I choose to work with contemporary issues in relation to their historical contexts. Through my photography, I create what I call my own “truth” formed from the influences and experiences I have absorbed. Even though I am continually looking for the truth, there is also a feeling of contradiction within me because I believe that a single truth does not exist. My images attempt to portray only one version, but by doing so, I also hope to be able to bring out other meaningful "truths" that may lie deep inside the audience.
Industrialization is often equated with advancement of society. This is one “truth” that I attempt to question. In this essay project, I am looking at Japan’s unique post-war history and its society after the attainment of economic power through industrialization. Despite loss of human lives, destruction of its major cities, and its lack of raw materials, Japan became the second largest economy in the world in less than 25 years after the war ended. Postwar Japanese identity has largely been shaped by recovery from defeat, economic development to catch up with the West, and reviving national confidence. Moreover, the bubble economy and the “Lost Decade” of the nineties has left little room for the nation’s people, especially the younger generation, to reflect upon and understand what it means to be uniquely Japanese. My theme corresponds with the idea of postwar identity, provoking the question of whether we can really say that society is evolving after post-war economic development. This series of photographs is a representation of the feelings of isolation, loneliness, and emptiness that can be found alongside the advancement of modern society and its communities after war. My subjects are urban structures and war sites in Japan as well as other Asian countries.
Parallels with Japan’s post-war era can be seen with the rapid economic development and modernization of China, India, and other Asian countries in recent years. Thus, I believe that the state of postwar Japan is relevant to contemporary issues of our global community. While I hope to be able to stimulate discussion within my home country of Japan regarding its post-war identity, I would also like to reach out to an international audience, as I believe that my theme has an element of universality.
“Pathos and Irony: Industrial Still-Life in Japan”
Industrialization and economic development are often considered to be synonymous with the advancement of society. This is one “unspoken truth” that I attempt to question. In “Pathos and Irony: Industrial Still-Life in Japan,” a photographic series of factories, plants and other industrial buildings taken in my home country, I express the ironic duality of beauty and dehumanization inherent in industrialization. That is to say, while there is no visual evidence of human life, the structures in my photographs cannot be stripped of the sense of humanity that surrounds them. These opposing values epitomize the paradox of society after industrialization. My work is also a tribute to those who toiled to make it possible for Japan to become an economic superpower after World War II. I strive to depict this “pathos” as well as other emotional complexities that go hand in hand with the advancement of modern society.
Japan has been suffering from the aftermath of the tremendous Earthquake and Tsunami that devastated vast areas in North Eastern Japan on March 11, 2011. The disaster was an immense shock to the nation, and the quake and tsunami laid waste to whole towns and villages along the Pacific coast.
Over the years I have been working on Japan as theme of my art, investigating pathos in relation to historical, social, and economic issues involving industrialization and urban development and social development. Since I regard the 311 disasters as a new page in Japanese postwar history, it was only natural for me to visit the Tsunami affected area not only to face the reality also to feel something there.
In the face of an encounter with the devastated landscape, I lapsed into silence, undeciding to accept all spectacles in front of me. There was only my existence, sensing sea wind and an odd smell, and seeing birds flying in unprecedented devastation at dusk, which conducted me into contemplation on the complexity of resolving the human existence to nature.
Amid chaos, spontaneously I began to seek the beauty of things as if it were a spiritual practice, and I was drawn towards the idea that the beauty could be the way to reach the truth. Through the practice I pursue my beliefs and identities rather than simple facts that are either black or white. Although I am continually looking for the truth, there is also a feeling within me that believes that a single truth does not exist. These photographs attempt to portray only one version, but by doing so, I also endeavor to bring out other truths that may lie between human and nature.
I attempt to connect historical, economic, and social issues with personal experiences and the voices of my generation. I seek to pursue the past that is related to these issues, investigate how we can face and commemorate the past which includes wars and tragic events, and contemplate the relationship between past and present, individual and collective memory in history.
Throughout the decades after WWII, a number of war memorials have been created. For the past few years, I have visited various war memorial sights in Japan and the U.S., and I was drawn to the concept of commemoration of war and history. A war memorial in modern time is generally defined as a building, monument, statue or other edifice to commemorate those who died or were injured in war. Although those memorials are public reminders of the past and tragic events, there is a selective quality to the past that has been chosen to commemorate. Despite the physical presence of memorial parks, monuments and heritage sites, it is uncertain how much these forms contribute to historical knowledge and awareness. I am looking into another way to memorialize the past, which can lead us to reflect upon and consider the war in the past as the pattern for the present.
I also explore how economic development has impacted historical, cultural, and social values. Rotterdam is one of the largest ports in the world, which recovered from the demolition of WWII. I seek to investigate the postwar development of Rotterdam through an academic and aesthetic approach, questioning what human development really is.