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Yoko ASAKAI: 22932
Written by Tomohiro MASUDA   
Published: July 10 2009

fig. 1 from "22932" (2009); courtesy of Mujin-to Production, Tokyo, copy right(c) Yoko ASAKAI

fig. 2 from "22932" (2009); courtesy of Mujin-to Production, Tokyo, copy right(c) Yoko ASAKAI

     The title “22932” is said to be the number of a house, which is the subject of the series, which was located there in past times. Therefore, we can guess that all the pictures of the series were taken on the premises of the house. There is no photograph from which we can imagine the entire picture of the house. Each photo shows us a partial scene in the house, such as a picture of a garden, a kitchen or a living room. Indeed, in some of them, we find there are people who seem to be residents of the house, but their actions in the pictures are fragmentary and very mysterious. In fig.. 1, for example, a man is sitting in the dark with a box and a key in his hands. Although his motion intrigues us, it is difficult for us to decide whether he has just discovered the box or if he is burying it in the ground secretly.

     Comparing these pictures carefully with each other, we find there are slight relationships among them. For instance, in fig. 2, there is a box on a chair in a room. The lid of the box is open, and inside there is a pearl necklace. The box seems to be the same one as the man is holding in fig. 1. Nonetheless, these two photos, those of fig. 1 and fig. 2, do not answer our questions about the box since they do not provide any extra information. Instead, while looking at them, we come to speculate more about the box, wondering “Was this box discovered by the man? Or, will it be buried in the ground by him?”, “Is this box, indeed, the same as the one the man has in his hand in the other photo?” or “Did the man have a pearl necklace in the box?” In this way, the series of photos leads us to ask many questions about them. Therefore, while we are looking at the pictures again and again, these photos allow us to imagine the relationships among the pictures, to envision the people concerned with the house, and to try to understand the connections among these people. Nevertheless, we cannot grasp the entire content of each picture completely, and thus we get a generally vague image, similar to the feeling of plunging into mist, but this does not make us feel anxiety or frustration. In fact, we even feel pleasure, just like treasure hunters, in finding out about relationships or other links between the photos which seemed to have no relationship with each other at first glance.

     Being attracted by trivial things in pictures, whether you like it or not, evokes for us the word, “Punctum”, mentioned by Roland Barthes. According to Barthes, “Punctum” means “details” or “small fractures” in photos which stimulate our personal interest, rising above our common perspective on the picture. In addition, Barthes said that “Punctum” is not something which can be created by photographers deliberately. Nonetheless, in this exhibition, Asakai succeeded in making viewers feel drawn to her photos by sprinkling something like “Punctum” intentionally into the pictures. It cannot be said that Asakai employed “Punctum” deliberately in her pictures. Nevertheless, the set of trivial events taken in her photographs do not appear to have clear meanings, which seems to be the same as “Punctum”. Also, to which events shown in her photos we pay attention and what kind of relationships we find among them depends significantly on our own whim. In other words, her pictures allow viewers to enjoy reading the texts accompanying the photos and to create stories themselves by using these texts. In this way, the various elements sprinkled into the pictures seem to be hypothetical “Punctum”.

     In this series of photos, some were taken in black and white and others were color. It seems that Asakai took pictures in black and white when shooting a whole room from a distance, but used color photos to get close shots of subjects. Such a way of taking pictures can be said to be applied to our mechanism for memorizing, in that fragmentary or instantaneous events are remembered clearly while overall memories are stored vaguely. In fact, the address which is used for the title of this exhibition indicates the “past” location of a certain house. Therefore, the title can be said to show us clearly that the moments or fragmentary spaces shown in Asakai’s photos are all but gone. Nonetheless, stories, which we reconstruct “right now” in our brains, triggered by Asakai’s pictures, present images vividly within our minds, though they are “past” things. Such stories seem to be similar to our memories which are brought back vividly in our minds suddenly when touching past fragments. While we are comparing Asakai’s photos with each other back and forth numerous times, our synapses become activated and the past memories, captured in her pictures, are recollected. Indeed, such past memories, which have been revitalized based on her photos, are now new and therefore unfamiliar stories for us, but we feel really nostalgic about them. Why?
(Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)

“La Chambre claire”, Roland Barthes (Translated by Hikaru Hanawa, Misuzu Shobo, 1985), p.39

Related Exhibition

"Yoko Asakai: 22932"
27/Mar/2009 - 02/May/2009
Venue: Mujin-to Production

Last Updated on October 24 2015

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