Recent Posts
2014, Feb 26
Hikaru Morishita, “Reframing”

© Hikaru Morishita

This series really struck me. That’s a good title, no?

Recently I have been thinking about how, if one had to define “Japanese photography,” one might think about it in terms of a realism, or perhaps simply a modernism. (I’m not sure how far to go in placing this in opposition to a postmodernism…) In any case, it seems to me like Morishita 1 is taking up good modernist problems here, or asking the right modernist questions. I am very curious to see what comes next.

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2014, Feb 21
Shirin Neshat on consciousness

I don’t insist on contemporary artists being politically active but they ought to be politically conscious. And if I could be that blunt, I think the art market has been the biggest factor in determining art movements for the past decade or so; and the money involved has seduced galleries, collectors and artists to becoming super rich and very, very distanced from sociopolitical issues; art has basically become a commodity and about entertainment.

From an interview with Shirin Neshat 1, whose excellent video pieces I was lucky enough to see last year in Kanazawa 2.

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2014, Feb 14
Kazutomo Tashiro in Hong Kong and Marseille

© Kazutomo Tashiro

Kazutomo Tashiro 1 will show his work abroad at two different locations in March.

First, he will hold a solo show of “When Hamayuris Are in Bloom” at The Salt Yard Gallery 2 in Hong Kong. This exhibit runs from 3/1 – 4/13.

Then, he will participate in La Cité, a theater event taking place in Marseille. His photographs will be projected on the side of a building between 3/11 – 3/16. Information about this event 3 is available in French only.

http://www.thesaltyard.hk/#!when-coast-lilies-are-in-blossom/c23tp: The title has been translated here as “When Coast Lilies Are in Blossom.” Either one sounds fine to me, but for now I will stick with the title as it was first translated.

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2014, Feb 12
Short review for Tokyo Art Beat

I wrote a short article for Tokyo Art Beat 1 about two shows that are currently up around Tokyo: Tazuko Masuyama’s “Until Everything Becomes a Photograph,” which I introduced very briefly here 2, and “The Exposed #7,” a group show of young Japanese photographers. I think it will be obvious that I am at an early stage of dealing with the ideas introduced in this article.

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2014, Feb 07
Some Tokyo election campaign posters

After Naoki Inose’s tragicomic turn as governor of Tokyo, in which he eventually called himself an “amateur” politician after accepting improper campaign donations 1, there will be an election this coming Sunday. Here are some of the campaign posters.

Yoichi Masuzoe

You’re looking at the next governor of Tokyo, if the polls are to be believed. Masuzoe knows exactly what he’s doing here: flashes dialed up all the way, bouncing off of every surface of his skull—check out the glint in his eyes and the beams of light radiating off of his lips! A mayor right out of a catalog.

Morihiro Hosokawa

Ex-Prime Minister who has teamed up with lion-maned 2 Elvis fanatic 3 ex-Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to run on a strong anti-nuclear campaign. His photo rates the highest in terms of visual quality; I like the “artful” crop, and the wood behind him actually looks a lot darker in real life.

Masaichi Igarashi

My man! Even if you can’t understand Japanese, you may enjoy watching Igarashi’s rambling campaign speech 4. Igarashi ought to go down in history along with other notable Tokyo candidates like smooth-talking rocker Yuya Uchida 5 and furious anarchist Koichi Toyama 6. In any case, this photo looks more like a mugshot to me.

Toshio Tamogami

Tamogami is a retired air force officer, and is by far the most conservative entrant in the field. I think his photograph looks quite good; someone did a nice job color-correcting his face and the green background is a nice touch.

Kazuma Ieiri

The poster loudly touts Ieiri’s age, 35. He’s a tech entrepreneur who lists a ton of ideas for the city on his site, some of which seem reasonable. Still, he certainly won’t win this time. Anyway, for all of his tech skills I’m surprised he didn’t hire a better retoucher—his face is totally washed out, and if Tamogami can get himself to look young and sprightly, why can’t the actually young and sprightly guy manage the same?

I just saw this a couple of hours ago before finishing up this post. I’m not sure if all of Hosokawa’s posters have been modified in this way or not, but perhaps someone decided it was time to ditch the “arty” look.

Update 2/12/14: As expected, Masuzoe won the election, despite Hosokawa’s furious late push to switch his campaign posters to this easier-to-understand red version, which I did in fact see pasted up all over the city. Meanwhile, Paul Roquet suggested on Twitter that certain laws may govern the appearance of campaign posters, resulting in their uniform appearance. I couldn’t find any information about such laws, though it would be very interesting to hear about them if they exist. While trying to find this information, though, I did come across a business specializing in election posters 7. Something to keep in mind if you ever decide to run for office here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYRQw91lZiM: The key points to take away here are that Tokyo has 13 million people and that we need casinos ASAP

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2014, Feb 05
Eiki Mori wins the 39th Ihee Kimura Photography Award

The news was announced today. This award is given out for a particular book or exhibition, and the judges recognized his book “Intimacy,” published by Nanaroku-sha. (Some photos from the series are up on Mori’s website 1.) Other nominees included Daisuke Yokota and Motoyuki Daifu.

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2014, Feb 03
Kathryn Abbe

1919 – 2014

I owe everything to you, Fuffy. Thank you.


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2014, Jan 23
Tazuko Masuyama, “Until Everything Becomes a Photograph”

"The Final Village Sports Festival," 1986

I highly recommend a visit to the Tazuko Masuyama exhibit at Izu Photo Museum 1, which is up until March 2. Masuyama lived in a mountain village in rural Gifu which was flooded in September of 2006 as part of the construction of a large dam. The dam construction itself took 28 years to complete from the time that it was announced, and Masuyama photographed her village consistently until her death in March 2006. Among many other things, this exhibit speaks to the power of having a personal connection to one’s subject. It sounds like Masuyama’s publications are hard to come by, but the catalog for the show will be out sometime next month.

"City Hall, too, was finally demolished. I couldn't see it well because my eyes were cloudy from the tears, but the lens could take it clearly." 1987

"100 Year Print"

http://www.izuphoto-museum.jp/e/exhibition/118680489.html: This excellent site includes a lot of information about Masuyama

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2014, Jan 21
Yonosuke Natori on viewing photography

With regard to the case of looking at photographs, here too a new way is required. Photography is steadily changing from a “thing that is seen” into a thing that is read. Today, as the story told by any number of photographs lined up next to each other becomes more important, appreciating the skill of an individual photograph has become equivalent to appreciating only the mask of a noh play—this way of looking at things now comes from an absolutely different position. The way of looking at the noh mask as an art object and the way of looking at noh as a single play have clearly separated. At this point, there is no need to worry about understanding the “good or bad” of photography. It is not necessary that everyone be able to comment on the sculptural-artistic qualities of a noh mask. It would be good to view photography with the same feeling as going to a movie or reading a letter.

From 写真の読みかた (The Way of Reading Photographs), published posthumously by Iwanami in 1962 (it was written in 1958). This book hasn’t been translated.

I think it would be an understatement to call Natori an “important” figure in the history of Japanese photography. As this scholarly (but legible and well-researched) article 1 explains, his activities during the war demand close scrutiny.

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2014, Jan 17
An excellent source for Japan news

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves Yasukuni Shrine, 12/26/13

If you are interested in Japanese political news, I highly recommend the Shingestu News Agency, an independent agency based in Tokyo. The SNA Twitter feed 1 is an excellent source for updates about important political issues facing Japan: nuclear power, Okinawa, nationalism and so on.

SNA has also launched a website 2, though it’s a bit disorganized at the moment.

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