Thursday, December 9, 2010

"COUNTER-PHOTOGRAPHY - Japan's Artists Today" Photography Exhibit

Qatar Photographic Society

"COUNTER-PHOTOGRAPHY - Japan's Artists Today," a photography exhibition, was hosted at the Qatar Photographic Society (New Salatah, Al-Raya Street, Building No. 118; near Al-Arabi Sports Club) from November 29 to December 9, 2010 by the Embassy of Japan in cooperation with Qatar Photographic Society.

I saw the exhibit on the last day!  I don't think too many people attended in Qatar, but it looks like this exhibition is traveling all over the world.

This exhibition introduces the work of eleven photographers, including Eiko Hosoe, Hiroshi Sugimoto and Kazuo Katase, who are attempting to express the value in things that are not yet visible or concealed in material reality in an era in which a spiritual foundation has been lost.

Japanese contemporary photography has undergone some rapid changes in the past 40 years. This has been a result of external cultural, economic and social factors, as well as developments within the Japanese culture and the photography scene. Unlike photographers of this kind in Europe and North America, who were focused on limited editions of high-quality prints, the photographers in Japan continued to rely on publication for their livelihood. This had a major impact on their imagery and, similar to the ukiyo-e print designer, their artistic input had to be visible in the composition and exposure of the image rather than in the details of the printing process.

The exhibition “Counter-Photography: Japan’s Artists Today” of over sixty works by eleven leading photographers from Japan challenges conventional Western assumptions about Japanese aesthetics and culture. Yuri Mitsuda of the Shoto Museum of Art in Tokyo – one of Japan’s most respected curators of contemporary art - has selected artists whose photographic vision probes the many layers of cultural, social, moral and aesthetic anxiety in today’s society. The roster of photographers ranges from Eikoh Hosoe (collaboration with Tatsumi Hijikata, one of Japan’s leading experimental dancers and choreographers; a leitmotiv of Hosoe’s several photographs), Hiroshi Sugimoto and Kazuo Katase - three internationally renowned photographers associated  with Japan’s avant-garde movements (Obsessional Art, Gutai and Neo-Dada) of the 1960s and 1970s, through the younger generation of photographers represented by Hiroko Inoue and Michihiro Shimabuku with  images based on social commentary, Chie Yasuda and Miho Akioka with their nature-inspired photography, Akiko Sugiyama with her photographic realizations oscillating around formalism and interrelation between compositional elements, Tomoaki Ishihara’s self-portraits set in the interiors of different musea and debating an idea of a strongly individualized identity, to concept-based photographs by Miyuki Ichikawa and Tomoko Yoneda.

The six female and five male photographers whose expressive body of work is presented in this exhibition have strikingly diverse styles and approaches to photography. This broad range of concepts, formal articulations and styles has been deliberate, for part of Mitsuda’s argument is that now more than ever we must “respect the diversity of ‘others’, while listening to what they have to say”. However, closer examination of the works by these eleven photographers reveals common threads and patterns of the artists’ commentary and critique: from assumptions about Japanese culture and art, issues of gender and cultural identity, environment and ecology, socio-political aspects of post-industrial society to a common approach to formal and aesthetic aspects in their works. The exhibition also discusses the current condition of contemporary photography in Japan vis a vis major trends, styles and directions in international contemporary photography.

“Counter Photography: Japan’s Artists Today” has been curated by Yuri Mitsuda at the Tokyo Shoto Museum of Art and is organized by the Japan Foundation, Tokyo.

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