Designer Takeshi Miyakawa out of prison, after art project misinterpreted as terrorism

The NYT has an update on the case of designer Takeshi Miyakawa. The 50-year-old Japanese artist, who lives in New York City, was arrested last month while he draped plastic “I ♥ NY” bags stuffed with LEDs and batteries from trees in Manhattan and Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The act frightened some observers who thought "his art installation, timed to coincide with the International Contemporary Furniture Fair, was a series of bombs." He was charged with reckless endangerment, criminal nuisance and “planting a false bomb,” then imprisoned on Rikers Island and ordered to undergo a mental evaluation. He's out now. Maybe he should have a conversation with Star Simpson.


  1. Remember that time the Mooninites brought down Boston? I thought that was bad, but at least nobody went to jail. Damn. At this point, there should be a traveling exhibit of art-mistaken-for-terrorism. There are probably enough pieces to qualify.

    1. In all three cases (Star’s the third), no one intended harm or terror provocation. One can easily argue that all three were naive, but I’d argue none deserved the harsh treatment they received. It’s insane.

      1. At this point, it just seems like “Is it art?” should be added to the “So you’ve found something suspicious,” flowchart. If one is really intent on considering all possibilities, including the possibility that a glowing device designed to attract attention might in fact be a covert explosive, then one should also consider the possibility that it’s just an advertisement.

      2. If putting up little art pieces celebrating your city is naive, in any way, so is thinking that you can hop on a plane without your toddler being molested. If our expectations got any lower they’d fly out the other side of the earth.

  2. Well, when you keep your population scared of anything different, you’ll never have art.

  3. The Ministry of Fear and Permanent War remains vigilant, 24/7.   You’re welcome.

    1. Don’t forget the shoe and underwear bombers.  Anyone wearing shoes and/or underwear is suspect.  Only trust barefooted freeballers.

  4. Would it not have been easier to contact someone at the city before hand and explain what he was doing? Surely that’s just common sense?

    1. I was thinking the same thing.  The only problem is that they probably would have said “no”.  I’m guessing that the city doesn’t roll out the red carpet for unsolicited artists.  There’s probably a procedure that you go through and if you’re lucky your art ends up in City Hall Park or Grand Central and the like.

      1. Do the police not have the facility to forewarn about this sort of thing? Like the story that popped up a few days ago of the amateur zombie film makers prompting an armed response, one phone call would have avoided the whole thing.

        1. I believe it’s called “getting a permit”.  It’s the responsibility of the artist/filmmaker to get permission from the city before doing anything like this.  These people cut corners to make it easier on themselves and save some dough.  Believe me, I know what it’s like to be part of a self-centered group of people plying their “art” without using common sense.  As part of a film class, my group decided to make a spy movie.  After getting questioned by the cops while shooting a scene where the hero gets attacked by gun-toting Russian agents (this was the late ’80’s), the leader of our group decided that we needed to shoot a scene at JFK airport, with our fake guns.  Despite having some reservations about it, we went along with it.  Can you believe our stupidity?  You’ve got to make examples of stupidity, so that people don’t do even stupider things.  I would say that our leader probably would have reconsidered the JFK thing if the cops had put our asses in jail for the first stupid thing.

          1. I believe it’s called “getting a permit”.

            It’s expensive. They say no unless you’re a mega-corporation. And why should people have to get permits to use their own city?

          2. @Antinous_Moderator:disqus : I agree entirely, and was a a huge proponent of guerrilla filming during university.

            The only argument that made any sense on the “get a permit” side was that having a permit means you’re approved by the council and hence less liable if a member of public is injured by something related to your filming (like tripping over cables or falling lighting). Other than that it’s just another way of the government taxing us which is why I’d tell my tutors they’re hacks for playing ball without question.

  5. I was just discussing with some artist friends, the possibility of stringing a bunch of LED lights above the main street downtown for the holiday season.  They plan to work with the city, but it turns out that they also will be working with the Homeland Security people. Yes, hanging stuff over the street is now a matter of national security.

  6. One would think that a little political savvy would instruct them to give him the maximum fine for littering for each ‘installation’.

  7. I live around the corner from where this happened.

    It was a shitshow.  Most people were pretty convinced it was bad art since that gets put on the streets a lot here, but you never know — especially when it’s really bad art.

    This was incredibly bad art.

    They might have looked neat at night lit up, but during the day — when the bomb squad came — it was a plastic bag in a tree with wires coming out of it that were taped up to the lightposts or trees ( you can search for images of it online ).

    When you think of the mooninite campaign, it’s easy to fault the police — where the F** would a bomb be hidden in those ?  they’re flat and most of the space looks to be used by LEDs that are lit.  When you look at this guy’s “art” during the day, it’s a bag in a tree with wires coming out of it… that looks a whole lot like a bomb.

    His other stuff is interesting and well made, but I fail to see how he or his friends never questioned themselves with a “What the fuck am i doing?” moment here. 

    1. I think that all it highlights is how we’ve come to recognise anything with wires as a bomb. It’s sad and unnecessary.

      I say more of this, let’s retrain people to remember that terrorists aren’t everywhere, and you’re extremely unlikely to be blown up.

    2.  What kind of terrified life do you live, in constant terror at the thought of wires exploding?

      1. I don’t see how you get from his fairly mild protest to your absolutely hyperbolic attack on him. I call technical foul, and have to wonder what kind of life YOU lead, to be this upset over someone calling for a little common sense. 

        Personally, I wonder how the hell anyone can NOT cut someone from NYC a little slack for being slightly paranoid in this day and age. Guess you don’t read the papers much, this century.

        1. Oh. Drat.

          I’ll formulate a proper response, as soon as I’m done ensuring that all the hubcaps leaning on street signs around here do not contain IEDs.

        2.  The problem is that no *actual* bomb looks like that.  Only bombs on TV look like that.  It’s a completely ridiculous assumption to make.  It’s along the lines of seeing the face of jesus in your grilled cheese sandwich – you have to *want* to make the connection.

  8. 1) He is Japanese. In Japan wacky street art and craziness for craziness’ sake is commonplace.

    2) Artists are not supposed to care about what people might think. If artists were to concern themselves with that then their art would likely suffer.

    3) Please find me one example of a terrorist attack where the bomb(s) have been taped in amazingly noticeable places with wires poking out everywhere. Even the dumb fuck who filled a van with fireworks had the sense to hide them in a van.

    1. Artists are not supposed to care about what people might think.

      Huh? And I suppose all sex is masturbation?

  9. Locked up for a art that was received as a series of bombs … and yet, Adam Sandler walks free? 

  10. There are days when I’m sad to think I’m probably not going to be around to see the things that happen past about 30 years in the future.  Then I read something like this article and think maybe 30 years is more future than I really want to see…  God only knows what these people would have made of the weather balloons with flashlights inside them I released at night to float over the small town I grew up near when I was about 12, or the Estes rockets I launched with tracking devices in them, or the garage full of old computer parts, radar dishes, welding equipment, and toxic chemicals I had amassed by the time I was 16.  To me, the best thing about a culture is its fringe elements; the freaks, the weirdos, the brilliantly deranged.  When these people have all been locked up or frightened into conformity, the final nail will have been pounded into the coffin of a once vibrant, creative society, and it will be time to turn out the lights and walk away.

  11. At the time of the ATHF Mooninite scare in Boston I said to people “Don’t think this is somehow just about Boston, post 9-11 this will happen again in lots of places.”

    “Home of the brave” my ass.

  12. General is it art flowchart: [see funny thing] -> [check for permission of public performance/installation] -> [yes: enjoy the show or no: ask the performer to pack up his claptrap or face a fine]

    NYC is it Art flowchart: [see funny thing] -> [evacuate immediate vicinity and imprison responsible looking person on grounds of terrorism]

    It’s quite obvious that the best way to perform terrorism is install art and hang around, can’t have that, there could be enjoyment and fun to be had, nobody enjoy himself now!

    Next up at 11, Pantomimes imprisoned as enemy combatant, detained by way of telling him he’s now surrounded by a glass cube.

  13. Is is possible to get the names of those who turned him in?  I’d love to know the names of these brave patriots and build a commemorative statue of a giant, bronze chicken with their names engraved upon it.

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