Palam by Takashi Yatoo, Self-published
The book Palam (Korean for “wind”), is the debut photobook by Takashi Yatoo, 297x210mm in size and contains a series of small images with large white borders and all in black and white, the black parts are so deep, it is as if trying to remove something from the past. Time spent with friends and lovers, portraits of a woman who seems to be the artist’s mother, and quiet still life. There are photographs that seem to have been photocopied from a family album. When I hear the words “vernacular photography” or “copies of existing (family / anonymous) photograph,” it reminds me of constructed work of art that is well organized but this book shows something more chaotic and a nameless struggle. Eventually, it becomes difficult to tell which are real snap shots and which are “photographs of photographs”. Time and place are uncertain, and the feeling of being lost in translation evokes a fear. It is like a magic of a winter evening in the childhood, I have no choice but to stand idly by. According to an artist's statement that I found on internet, it is a compilation of works that the artist has been taking over a period of 25 years since his father, a second generation Korean in Japan, passed away. The artist revisited his roots in his family album and projects himself into the reality that he confronted. It is a detailed and powerful work but there is no intrusive story, only a phenomenon that shimmered gently.
Satoshi Machiguchi, a designer and a founder of bookshop M, started a continuous project of photobooks called M Label in 2005. Kota Sake is the owner of Studio 35 Minutes, an artist-run space and a bar located in a small town Araiyakushi, 15 minutes west of Shinjuku. The series he had been exhibiting at his space as monthly was Yakusoku (Japanese for "promise” ) which was also photographing animals but with digital camera and finished with digital process. After Yakusoku, he chose manual camera and black and white film for this series Zoo Animals which was photographed at zoos all across Japan from 2016 to 2019. The more I look at it, it gets more mysterious. This book contains 24 photographs of animals, some are out of focus, some blurred and some stared at us with powerful gaze. The exhibit hall for nocturnal animals is basically dimly lit, animals are not posing, furthermore, there is thick tempered glass between the lens and animals. This uncontrollable photographing conditions succeed in creating an unrealistic world. What Sake captured in his photographs is like the distance between ourselves and others who you never get understand, at the same time, the metaphor of the unconscious that lives inside ourselves. This collection of photographs reminds me of how we see the invisible through certain images in photographs.
Chizu (Maquette Edition) is a reproduction of the maquette that was handmade by Kikuji Kawada with designer Kohei Sugiura around 1963, prior to the publication in 1965 of his now-legendary debut photobook The Map (hereafter referred to as the “published version"). was placed in the collection of The New York Public Library in 2001. Like the published version, the maquette in The New York Public Library’s collection was designed by the graphic designer Kohei Sugiura. Kawada himself bound the book according to Sugiura’s design. Kawada used CH paper that was a photosensitive paper produced by Fujifilm. CH paper is thinner than single weight photosensitive paper and was manufactured specifically for copying. Kawada focused on this thinness and thought it would be suitable for bookbinding. (As a side note, I heard that Kawada, a lover of stationery, used a kind of glue used to repair bicycle tires to glue the pages). He made prints using this paper and created his maquette—the only one in the world. Since it was only a maquette, Kawada did not concentrate on the quality of the paper, therefore it has high contrast and compared to the prints of The Map, the tonal detail was lost. Chizu [Maquette Edition] is printed via the expert reprographic technology of The New York Public Library. As a result, the tones of this book are almost perfectly reproduced and it conveys the energy and the aggravation of the young Sugiura and Kawada, as they voice their response to the spirit of the age.
Of particular note is the accompanying bilingual booklet, including an extended interview with Kawada and new scholarship by Joshua Chuang and Miyuki Hinton, as well as a detailed chronology. Although the international recognition of Asian artists tend to be steered by Western-led criticism, by virtue of a rigorous Japanese translation by Manami Fujimori, this book marks the first bilingual account authorized by the artist himself, and succeeds to expose the true nature of a hitherto mysterious artist, Kikuji Kawada.
The Shiseido Gallery is one of the oldest art gallery, which opened in 1919, run by Shiseido Company, Limited. Shiseido is a cosmetics company founded by Arinobu Fukuhara in 1872. As a cosmetics company, Shiseido also actively focuses on women's empowerment, and what the gallery continues supporting of female artists is another feature of this commitment. It states that the gallery wants to present diversity in the way they see the world and continue to ask society what a better future would be.
The exhibition "Anneke Hymmen & Kumi Hiroi, Tokuko Ushioda, Mari Katayama, Maiko Haruki, Mayumi Hosokura, and Your Perspectives" (January 16-April 18, 2021) was themed on boundaries and features a unit and 4 female artists on the theme of boundaries. This catalogue, which I introduce, was published after the exhibition, so it is a so-called catalogue but can also be enjoyed as an exhibition report. The artist unit Anneke Hymmen & Kumi Hiroi has developed a sociological approach to the theme of advertisings and languages. Tokuko Ushioda, who is the same age as Nobuyoshi Araki and Kishin Shinoyama, has always set herself away from the mainstream and worked independently. In this exhibition, she showed a series of books that she has been photographing since the 1990s. Maiko Haruki has been examining the theme of seeing and not seeing. In addition to the splendor of the works on wall, the installation, which questioned the physicality of seeing by constructing a large, thick wall within the exhibition space, was outstanding. Mari Katayama confronted her own body and photographed it along with self-made objects related to her body, clearly indicating the boundary between the body and the world. Mayumi Hosokura showed combined a collage of photographs from the Internet and clippings from gay magazines with video recordings of her computer screen in the process of production the collage. It stirred up meanings and mediums, but also attempted to reconstruct them by contrasting them in the installation. Thus the physical effects of the display fixtures, the performative choice of photo sizes, and the video works exhibited as if they were sculptures, made this exhibition a very three-dimensional one, despite being a photo exhibition. In addition, the exhibition was held at a time when many people were unable to experience in person due to the pandemic. Therefore the catalog in the form of a late-arriving report with criticism by Shunji Ito and Yuri Mitsuda, along with video recordings of the artists' lectures, made it possible to relive the exhibition.
Sayaka Takahashi (based in Japan) is the director of PGI. She studied under the photography critic Hiraki Osamu at Waseda University. In 1998, participated in the Higashikawa International Photo Festival as a volunteer, and from this experience she developed an interest in curating, conservation and installation. Began working in the field of photography at PGI a gallery in Tokyo in this year in its department of conservation, framing and installation. Between 2003 and 2010, she worked for the Higashikawa International Photo Festival as an assistant director. Since 2010, she started her career as the director of PGI, she has worked with many of the most celebrated postwar photographers – in particular Yasuhiro Ishimoto, Kikuji Kawada. She is placing emphasis on introducing Japanese photography to the world and on finding new talent.
Chizu (Maquette Edition) by Kikuji Kawada, Mack
Zoo Animals by Kota Sake, M Label