Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Photo Set | Telecast

Photos from the opening of "Telecast", exhibition runs until August 8.

There are some Shigeru Takato limited edition posters still available, make contact with gallery in person or via social media.

Stay tuned for Saturday dates of virtual artist floor talk between Germany and Australia. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Poster | Shigeru Takato

The first in our Wallflower poster editions features Shigeru Takato's "Las minas de San Jose - Test site #2, 2008"
50 copies are available for purchase through the gallery in person or via our Facebook, Twitter, or Email for $10. Help keep the gallery presenting exciting projects and celebrate the work of this amazing photographer.

In Conversation | Shigeru Takato

Shigeru Takato’s "Televisions Studios" & "Our Elusive Cosmos" will be opening Friday July 13 from 5-7pm. In anticipation of the exhibition, we asked Takato a series of questions about his experiences, work, and current research.

You are a Japanese photographer, well-travelled, and now living in Germany; has this all come about through your practice?

I used to think that I travel to photograph.
Now I think that I photograph to travel.

In the exhibition for Wallflower you are predominantly showing work from the “Television Studios” series, which is an extensive body of work. When did you begin this project and what was your initial concept?

I started this project 2001 when I was an art student at Auckland University in New Zealand. So it has been over a decade since I started it. It is interesting that you ask what my "initial" concept was. You guessed it right, I have changed the concept or rather the way I see the works since I started the series, although I still photograph TV Studios exactly the same way as I started.

I remember when I was a little boy back in Japan, I was always curious to find out what was behind the sacred altar whenever I visited a shrine. "Is that really where god lives?" This curiosity combined with an irresistible impulse to poke my head in highly forbidden territory stuck in back of my head for all these years. At the beginning of the series I wanted to photograph them like the scene of a crime. I mean, not in the negative sense that the TV media is criminal, but the TV studio as a place which is mentally and technologically charged and draws a lot of attention. I thought (and I still think) that photography can reveal or trigger something other than what we already know about the place. I wanted to photograph the place, which was to be scrutinised to the smallest details. This was my initial drive for the series.

After finishing my Bachelor of Arts in Auckland I had a chance to study in Germany for a year. There I continued the series. As my stay in Germany was extended, the series continued within and beyond Europe. Now it is in my 10th year in Germany. As the series started to grow, how I look at the work has also slowly developed in other directions. I started to see, for example, political agendas and regional colours of different TV stations. Now I predominantly photograph news studios, which I feel are more charged with human energy (certainly no more game or cooking shows). Perhaps I became clearly aware of this change when I was in Paris 2004.

On the 9th of November 2004 after negotiating with the personnel for permission to photograph, I was sitting in the news studio of France 2 (see attached "Paris I 2004"). The perfectly shining empty news set was ready, not for shooting but for broadcasting a breaking news that could fly in at any second. Everyone in the news editing room was anticipating updates from where Yasser Arafat was hospitalised with a critical condition in Paris. I was looking at the sacred news desk which was certainly a highly charged electrode that kept away anyone who dears to approach for 4 hours. Then I was allowed to photograph it as the updates came through that he still held out. On the next day I was in a different part of the city for a left-leaning independent TV station, who six months after the start of broadcasting via Eiffel tower, was banned by the media authority due to its inappropriate content. At the time of photographing, it was pirate-broadcasting locally within a radius of 1 km from the studio (see attached "Paris lV 2004"). The next day on the 11th of November Arafat passed away in the hospital.

When I left New Zealand for Germany in 2003, I did not think of carrying out a photographic survey of TV studios of the world but now I think it is essential as the TV media is a global phenomenon and it is my stance and persistent attitude of keep photographing and dealing with this giant phenomenon, and that hopefully shows through my work.

As curator I was keen to juxtapose the news studios with another work (as you have done in the past), especially a landscape as I think all of your projects relate to the landscape in some way, be that obvious or subtle. Can you elaborate on the work Las minas de San Jose –Test Site #2 that also features in this show?

“Las minas de San Jose - Test site 2 2008” is a part of a series called "Our Elusive Cosmos". The series shows different landscapes on Earth whose histories relate to outer space / cosmos. This particular place, Las minas de San Jose is on a Spanish island of Tenerife in the Atlantic Ocean where the European space agency tested their prototype Mars-rover in 2005 whose real version was supposed to be sent to the planet in 2011. The series is similar to TV studio series in the way that the event or story belonging to the place is absent and only the surrounding that witnessed the event is present in the photograph. I want the viewers to imagine the event and want every corner and detail of the photograph to be scrutinised as a proof.

My all-time favourite photographs are ones that the astronauts of Apollo missions took with hand-held film cameras on the surface of the Moon. Until the Americans landed in the late 60's the lunar landscapes were untouched, in fact untouched for the last 4.5 billion years. Every time I look at the photographs I am fascinated to look for the missing 4.5 billion year gap. Nowadays the NASA's three roaming Mars-rovers continuously send pictures of the surface of Mars to us. I am often amazed by how the Martian landscapes look very similar to ours here on Earth. It is certainly imaginable why Las minas de San Jose was chosen for Mars-rover test site (apart from the fact that Tenerife is a famous holiday destination). I sometimes cannot help being sceptical about the digital technology that can easily create images or suspecting conspiracy theory that the Americans photograph them on a desert somewhere in Nevada. Again I find myself fixed on the surface of photographs fascinated to analyse into details to clear my suspicion.

You have referred to the studios as “science-fiction spacecraft control rooms”, which could be literally read that all our news is presented to us by aliens! Globally we rely on these spaces of information transition as a form of (almost) addiction; regardless of whether they present false or factual information. Presenting them to the viewer empty, I would think, encourages the viewer to not only reconsider what we are being told, but also, how we are receiving this information. Recently you reconstructed a news studio through projections at Kiosk 24 in Germany which was more of a public installation. Is your underling pursuit with this work to question the validity of both images and the media?

The crazy cult of TV media but yes I must admit that I am addicted to news that comes out of the TV studios! It is almost like soap opera for me. I have my favourite news anchors and reporters. They behave like actors (especially if you look at CNN international, they present themselves much like the Hollywood actors), I also see other characters like politicians and football players. I am not cynical. I mean, if I sit in front of a TV and just consume the information, how can I perceive it as truth? But I must also admit without the media I have no idea what is going on beyond my vicinity. Probably that is why I sometimes get out of my living room to travel and see with my own eyes. Of course, I do not and cannot witness most of things first hand presented by the media but I it is my desperate measure to at least be there and witness it where the news is churned and sent out from.

I really like how you say it, ".. to question the validity of both images and the media" This installation was done with wallpapers pasted on the walls, the floor and the column within the exhibition space. You have to stand at a certain point preferably with one eye to be able to see perfectly undistorted image of an empty news studio in 3D while the exhibition room itself remains also to be an empty space. I wanted to emphasise that the media has a potential to be one-sided or biased in telling their stories. At the same time the room look like a real TV studio but constructed only with wallpaper on which the image was printed. It was really the first time where I created a work that criticised the media. This was the time when the uprising of Arab-Spring (I do not like how the media named the event) was dominating the news. The work really posed me a question about documenting something and fair judgement of it.

I am sure you are aware of the writings of Paul Virilio? I am a big fan of his theories and think they a pertinent to your work especially in relation to speed, imagery and technology. In Virilio-esque fashion I have googled a few very random and open-ended quotes from the WWW. Do you care to respond to them, any others or the work of Virilio in relation to your photography?

“The speed of light does not merely transform the world. It becomes the world. Globalization is the speed of light…” - Paul Virilio

I was not aware of Paul Virilio. Thanks for bringing my attention to it. I may have touched on his area in my last answers.Television stations send out their electromagnetic waves called TV waves, which travel as fast as the speed of light.

In 2006 I was in Buenos Aires. I was in the reception area of channel 13. I had an appointment there to ask for a permission to photograph.

I had a small portfolio with me, which comprised of about 20 TV studio photos in clear sheets. The personnel who I was talking with asked me if he can take the portfolio up to the director to show him and see if the permission can be granted. 20 minutes later he came back with it and told me that I can photograph their news studios. They had three news studios in the same building! He told me the TV business is very lucrative in his country. Anyway, after the shooting was done, I was on my way back to my hotel sorting out my bag in the subway. Then I noticed that the photographs of my portfolio file were in a different sequence and some of them were upside down. I figured out that they must have photocopied the photographs to study for their new future studio designs. I thought I was on the observing side, documenting the TV studios and the media as a photographer. By revealing TV studios of other parts of the world, I suddenly found myself in a middle of globalisation process.

"There are eyes everywhere. No blind spot left. What shall we dream of when everything becomes visible? We'll dream of being blind.” - Paul Virilio

"…dream of being blind" sounds like meditation.
"…everything becomes visible"... I think people themselves want to be visible. They tell others about themselves. Facebook, Twitter, self-documenting films and photographic works etc...
I am still resisting such things though.
I still want to be invisible behind the camera.

“The field of vision is comparable, for me, to the terrain of an archaeological dig. To see is to be on guard, to wait for what emerges from the back-ground, without any name, without any particular interest: what was silent will speak, what is closed will open and will take on a voice.” - Paul Virilio

I find this passage beautiful.

I think if there is silence, imagination / a voice will take up the gap and start telling stories.
Having said that, I don't know if silence can be heard these days. So many things are visible and everywhere.
You got to be loud to be heard.

Finally, many photographers I speak to these days don’t like to discuss methodology for varied reasons – but anyway here goes: technically you are a very traditional-type of image maker (which I respect), you use a large-format camera, shoot film, make analogue type C prints and even retouch them yourself. Is this important and/or related to the work or just personal working methodology?

Computer-based image making offers too many options to me. If I start using this technique, I could never finish my print. I simply cannot handle it. If I use the same film, the same paper and the same way of making photographs, then I know what the results I can expect. I know these days photographers compose their pictures on the computer screen and some of them (well at least in Germany) would like to be called an artist not a photographer. For those artists, who know how the picture should look at the end and work towards it, computer is perfect. In my case, I usually place my camera and photograph what is in front of the lens. My post production process is simple but time-consuming retouching, which I wish were much more simplified like the stamp tool in Photoshop!

Oh and any new projects you can tell us about? I know your soon returning to New Zealand…

I am spending a week in New Zealand, then I go to Indonesia to travel and photograph for a month.
The next new work will be a series of erupting volcanoes.
I am still drawn to energy concentrated places that bear stories (news) to tell.
This time the subjects are big and loud.


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Contemporary Photography | Ahn Se-Hong

Ahn Se-Hong's exhibition on comfort women, originally posted on facebook, used with permission

Ahn Se-Hong, a South Korean photographer, is a photojournalist living in Nagoya, Japan. He has been taking photos of the surviving Korean ‘comfort women’ (now in their 80s-90s) since 1996. "Comfort women" was a euphemism used to describe the women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II and is an issue of much contention in Japan especially among extremist right-wing political groups.  Se-Hong’s “Layer by Layer” project was to be held on 26th June 2012 at the Nikon Salon in Tokyo, sponsored by the Nikon Company and he was scheduled to talk about related issues to the project when it was cancelled by Nikon three days after a news article appeared about the show (1). The company told the photographer it was pulling the plug after receiving calls protesting the event. An internet campaign (2) to force Nikon to show the photographs commenced and the cancellation prompted Se-Hong to ask the Tokyo District Court to issue an injunction and order the company to provide the Nikon Salon. (2) Despite a Judge ordering Nikon to hold the show (3), threats of violence disrupted Se-Hong’s life and protests have been held outside the exhibition (4) Reports from visitors to the show have stated that there are security guards stationed at the entrance with metal detectors. An in-depth article about the show and the restrictions and surveillance Se-Hong was put under as the exhibition opened to the public is available here.

The uproar over the black-and-white images taken by Se-Hong underscores the power photography holds and the sensitivity, decades later, concerning the plight of Korean women forced to serve the Japanese military as sex slaves during World War II. Some Japanese conservatives still deny there was an organized campaign of sexual slavery although in the Japanese Government has acknowledged the Comfort Women issue (4) and extended official apologies, sending a Letter from the Prime Minister to the Former Comfort Women (6) 


(6) http://www.us.emb-japan.go.jp/english/html/cw1.htm
(7) http://web.archive.org/web/20070628152156/http://www.awf.or.jp/woman/pdf/ianhu_ei.pdf