In Focus: Yuki Kimura

The Japanese artist discusses photography and the viewer as an intermediary

Andrew Maerkle You’ve produced works in numerous formats, from photographs that you have staged yourself – such as the ‘B&B’ series (2000), in which young girls pose with a basketball, first concealed under their skirts so that they appear to be pregnant, and then in a second shot holding the balls in front of their bellies – to works in which found photographs serve as sources for sculptural installations. Your recent projects use found images to explore the relations between depicted and actual space, as in KATSURA (2012), in which 24 black and white photographs of the historic Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto are suspended from armatures arranged in loose relation to the circuit of scenic views on the villa’s grounds. What seems to link these diverse projects is a consideration of the viewer as a medium between images and the situations in which they are encountered.

Yuki Kimura I’ve always been concerned with exposing and disrupting the illusion presented by the photograph, and experimenting with the relationship between one photograph and another. The viewer is a necessary intermediary for something to be expressed within those relations. I’m also interested in how one experiences multiple images in the space of the gallery. By placing works so as to create a narrative framework, I usually rely on the structure of the space itself, but with KATSURA, which I made for the 30th São Paulo Biennial last year, I wanted to give the work its own structure, so that the work and the space would be integrated. You could say this developed from my exhibition at the Izu Photo Museum in 2010, ‘Untitled’, where I made large photographic prints presented as ‘table’ surfaces. But this time the works are presented simply as photographs, in frames and printed at conventional scale, and that generates the inherent structure of the work. 

KATSURA, 2012, installation view at 30th São Paulo Biennial

KATSURA, 2012, installation view at 30th São Paulo Biennial

AM     Was it a natural progression for you to move from making works based on taking photographs to making works in which photographs become sculptural elements?

YK     It was a gradual process. My practice began from doubts about the uniqueness of photography and the authority of the decisive moment. Sometimes I would place nearly identical photographs together, as in Passing Backgrounds (1999), where subtle differences in two photographs of the same boat reveal the passage of time. Not quite collage, it was an experiment with the temporality and spatiality that emerged between the two images. Using found images allowed me to work with the past, and expanded the plastic potential of photography. Basically, because it is not real, the two-dimensional space of the photograph is always incomplete. The more you work with it, the stranger it becomes. In that sense, using photographs in the construction of a physical space creates an experience of that incompleteness.

AM     Beginning in 2005, you started making works like image and the shadow 01, which is a circular print of the horizon over an ocean paired with a circular plate of tinted Perspex placed as a ‘shadow’ on the floor beneath it. Then, in the exhibition ‘YOU MAY ATTEND A PARTY WHERE STRANGE CUSTOMS PREVAIL', (2006), at Taka Ishii Gallery in Tokyo, you showed large c-type prints mounted on wood with door shapes cut out of them, and then you dispersed those cut-outs around the room. What was your approach to sculpture in such works?

'YOU MAY ATTEND A PARTY WHERE STRANGE CUSTOMS PREVAIL', exhibition view at Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, 2006. Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo

'YOU MAY ATTEND A PARTY WHERE STRANGE CUSTOMS PREVAIL', exhibition view at Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo, 2006. Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Tokyo

YK     I think about sculpture and photography in terms of dimensionality. More than working with photographs, you could say I manipulate dimensionality. In an abstract way, the ‘shadows’ were intended as a confirmation or emphasis of the existence of the image’s position in space. An image constantly shifts between something that is perceived as a projection and an actual physical object, and I wanted to focus on the existence of the medium that contains the image. With the latter work, I wanted to disassemble the structure of the photographic body, to experiment with both the functionality of the physical aspect and the insubstantiality of the image.

AM     Your recent works seem to be investigating the inherent archaeological qualities of photography, and the way that, when divorced from context, a photograph elicits questions about when and how and under what circumstances it was taken.

YK     Yes. What interests me now is how both the photographic medium itself and the space depicted in the image age together. We have passed through the analogue era into the digital, and analogue photography is now a window onto the social structures of mass production and material culture that developed after Modernism. For KATSURA I wanted to incorporate into the structure of the work the fact that the original photographs had been taken during the 1960s ‘golden age’ of analogue photography, and the height of obsession among photographers for silver gelatin prints. That’s why the frames themselves are quite conventional, but suspended from metal armatures with their backs visible and the work descriptions pasted on them on stickers. It’s a kind of quotation: the Katsura Imperial Villa was completed in the mid-17th century, and the photographs from the 1960s observe this historical building, creating multiple temporal layers in the work, all seen from the vantage point of the present.

Andrew Maerkle is a writer and editor based in Tokyo, Japan.

 Yuki Kimura is an artist based in Kyoto, Japan. In 2012, her work was shown at the 30th São Paulo Biennial, Brazil. This year, she will be included in the group shows: ‘Better Homes’ at SculptureCenter, New York, USA (opening on 21 April); ‘Photography Now and Forever’ at MATHEW, Berlin, Germany (opening 31 May); and ‘Site’ at the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan (opening 20 July).

Issue 154

First published in Issue 154

April 2013

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