Kazuyoshi Usui's “Showa Trilogy” imagines how Japan would have been if the Showa Era in which we were born had not ended. He confronts us with a vision that blurs the distinction between fiction and reality in a setting that resembles the “real Japan”, but one that has now almost disappeared with the advent of the Olympic Games in the summer of 2020. His photographs do not constitute a fictional narrative, but rather function like headlines that invite spectators to create their own interpretation.
Exploring the same theme of the imagined continuation of past time, the artist
Yuki Onodera (another photographer participating in the project, Photography? Why? www.photographywhy.com), in her series “Below Orpheus”, adopted a different approach, excluding all signs of physical human presence from her images, in which the locations in and Spain and New Zealand are photographed in a way evoking suspense, as if the viewer is invited to look for traces of some disappeared person.
Kazuyoshi’s work, on the other hand, frequently adopts a still life approach, presenting room interiors that are rich in details such as cheap plastic flowers, a skull, a carpet and old landline telephone.
One of the photographs presented in this exhibition shows a plastic rose displayed in a Tokonoma (alcove). This flower can be interpreted as a metaphor of what is magnificently inexpensive, convincingly bold and eternally living, yet quickly consumed, in parallel to the way people lived during the Showa years. Many people who did not grow up in Japan could imagine these images to be depictions of either present-day Japan or of past Japan. Yet the country he depicts is one that the majority of people brought up in post-war Japan have never experienced. They may recognize certain elements shown within the photographic frame, but have never known this Showa era first hand, other than from watching some movies made in the 1970s and a few TV programs from the 1980s. Kazuyoshi's works are full of the kind of contradictions that are quite real in the context of everyday life.
The people shown in this series, both real and fictional, can all be seen as marginal characters that it would have been unlikely to encounter in the typical shotengai (shopping street) of former times. It can be supposed that they come from somewhere quite special, at once spiritual, dark, dubious and bright. Kazuyoshi’s photographs are infused with research and a magical imagination superimposed with chance encounters in real life. This is not merely a question of choosing to spend time with marginal people met at random and subsequently photograph them. In some cases, Kazuyoshi visited places over a period of more than 5 years before taking photographs.
The duality of human existence can be rife with contradiction. After the passage of new legislation in 1984 intended to combat Yakuza gangsters, the latter transformed themselves into slick, western-style businessmen. By the time the economic bubble burst in the late 1990s, Japan had come to resemble any typical western country embracing values of clean minimalism and sober design. Nobody wanted to remain stuck in a tacky, cheap and sweaty marginal lifestyle in Japan. Moreover, the reality of the Showa era, it could be demonstrated, was characterized by a considerably grimier and grayer aspect, where everybody sought to look alike. It was less colorful period, generally devoid of the eye-catching individuals featured in Kazuyoshi's photographs. It may be that nobody had ever wanted to live this way, yet this was all they had known after the Second World War. Nonetheless, through Kazuyoshi's photographs, true beauty can be discerned in this way of living with courage and dignity while displaying an aptitude for self-acceptance and even self-deprecation. It is to be borne in mind that Japan was considered a third world country until the early 1960s. Like other countries in Asia, Japan turned its back on this period of poverty, in which survival through strength in any way possible had been the rule. In Kazuyoshi’s work, there is that strength and energy of people being ready to laugh at themselves, accepting whatever life may throw at them and being proud of not merely surviving, but living.
Propositions curatoriales :
Léa Bismuth / Nicolas Boulard, Sabrina Vitali - Denis Curti / Lady Tarin
Valérie Fougeirol / Stéphanie Solinas - Fanny Lambert / Eric Rondepierre
Miki Nitadori / Kazuyoshi Usui - Victor Mazière / Carole Fékété - Pascale Obolo
/ Rita Alaoui - Marguerite Pilven / Maike Freess, Jessica Lajard, Olivier Leroi
Galeristes, éditeurs et antiquariats
Asymetria (Warsaw) - Baudoin Lebon (Paris) - Ibasho (Antwerpen) -
Folia (Paris) - the (M) éditions - Le Plac’art Photo (Paris)
Chambres à louer «La collectionneuse» :
La Méduse, Room 31 - Julie Barrau - Pierre Escot - Corine Borgnet -
Jean-Baptiste Lallau - Maire Gayet / Low Art, Guacolda & Lionel Tua -
Jean-Marc Tingaud - Un livre une image
Partenaires & Programmation
Centre Wallonie Bruxelles | Paris - Festival Ovni - Artéfact - L’ahah
Guest : Le Banquet versus Ryoko Sekiguchi avec la complicité des chefs étoilés
de Virtus, Chiho Kanzaki & Marcelo Di Giacomo, Paz Levinson
Le Registre Acte 2 : Nathalie Leleu
Soirée épos : Pierre Escot & David Fenech
Black Light : Clara Kern
Performance : Estera Tajber
Vente à la chandelle
Dimanche 23 février 2020 à 19h
Oeuvres choisies et inédites des artistes de l’Antichambre
LIEU : Hôtel La Nouvelle République 9 rue Moret 75011 Paris
Invitation valable également pour les Visites
le Samedi 22 et le dimanche 23 février 2020 de midi à minuit
uniquement sur inscription : altavoltaagency.net
Morocco changed my life. In many ways, it had changed my life as I really did enjoy working with this team. ( Thank you Joeseph Ball for this photograph and his attentive works!) What changed me the most is meeting Yuki Onodera and Aki lumi. Yuki has been the artist I admired since the 90's. When I came across her work in the exhibition space, I was taken by the quality of her work and had been so full by just looking at her works. Sometimes I was saying to myself " Yes" which is a strange thing to say when looking at another person's work. What I admire about the most in Yuki is, she is not afraid of challenging her ideas. She plays a lot with concepts and techniques and come to the final work. She isn't afraid to fail, she can recognize each work as it is and give a value to every challenge, ideas and speak about them with the same passion. When I thought of one photographer (artist) that can enrich this project that questions the potentiality of photography, there was only Yuki. Surely there are many great Japanese photographers who make great works. Yet no one will ever match up to Yuki's creative, playful and ever challenging world. I knocked on her door, afraid of being disappointed. (Ken Kitano assured me by saying that Yuki is a kind person.) When Yuki opened the door, I understood what it means to be a great artist through meeting them. I knew couple of works of Aki yet the experience of meeting him was mind blowing. I have never met an artist with such a refined spirit. They were generous, helpful and smart. Yes, they were beyond my expectation. They had given me many valuable advice, with honesty and respect. They are the least arrogant people I know. Aki and Yuki loves food and eating. They are not stiff kind of people, even they could have been as they are known artists and Yuki is considered the major photographer, recognized with many prestigious prizes. Aki loves Yuki with so much care and he is also incredible on how much he supports her work. Yuki and Aki would not be who they are today without each other. They are fun, lively, and talk and laugh a lot. This project of Morocco was not possible, if I did not meet Yuki and Aki who supported me tirelessly.
In the coldest day in February 2012, I met for the first time the person I love the most in my life. The person, I love the most is evidently dividing my heart with another person I met in May 2004. That is the major part of my life. yet there are many people who I love and glad I met and parted or remain together. February is an important month for me because I lost a friend that I regret and miss. I lost my mother who brought me to life and I knew that the time has come. I sometimes wonder why, I met and meet people I care deeply for. I wonder if this is other people's reality. When I breath in air looking into the bleu dark night sky, I wonder what may happened to the man who used to dragged his stuff on the ground that I absolutely thought of when I made my large Christmas production of cookies and orange peal. He was in my mind and I wanted to bring him the package. But I stopped myself. I said I do not want him to think that I am doing charity as it is Christmas. My intention was not charity but because I liked him and cared about him. I know where he sleeps and how he dragged a wooden structure so his mattress did not touch the ground. He slept in front of library in high structured bed with many layers of duvet. He did not speak to anyone and when I crossed him few times, he was shouting out of anger towards the people who was walking by. I would go to the bakery to get some bread in 6:30 am and if he was around, I bought a croassant for him.The first 6 months he never addressed me a word. Just nodded to say thank you or smiled. I did the same. I never spoke to him except saying this is for you. He was the first homeless person I knew who was reading and taking notes. I liked him very much without knowing him. There are some people who lived on the street that left me an impression or kindness or knowledge. But he was kind of special for me. I would get myself sample of free tea tasting and bring him another one. sometimes he had many cups already and said to me that he already had some. There are many homeless people in my neighbourhood. There are some I know and they know me for years and had no relationship. I never went to them and they never came to me. One day, the man who courageously dragged his stuff talked to me about " Elegance". I did not get what he said and asked him to repeat but he never repeated. Just before I left for the summer holidays, I saw the man again. He was sitting near place de la république between the perfume shop and bakery. I was leaving to over seas the next day. I never gave him any money as I preferred that I treated him like a friend. this time for some reason, I opened my wallet and gave him all the change. I think this was a strange scene for him. Usually people give one thing or maximum few coins. I gave him all. That is when he said he would like to invite me for a coffee sometime. This made me happy. In fact very happy. and it stills makes me happy when I think of him. He was no longer living in my neighbourhood when I came back. I still think of him when I walk in the neighbourhood. I am often imagining that he is no longer on the street. I am wishing that he now is living somewhere far from here. Drinking a cup of coffee and enjoying taking notes of what he is reading.
Till couple of years ago, deep inside me I felt I did not deserve to live. This is because I had to deal with violence of the mental illness of my family member. I felt always so sorry that I was born. I felt perhaps if I was not born, the mental illness may not had triggered and my family would had a "normal family life". I also felt guilty of living my life far away from my family, which I escaped. At the same time, I wished also I could have lived a family life rather than growing up majority of time without my family. yet thanks to that I made many friends and it made me who I am today. For most of my life, I made sure I did not stand out too much (even I do as I am who I am.), and acted awkward when I was in the spot light when it lasted longer than I expected and I tried to shut off from any successful recognition. Yet basic education of my mother was the opposite, probably the most important thing she taught me. It happened when I could not read the alphabet and struggling to understand why "tip" "tap" was what it was. She was furious that I could not read such simple words yet said "To built my own personality and thinking." The only thing from that moment on wards I kept practicing is thinking. Thinking brought me to many grounds and taught me also not to believe in hype and make that my opinion. As the internet generation shapes the mentality in the world, some people in France who are not used to different kinds of people seem to have a hard time to deal with someone like me. Some people say I am "special" which in french not always positive.. It is a word that contains the double meaning. Couple of my old and close friends used to joke and still jokes "You are going to evolve and be less mean right?" and we laugh. We can laugh because it is half truth, I am nice to a real context and not in an illusion game playing with pretentious people. My friends are also in this way like me, they don't like pretentious stuff that are fake values. I try not to be a hypocrite and honest as possible to others and myself of what ever I do. I made many mistakes too and I do regret couple of things. I will most likely keep making different mistakes to learn from it. I can now finally understand the song "my way". I feel content of being who I am and stand in my place and being alive. What changed me was when I decided to get out of this deep seated melancholy of guilt and work towards the idea that I have right to exist and remain where I am. I am almost alive since half of the century and seeing loved ones passing away. I still love going to cemeteries because I find that it is the place of expressing love. Evidently each tombs are like short stories and the fact I was that person who believed I should not live, it comforted me to be in the space where I felt that there was still love even after death. In cemetery, I felt the love expressed by others who were alive most comforting and gave me a reason to live. This is why I used to photograph cemeteries and infected others photographers to photograph the same cemetery. I used to go to cemetery not to only photograph but to resource myself. I am a small cookie sometimes when it comes to these issues. I could almost say " How dare you walking into my space by seeing what I do and do the same?" but my friends who work on non-boarder movement taught me that these spaces are not specific to a person or another. Cemetery belongs to everyone who is alive like every country on the earth. It is hard to think how quickly the time passes. When I was in my 20's and 30's I did not see it as fast as today. How many people who I loved as a child, who had given me kindness are now gone. They still live inside me, they pop up in vivid imagery in color as I remember them. In fact, memories are like mobile cemetery for living. To love, to appreciate and be touched by the kindness given, good times together that existed with the loved ones who are no longer here. Daily, my life has been full of meetings that I want to remember. I have too much memories inside me that I want to keep and by attempting to trying to maintain, I recreate over and over the memories of what I liked and input into the memory. This week and last week there were remarkable meetings. I like it when people, especially children speak to me spontaneously. Clement who has a speech difficulty (which I did not know), looked into my eyes and repeated the Japanese words for the days of a week. We were saying the words together and this togetherness of the moment, voicing felt great to me. Naomi took my hand and showed me the sign language of " how are you?" and "buttering" and went back to the notes and kept teaching me new words. Hugo who seem not to be very confident about drawing spontaneously pointed out at his drawing asked me if this was art. I answered that everything you do with the intention of being art is art. The most important thing is to try. They all gave me a possibility of recognizing important things even they are still young. Children often teach me the most essential things in experiencing life. To B who appropriated my words which is fine as you written it and made my word part of you. This is much more meaningful to me. Your recognition of our commonness is what I cherish and difference is also evident in the book I received today. Your book felt as it was your testimony to life, your Yui-gon, legacy. Thank you for such a beautiful gift that you left to all of us. I will come back to it when ever I want to hear your voice. (very well written with many vocabularies which I will simply in conversation form.)
As a commercial artist I am conscious of value of attractiveness. The commerce does help the artist to gain money and distribute their work but often when commerce becomes the central light of the artist activity, it becomes more difficult to maintain the possibilities of experimentation. Through this residency, I am coming back to my old challenges and confronting the things I put a side as well as going further with my work. Meetings with many diverse and inspiring people who are my future collaborators make me create better, question further and being inspired from our common and differences.
There are cyber reality in my life since last twenty years, and there are many surprises. Sometimes people taught my work to another without saying a word to me and put it on the internet. Sometimes people contact me to ask me questions, sometimes I contact them. This logo, I did not know, up till now. my face was used for the logo of 50th celebration of the school. I am very moved to learn that recently. It was a very special meeting and experience that I lived in Chatellerault at Lycée branly. As Educational residency is one of my important core as an artist, I am very touched to see it lived long time after my time. Thank you to the Lycée and the teachers, Jean- Michel and Fred as well as the director of the school.
Since I have been in north of France, I have been even more obsessed about patterns than usual. This is most likely due to the beautiful brick constructions and the structure the town planning for workers houses at the mine that enhances the sense of pattern. It feels as a musical place and it inspires me of what I can work with in the area with the people as well as my personal work. patterns, musical tones are like photography, where the images in it's self contain scale. I have been taking notes on different manholes that is fascinating me. I was interested in knowing the definition of the manhole: Manhole is an opening to a confined space. Manholes are often used as an access point for an underground public utility allowing inspection, maintenance, and system upgrades.
We often over look what we are surrounded with. I am very interested in working with the idea of pattern, construction and deconstruction, how they work with it's surrounding and how it is transformed over time.
This is the second week and the final week, I am here to organise the residency project. The remark of my short time here: First of all I am surprised of how friendly, polite and helpful, people had been when I came across the locals. In last 25 years and more, I have been to many regions in France. Up till now, this place has been the most comfortable place I have been to. Even apparently there are only 5 Chinese family in Bethune, people may look at me but not in the hostility I have felt in the past in other regions. They are just simply curious and most adults I came across treat me without putting the emphasis on difference. While my walks, old and young people says Hello and speak to me, if they see if I am having some trouble, they will come to let me know what they know, when I bought the local news papers, the shop keeper explained to me when the each news papers come out. Because of the economical condition that region had been affected by closing of mining industry, one would imagine a typical working class mentality in photographic works such as Martin Parr and recent exhibition I have seen of the Thierry Girard. In reality, I have not come across this kind of stereo typed people at all till now. In a class children did a short sketch in their local language for me but this is an entertainment for everyone that is making fun of each characters they are pretended to be. I am meeting people who are well spoken, articulated and knowledgeable. Teachers here in the area also seems to be much more devoted in education that are more than teaching the academic materials. I met a teacher who told me that she as a little girl, she was not taught to explore questions and thinking process of why they are doing things in the class, she is transmitting this process to her students. In general, I am enjoying meeting people from this region which is unknown to me and learning day by day about the place through people.
Miki, an artist, that questions and propose to share experiences with another.