"It is documented" 2012 installation view
AMA: This is your third solo exhibition this year. When I see your works, I am always interested in your creation process of works.
Shuhei Yamada(SY) : Until “Day for Night”, my subject was always about the suburb, where I grew up. I lived in a so-called new residential area until high school. When I create my work, how the time was passing there and how it existed is always in my mind. A suburb seems to be born as a mutant and it does not develop gradually, feels like it comes to its goal when it starts. I will say a suburb is a place that has “Forever present”. Last year, I went to a lecture of Chihiro Minato at 3331 several times. She was talking about the idea of “non place” and realized that was the idea I was looking for my work. Also, I always wanted to create an image that will not be wrapped with a story which means, how I can go further from the photograph, the actual object that I took with this camera, a great recording device. There is some distance between me and my work now and I can speak about it like this, but at that time words and the image of suburb was just wondering around in my head like a fog.
AMA: I see. When I see your early works (“round-around”) it seems the image is stateless. People are stored in the building, surroundings has a feeling of emptiness with the cars and shopping mall that has gigantic, continuous artificial prefabricated building that might be similar to the weird quietness of the new residential area, which made from clearing the mountains.
You said when you make these works you subtract the text and symbols from the photograph. Please tell me about the relationship between the creation method and your work.
SY: I found the subtracting method when I was making “round-around” series in 2001. In that series, I deleted the text information from the photos of various places I traveled. As I said before, I always had the image of anonymous suburb in my mind and when I was editing those photographs, I thought I want to create an image that lost its identity. I think, essentially photographs are anonymous, however today the visual is verbalized and seeing the fundamental meaning of the image is difficult without any control.
"Untitled" photo by Hayato Wakabayashi
AMA: Not just the landscape, but there is always some meaning when the photos are taken. The portrait series “Untitled” is taken from their back and cannot see the face, it represents the concept of anonymity but ironically the format of landscape and portrait photos are denied. After 2011, you are using more stock photos or existing images, rather than the photos you took and it makes the subject matter more blur. In these works, there are simply more deleting patterns than before and also the original image seems to be becoming more important for you.
"Untitled_blanket" 2012 print on wood board
SY: The change is greatly influenced by the earthquake in 3.11. I felt a gap between the news report and my reality experience at Ishinomaki, the affected area. And I saw the writing “this photo is an image” on a package of a snack in convenience store, realized that “reality of the image is just the reality of the image”. My works in early 2012 all includes this idea.
AMA: I see. Although I haven’t been to the affected area, I always feel the distance between the reality and the news report as well, whether good or bad, and I never seen a dish in a restaurant that came out exactly like the picture on a menu. I sometimes feel the stress but also feel the hope in it. In May 2012, you exhibited a sight specific work “occupy”. It is in a much bigger scale and different from your other works. Could you tell me about it? After you showed this piece, I feel you always have the structural issue of photograph on your mind.
"photo-graph" 2012 mixed media
"occupy" 2012 mixed media photo by Hayato Wakabayashi
SY: In this society, our desire is not a little depended on ad signs and “occupy” is indicating the grotesque society flooding with image. The eye of the rabbit looks as if it’s always monitoring us. Also it reveals the supporting material and structure, I tried to represent the idea of “reality of image is just the reality of image”. The structure was more important than the content of the work. Also I was being sarcastic to the giant movement of German photography, sort of like, it is too big that it does not fit into the space.
"occupy" 2012 mixed media photo by Hayato Wakabayashi
AMA: Especially now, images are used to control ones desires and action. The documentary films and photos have done the important role for the history but on the other hand, as we know they were used by the country and politics to control the society. Please talk to me about the title “It is documented”, it seems rather implying about this society.
SY: After the earthquake, the government was severely criticized for their correspondence to the nuclear accident and regulating the information as it was before or middle of the war. Until today, it was hidden under the economical wealth or I was living in the world of lukewarm water of peace stupor, but the outline of this country came into a clear shape in this emergency situation. While I was thinking about these things, the Pacific war that seemed like a history far unrelated to me before, suddenly felt the connection more. How you see the war and interpret is different from which part you stand to. I cannot say which is wrong and what is right. But the thing that is for certain in the war is the fear, that we will be involved whether you want it or not. The case about the nuclear power station is symbolic example that is applicable to the society today. I was walking down Shibuya and saw the poster of the war movie, played by Koji Yakusho. I cannot comment on the movie as I have not seen it yet, but I found "war" is still a very attractive story for people, and thought about making the “SIMULATED SKY”, deleting the battle plane from the video of the dogfight.
"SIMULATED SKY" 2012 DVD video 14m30s
AMA: As you said, I think now more people are interested in politics. The media is acting like the time of the war, when they repeatedly reported something not true and boosted people’s morale, it is very similar to how all the lies are reported regarding to the nuclear power plant now. The frame of the country and citizen has not changed and the war has never ended, it just changes its style. When I see the “SIMULATED SKY”, I once again realized that the blue sky has not changed as well.
SY: I am fascinated to hear that. I think the basic function of photo/ video representation is to cut the world in the frame. News photo and video cut the society and edit and convert it into text or stereotype as if it says “This is the world”. I think the reality we acknowledge is actually influenced by these edited perspectives. The war I know was always in the image, which was formalized by the news, movies and comics. I am always against the war of course, but it was distant before, as if it does not have any relation to me. So if I delete the battle plane from the sky I thought we can deviate from the stereotype image of war. I think the viewers could imagine their own war. Even if the impression of this work will be no different from my other works, I hope the audience could feel about the war in a more active way, rather than being passive. It’s a very small approach to this giant issue, but I think now it’s important to commit to these subjects actively, whether the issue is small or big and that is true to other matters too.
AMA: There is various medias now, created to convey and give the information to us, but we can find the new perspective of this world only when we relate to them actively, and your works could be fully understood when the audience do that. And also it is a very fundamental part to enjoy art. “War“ is a keyword that most of the human share, and to think about the relationship of “individuals” and “war” is significant to review modernism. Other than the film, there is a work on wood panel in yellow gradation saying “I AM AN AMERICAN” which makes me reminiscent of Glenn Ligon’s painting, “I Am A Man”.
"I AM AN AMERICAN" 2012 mixed media
SY: In the time of the Pacific War, after the Pearl Harbor, Japanese descent in the USA was discriminated. As you know, they are seized their possessions and sent to concentration camps. “I AM AN AMERICAN” is a board that they put in front of their shops to defend themselves. This sentence is showing well how people inevitably got involved in to this big whirlpool. Also, I wondered how this word could be apprehended to the people now, 60 year after the war.
AMA: Could you tell us what you are planning after this?
SY: While making the work about the war, I become vividly aware of the word “frame”. The idea of country is already made in some kind of a frame, and there is the frame in journalism, frame of race, we are caged in these frames. Those frames are arbitrary made, and I think the actual world is connected more smoothly. I traveled Korea and China before and the gradation of the culture I felt was quite interesting. I had a road trip to the affected area of 3.11, and made me realize that it is connected with where I live, in a same land. The world is in the gradation. That is how its exsiting.
To think about the gradation, I feel it is connected to the “perspective of not being recovered by a story” and I want to reflect this idea in my work.
AMA: When we think about something, we tend to think in the frame because it makes us easy to understand, but some of our insoluble social problems come outside of these frameworks.
Watching the world in the line of gradation and not in the dot might be a new measure for this constantly changing world.
Recorded in the exhibition “It is documented”, November 2012.
exhibition[It is documented] >>