Over the parched Field Akiko Takizawa
THE NIGHT OF THE WORLD ⅰ The Art of Akiko Wavering , Spectrality and Subtraction. “ But what is the image? When there is nothing that is where the image finds its condition, but disappears into it ” Maurice Blanchot ‘ Two Versions of the Imaginary ’ “ People live the immediate present. If one has an instant of awareness of being alive, it is nothing but the immediate present. We no longer have any feel for the past we have lived. When people realize that the time they supposedly lived through actually has no substance and that there are no means of self-verification, they tend to be seized with fear and an unspeakable apprehension about the excessive uncertainty of it all. In the end it leads to an awareness that even living in the present moment is ambiguous. Because we are living our everyday lives does not mean that we are constantly aware of being alive, nor does it mean we have a definite tomorrow. In the end human existence has essentially nothing to rely on. The scenes I am certain I saw some thirty years ago could just be something that I am convinced that I saw in my own memory, and it is possible they were imaginary scenes to start with. With a completely transformed landscape before me, I am suddenly aware of how forsaken my life is, and how it is not possible to verify to anyone else the scenes that I once saw. ” Daido Moriyama ‘ Memories of a Dog’ I might hazard an intuitive insight that Akiko is part of a generation who appeared to leave Japan, not in order to discover their true identity, but question the idea that identity might be the location of truth (or unity) in the first place. The references or influences of her work appear to mainly oscillate between the 1930’s and the 1950’s. On a philosophical or literary level I would cite the writing of Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot, Antonin Artuad, and Simone Weil, the photographic work of Claude Cahun, Daido Moriyama, Japanese cinema up until the late 1950’s, Tarkovsky, and Post War Butoh theatre; a curious mixture of French and Japanese sources, a grouping which implies heterogeneity in terms of the formation of the work. In order to write about this work I write down a series of words that might be the guiding concepts. They are as follows: fascination, vestige, interiority, distance, spectrality, transgression, sacred, blindness, untimely, gesture, eroticism, darkness, trace, night, third person, loss, withdrawal, melancholia, disarticulated time, disaster, tone, dissolution, memory, ecstasy, wavering and subtraction. Yet to make such a list is not the beginning of a claim that the work is either literary or conceptual (after all such a list might fit numerous bodies of work) but in order to indicate that the realm of the image pulverises or lacerates conceptual schemas in order to assert their own singularity, yet in doing so leaves traces of such a process. The camera is commonly understood as an instrument that detaches a stream of life into a frozen instant, thus standing in detachment from what is before, and after but it can also be a sensing device that detects the movement of things seemingly beyond immediate vision. This is the paradox of photography, a paradox that this work appears to actively embody. In the photographs taken in the volcanic mountain area, Osorezan in Aomori the proximity between the material and spiritual realms are explored in order to convey the relationship between what is evident, or subject to representation and the movement outside this device of framing. There is in this a challenge to ocular-centrism in this, a feeling for instance that it is possible to detect the sound of wind or hear voices, even though this might be more like
an imagined vestige or trace of such occurrences. Thus the images are composed more of a warping of sense impressions that transforms the understanding of the visual itself. Yet this is not, as might be supposed, a surrealist presentation, but something much more remote or even archaic. If modernity might intrude into these remote locations of either place or soul, a sense of displacement is always evident, as if a vast magnetic force is drawing the living out of immediate or satisfied continuity. Disturbed or uncanny are designations that are much too easy to reach for; instead the encounters we become witness to, are primordial in there temper, muted but capable of leaving in their trail, a strange discharge or even an after shock. A time that was, and a time yet to come thus become entangled, leaving in the wake of this event, a presentation of yet another time ⅱ, closer to the end of all times, but if such time, then perhaps only the unfigurable remainder of it, as if it this has already passed without notice or indexical mark. ⅲ Many of the photographs give the impression that mind and nature create an inseperable unity so rather than figures upon grounds we are instead presented with mindscapes in that which is inside and that outside is dissolved into a single imaginary. What is figured instead appears closer to discharges, trembling, oscillations, or wavering touching upon both matter and memory at the threshold of space. This in turn implies that the spacing between things is not opened but compressed, creating a feeling of immersion, opacity and density. Lyotard said that truth “ is out of tune” and as such does not pass through the discourse of signification. To be out of tune, untimely, to go against the grain is closer to sense and as such is a resistance to programmatic understanding of things. The idea that imagination represents a wavering between the finite and the infiniteⅴ is rooted in the writing of Schelling and this implies that wavering is an essential feature of identity itself. This construct of a wavering imagination can be used in part to examine the photographic work of Akiko because it presents figures that capture a motion between not only between the real and the spectral but also between being and subtraction (non - being). It is of course fashionable to say that art is a becoming or a representation of a time yet to come but I cannot really invest in this in regard to this body of work because this would lend to them a form of latency, or offering, that they are not inclined. It would be an obvious form of recognition to say that these images are invariably touched or even saturated by darkness and from there talk of a shadow or even spectral aesthetics, all of which would indicate a withdrawal from the concerns of the day. Yet to say dark is not really enough because this would only indicate the sense that ordinary light is being subtracted. The sense of subtraction goes much deeper than this and mobilises a stripping out of what is inessential in order to abolish self -presencing as the given dimension of life. In this regard, this process of disavowal lends itself to the distress of time itself and the failure of representation to summon the power to overcome the signs issued out of distress. Does this passage lead to the inevitable conclusion and one repeated too many times that photography itself is always on the side of death? To affirm or to deny this self evident truth is now a banality but the question is how to steer around this banality in order that these works shine in their own light, albeit half - light. When Blanchot talks of being “ unmade according to the image” there is in turn a curious resonance with the process of subtraction in this work, because of the way in which it gestures towards both a loss of identity and exscription of world from representation (a presentation of the anterior), as a consequence. The Jena Romantic writer and poet Novalis developed the notion that the constitutive power of the imagination was in its ability to create a “sphere outside of time ” and in so doing make a space for an opposition to the world as it presently stands. The creation of an anterior reality finds its mediation by virtue of fascination in the work of Blanchot and it is this concept which points to a sense of religion without religion and is in turn is a disavowal of the theology light that has so dominated Western thinking. Kevin Hart has employed the idea of the “dark gaze” in order to capture the sense of Blanchot’s philosophy of darkness.ⅵ
In his book ‘ Spectres of Marx’ Jacques Derrida employs a phrase from Hamlet: “ The time is out of joint ” in order to open out the connection between time and spectrality. Derrida evokes a way of learning how to live between life and death and by living between the two occupy a place of a ghostly singularity that resembles an emission. We could in turn align this idea of an emission with the unconscious which for Lacan is seen as a form of unmeant knowledge (‘knowledge that can’t tolerate one’s knowing that one knows ”). The image represents a paradox that suspends the relationship between knowing and seeing because it corrodes both the legible and the visibleⅶ within there secured economies. This is way the image incorporates a negative force that in turn cannot be grasped, a veritable vanishing point of knowledge. The non - graspability of the image is the force that sets it aside, or at a distance. We can state such things as being part of the general economy of the image but in this work we see all the traits of distance and withdrawal that is the work of setting aside. To step aside for a moment, it is worth mediating upon the work of Daido Moriyama because it presents “ the breakdown and desolation” within the formation of Post war Japan. In his most acute work, it is as if subjects are possessed by something, a something closer to a grain as opposed to form within the image. This sensation of a grain or tone stands at the crossroads of actuality and virtuality of a long forgotten memory. Rather than pristine images, glowing with self -certainty and clarity, we are given over to the grime or even residual dirt of the image. The image for Moriyama is between appearing and disappearing, a borderline reality touched by hazard and apprehension. On the one side this could be described as a dog eyes view that combines with a view taken outside of the stream of life that would account for both the raw vitality of the images but also the prevailing spectrality of these images. Akiko appears both to draw and place to aside this body of work because although pre- occupied by memory in ways that are similar to Moriyama, there is a more ancient embodiment of trace that takes the work outside of an immediate social arena. This also draws the work close to the cinema of Kenji Mizoguchi whose work always appeared to be remote from the here and now of life in order that the before and beyond of life might be touched. Mizoguchi of course represented a different moment of modernity when it was still possible to draw upon a different extent of time in order to experience the possibility of the force of erasure contained within it. It is this feeling of this surfacing and erasure of time that serves to create an art on the outside of time, de-centred, and tragic as a means of expressing exteriority to the world. Whereas Moriyama is constitutionally restless, whereas Mizoguchi captures stillness and it these two orientations that are in some ways combined in Akiko’s work. Not only are we left we a series of images born out of not only the wandering of the imagination but within this a wandering sense of the subject. The work is always a series because there can be no final arrival. Instead we are left we the scattered traces of a journey undertaken, an unsecured mode of restlessness provoking in its wake a turbulence within the encounter.ⅷ There is a feeling of desperation within such encounters because its offerings or presentations are the partial offering of a world adrift. How could it be otherwise ? The simplicity though is to give a face to this. So what does the work point towards ? There is little by way of didactic content that would lead us to easy naming. It makes me think of the early Greek philosopher Anaxagoras ( born around 500 BC ) who was the first recorded thinker to put mind in charge of matter. In his retirement he gave little thought to politics and instead spent his time in scientific studies. He was asked by someone if he cared for his country but on hearing this he replied : “Be quiet – I have the greatest care for my country,” and as he uttered this, he pointed to the heavens. To say the work contains a gesture is simply to indicate that it can only point towards itself by being anterior to its own frame. Jonathan Miles
Footnotes ⅰ The title of the text, ‘The Night of the World ’ is drawn from the writing of Hegel who developed a dialect of Night and light. For Hegel, the process of “ drawing of the light into the Night,” which is in turn the basis of producing and storing images, defines inwardizing. To look in the eyes of the other is to catch a glimpse of the Night for the Night prefigures the idea of the unconscious. ⅱ For Blanchot the state of fascination relates to the experience of time’s absence, a sense of time that is without either negation or decision. As such fascination connects us to a mode of abandonment and thereby occasions abandonment or solitude. Fascination is thus outside of the world of reality or measurability and is therefore connected to immeasurability. See The Gaze of Orpheus Station Hill 1981 ⅲ In his book ‘ The Writing of the Disaster’ (1986) Maurice Blanchot states that: “The disaster is related to forgetfulness- forgetfulness without memory…” (P3) furthermore ‘We are on the edge of disaster without being able to situate it in the future: it is rather already past, and yet we are on the edge or under the threat, all formulations which would imply the future- that which is yet to come, that which has put a stop to every arrival. To think disaster ( if this is possible, and it is not possible inasmuch as we suspect that the disaster is thought) is to have no longer any future to which to think it .” (P1) ⅳ In Jean-Francois Lyotard’s writing the figural both pertains to the force of figuration and disfiguration, a force that is linked to desire. This is linked to Freud and the idea that the dream thoughts figure in ways that make them appear as things. If the dream is the work of desire then it is also the place where desire dis-figures itself and hence it is both a process of absenting and presencing. In the context of art, not only does art indicate the function of a figure it is also in turn a refutation of discourse. ⅴ See Jennifer Ann Bates (2004) Hegel’s Theory of Imagination SUNY P5 ⅵ In ‘ The Dark Gaze’ (2004) Kevin Hart states: “Fascinated as one is by the dark gaze of the imaginary at the heart of being, no one can remain before it: the ambiguity between image and imaginary cannot be resolved. An image gives us a grip on reality ; the imaginary makes us lose that grip. We pass from meaning to nonmeaning, from truth to nontruth.” (P.66) ⅶ See Georges Didi-Huberman (2005) Confronting Images Penn State ⅷ Hegel developed the notion of “unhappy consciousness” to refer to a series of conflicts between actual life of the conscious being and the sense of unrealised possibilities that drive it forward. This form of consciousness feels subjected to something outside itself and something that it cannot attain Subjects are interchangeable with their objects in such a manner that the subject can be understood as movement. The subject is never in one place at a time, in the words of Judith Butler in ‘Subjects of Desire (1987):’ “the subject will not arrive at once” but rather as a series of gestures, garments, and shadows strewn along the way. Thought is always the result of a journey undertaken.” This notion of a journeying subject is also echoed in the concerns of Daido Moriyama who writes “A human being is nothing more than a life spent attentively passing through an assemblage of countless scenes. You can say life is transitory and live it at that, but when I wonder where on earth a certain scene from a certain time and a certain period disappeared to, for me that is not sentimentality but rather a feeling closer to irritation. All people lose their scenes one after another. Another way of expressing this is to call it an exasperation with time. Time is not something that comes pressing down on each of us. Recalling scenes that are being lost is, simultaneously, presaging scenes of the death that is to come.” (Memories of a Dog P156)
Over the Parched Field
. Akiko Takizawa’s Printed Images
I first encountered Akiko Takizawa’s photographic images when she was an art student in Bristol in the late 1990’s. What struck me then, even in the formative years of her practice, was a unique sense of dislocation and beauty conveyed through her images. Akiko’s photographs seemed to sear through layers of time rather than just capturing f leeting photographic moments. Their composition, though meticulously considered within a formal picture plane, hinted at a whole world of otherness swirling chaotically beyond their borders. For Akiko it was essential to bring her images to life by locating and harnessing mediums that could take her images directly to the place they belonged. This quest led her to the print studio and a rigorous engagement with the vicissitudes of hand crafted photomechanical printmaking. At the time I was undertaking doctoral research into the reappraisal of historically forgotten photomechanical printing techniques in relation to their potential for rendering high quality digitally mediated artwork. Our paths in the studio frequently crossed and we followed each other’s discoveries with keen interest. One of the areas of research that I was pursuing at the time was through a printing process called collotype. Collotype was one of the first wave of photomechanical printing techniques to be invented in the nineteenth century. It was first introduced publicly through an image printed for an 1860 issue of Photographic News by Ferdinand Jourbert. The photographic quality of the printed image proved that 20 years after the invention of chemical photography, a more permanent means of reproducing photographic quality images in ink on paper could be used to supplement and illustrate printed publications. Despite its astounding quality of detail, the collotype process was soon eclipsed as medium of mass production in favour of other faster and less photographically exact processes. Collotype instead developed into a more specialised medium reserved for the reproduction of images associated with the fine arts. Although it was generally assumed that its use had died out some time in the mid 20th century, my research had located a number of companies and practitioners still engaged in the practice. It was during my quest to bring together these remaining practitioners to exchange knowledge through the means of an International Collotype Conference in Bristol in 2005 that Akiko played an invaluable role in locating and contacting Japan’s last collotype Atelier. Whilst I had already established working relationships between the remaining German, French, Italian and American studios, it had been difficult to confirm persistent rumours that a working studio still existed in Japan. Akiko’s success in locating the Benrido Collotype Company in Kyoto was to put the icing on the cake of a very unique international gathering. Since the initial meeting with Mr Suzuki and Mr Yamamoto from Benrido at the conference, both Akiko and myself have remained in regular contact. Having seen the exceptional quality of the beautiful fine art prints they have produced, and in 2008 visiting their Kyoto Studio, it was heart warming to realise that such an amazing fusion of old skills, cultural traditions and new technologies could be harnessed to craft images that still pushed the envelope of contemporary print quality. A series of eight of Akiko’s photographs have been printed in collotype by the Benrido Company for this exhibition. Knowing Akiko’s work and the sensibilities she pursues, I believe that the union of image and technique is an exciting and wholly symbiotic choice. Whilst the work will no doubt speak for itself, it is perhaps suffice to say that the harmonious addition of the delicate tonescape of the collotype rendered on the finest and smoothest Japanese paper does much to amplify the overall impact and beauty of her work.
To shed some light on the history of the process Akiko has used for some of the prints in the exhibition, collotype was invented in France and perfected in Germany. Although the continuous tone lithographic process is not widely known, aspects of its output still pierce the consciousness of our culture. Most notably, the iconic images from Muybridge ‘Animal Locomotion’ were published almost exclusively in collotype. Illustrations for important scientific publications such as Darwin’s ‘ Expressions and Emotions of Man and Animals’ were also printed in it - as were a large percentage of the postcards published up until the 1950’s. In terms of f ine art, collotype was used for the reproduction of paintings and graphic works however, a number of artists used it as a medium in itself for the production of important artworks. These include the printed contents of Marcel Duchamp’s Green Box and Travelling Suitcase, and many of the Pop Art prints produced by Richard Hamilton from the 1960’s through to the late 70’s. To witness any of the surviving collotype studios in action, one becomes quickly aware that the process is not merely a mechanical printing procedure. Benrido is no exception, with expert crafts people working with a high degree of skill and intuition to push the process to meet and often exceed the artist’s high expectations. In our increasingly instant digital age the skill based currency of processes such as collotype face a very real threat of imminent extinction. Like the disappearing traditions of Japanese culture captured and interrogated by Akiko and her camera, the medium and skill base she uses to bring them into view as prints also reflects the precarious ecology of the past and the present. The printed images from Akiko Takizawa’s ‘Over the Parched Field’ capture and hold something that is exquisitely unique on a myriad of levels.
Dr Paul Thirkell Visiting Research Fellow Centre for Fine Print Research University of the West of England, Bristol
This book was published to accompany the exhibition Over the Parched Field by Akiko Takizawa at Daiwa Foundation Japan House, 18th January to 1st March 2012. Text The Night of the World © 2012 Jonathan Miles Text Over the Parched Field : Akiko Takizawa’s Printed Images © 2012 Paul Thirkell Images © Akiko Takizawa Design by Nao Nozawa Printed by Newgate Concise, London Special thanks to: Daiwa Foundation ( 大和日英基金 ) Benrido(便利堂 ) Kyoto Japan for Collotype Printing Pure & Applied, Conservation Framing Royal College of Art, Printmaking Department Sharon Easterling, Downtown Darkroom Dr Simon Baker Yuichi Hashimura Kounosuke Kawakami Keiko Koshihara Niklas Laustiola Jonathan Miles Nao Nozawa Shihoko Ogawa Takumi Suzuki Dr Paul Thirkell Mark Watts Osamu Yamamoto For details of the photographs please visit www.akikotakizawa.com or contact : email@example.com