I have never traveled to outer space, and have thus never felt the fearsome limitlessness of that pitch-black world--but I think that perhaps this is the true maximalism that we are discussing here.
ESQ:Who are some of the great maximalists of all time?
TM: George Lucas and Walt Disney. From them I learned the importance of completely submersing myself in a surrealist world.
ESQ:Have you always been drawn to that kind of world?
TM: My aesthetic sense was formed at a young age by what surrounded me: the narrow residential spaces of Japan and the mental escapes from those spaces that took the forms of manga and anime.
ESQ:So much of Japan's postwar architecture was driven by minimalist impulses. With due respect to Richard Meier and co., what are some of the problems with minimalism?
TM: The concept of minimalism is to relax. Like a Zen monk in training, it is something that brings equilibrium to the heart. I don't necessarily think it has any problems, but if I were to force myself to name one, I would say that since the minimalist feeling already includes its own universe, I think it might kill the drive that we would otherwise have to commit the physically impossible and attempt to travel into outer space.
ESQ: In sci-fi films, futuristic design is often ultrastreamlined and bright white--giant iPods and such. Does that vision of the future bother you?
TM: Really? In the world of P-Funk, Parliament comes from outer space in a UFO. I think that the aesthetic you are describing is an observation of only a narrow part of the field that doesn't take into account all the directions. I'm sure that funky space clothes will become mainstream again in the future.
To learn more about Takashi Murakami's work, visit esquire.com/murakami-show for a slide show.