Hirohisa KOIKE and Becca VOELCKER 

Exhibition of photographic work

No. 12 Gallery, 2-29-13 Uehara, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

5th - 10th December 2014











Ocula Review 

Three exhibitions in Tokyo, Japan

by Becca Voelcker




















Hirohisa KOIKE (b. 1979, Japan) and Becca VOELCKER (b. 1990, U.K) both explore place in terms of geopolitical resonances, associated memories, and sensory importance. In both their practices, even when the human body is not visible, an embodied sense of place is expressed through attention to traces left by people, or to textures and visual rhythms present within landscapes. 
This is their first joint exhibition, and both present new work. KOIKE's photographs explore liminal spaces such as mountain borders, forests or seas, taken in Japan and Latvia this summer. These images evoke personal terrains of emotion and experience, as well as political frontiers (Latvia is a former Soviet-ruled nation, whose land and sea border five countries). Exploring a similarly complex place in terms of its history of independence and subordination, VOELCKER's photographs of Ishigaki (Okinawa) document everyday life, and explore the continuum between people and the island they inhabit.

No. 12 Gallery, 2-29-13 Uehara, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo

5th - 10th December 2014
Opening: Friday 5th, 18.00-20.00
Open daily: 12.00-19.00






























notes from the Yaeyama archipelago 2















Hitomi is from Osaka, and after she moved to Ishigaki, her parents shut up shop and joined her on the island, to open a new oden ya. The shop's meishi (business card) and sign read  Oden: made by father, mother, and sometimes daughter too.’ Oden is a dish of various ingredients stewed in soy-flavoured dashi. Hitomi’s parents are proud that they make their dashi (soup stock made from fish and kelp) fresh each day, and don’t use bottled soy sauce. Diners select from a deep and compartmented tray of dashi, which steams at the counter. It contains hard-boiled eggs, daikon radish, konnyaku (a solidified jelly made from the root of devil’s tongue), and chikuwa (a tube shaped fish-paste cake). The oden ya opens at 8 pm, gets busy after midnight, and remains so right up until closing at 3 am. Many of the customers work in other restaurants and come for oden after closing time. Oden is warming, easy to digest, and generally low in calories. Another late-night dish served in the oden ya is dendashi gohan, a bowl of cooked rice (gohan) with the oden's dashi, and a raw egg. Stirred up with chopsticks, the rice becomes a warm, soft porridge. This type of dish is eaten for breakfast throughout Japan. And after all, it's nearly breakfast time by the time the oden ya closes. 






















notes from the Yaeyama archipelago 1










Employment in Ishigaki varies from local services such as the kindergarten and tatami makers, to diving rentals and hotels. Little English is spoken on the island, and most of the tourists are Japanese. I cycle slowly through the town looking at the local businesses and deciphering their signs and shop fronts. Barbershop, key cutting shop, a samisen workshop, sugarcane and souvenir shops, post office, architects practice, bento (lunchbox) shop, and a tatami makers’. Pulling up outside the tatami makers’ open roller shutters, I ask a man in his seventies, who is working inside, if I can watch and photograph as he uses a machine to sew a decorative tape along the edge of the mats. Soon his wife pads towards us and shows me the huge needle and thread once used when they sewed tapes onto the tatami by hand. She tells me about their grown-up children living in Tokyo, and shows me the sacks of straw in the back. Then we look at the family’s certificates – similar framed certificates line most offices. She gives me some iced tea and the three of us sit in their back room with their little dog – which is dressed in clothes, as most Japanese dogs are.












'Every need, say hunger for fresh air or food, is a lack that denotes at least a temporary absence of adequate adjustment with surroundings. But it is also a demand, a reaching out into the environment to make good the lack and to restore adjustment by building at least a temporary equilibrium. Life itself consists of phases in which the organism falls out of step with the march of surrounding things and then recovers unison with it – either through effort or by some happy chance. And, in a growing life, the recovery is never mere return to a prior state, for it is enriched by the state of disparity and resistance through which it has successfully passed. If the gap between organism and environment is too wide, the creature dies. If its activity is not enhanced by temporary alienation, it merely subsists.'



Dewey, J. 2005 (1934) Art As Experience. London: Penguin. [p.p.12-13]








'Memories, not necessarily conscious but retentions that have been organically incorporated into the very structure of the self, feed present observation. They are the nutriment that gives body to what is seen. As they are rewrought into the matter of the new experience, they give the newly created object expressiveness. [...]

'To the being fully alive, the future is not ominous but a promise; it surrounds the present as a halo. It consists of possibilities that are felt as a possession of what is now and here. In life that is truly life, everything overlaps and merges. But all too often we exist in apprehensions of what the future may bring, and we are divided within ourselves. Even when not overanxious, we do not enjoy the present because we subordinate it to that which is absent. Because of the frequency of this abandonment of the present to the past and future, the happy periods of an experience that is now complete because it absorbs into itself memories of the past and anticipations of the future, come to constitute an aesthetic ideal. Only when the past ceases to trouble and anticipations of the future are not perturbing is a being wholly united with his environment and therefore fully alive. Art celebrates with particular intensity the moments in which the past reenforces the present and in which the future is a quickening of what now is'.



Dewey, J. 2005 (1934) Art As Experience. London: Penguin. [p.p. 93; 17]















King's Review, University of Cambridge 

Steve McQueen film installation, Tokyo, Japan

Review by Becca Voelcker











Frieze Review 

New Intimacies, Kyoto, Japan

by Becca Voelcker










Ocula Review 

Yokohama Triennale 2014, Japan

by Becca Voelcker








Ocula Review 

Mediacity Seoul 2014 Biennale, Korea

by Becca Voelcker















Frieze Review 

Yebisu International Festival for Art and Alternative Visions

by Becca Voelcker









Frieze review 

Roppongi Crossing 2013

by Becca Voelcker











Dancing



I watched some dancing, and it reminded me of Japanese calligraphy. When you write a character, some strokes need to flow into a wisp, and others be finished punctually, to contrast the ink and paper. The dancer's arms and legs flowed in arcs – but these movements sometimes came to abrupt and precise stops. She would lock, for just a moment, and then curve again in another direction.

In this, as well as the music, there was a combination of absolute control and improvisatory playfulness. Everything was meticulous: when she walked, her white socked feet (the big toe separate from the other toes, like a cloven hoof) slid across the surface of the stage, and on each step, she twitched her toes upwards ever so slightly – but again, precisely and decisively – as if they had come into contact with something sharp.


Fragments of Calm



An old woman eats onigiri, a ubiquitous Japanese rice ball wrapped in seaweed. She holds it in both hands and bites downwards, her body centred on it. It is probably lunchtime in a park in Tokyo, and she has been working all morning. A curtain billows. A child holding his mother’s hand glances backwards at the camera. These fragments of everyday life are captured in Issei Suda’s black and white photographs taken from the early sixties to the present day, which are currently on display in Tokyo’s Metropolitan Museum of Photography.


Issei Suda


The exhibition title, nagi no hira (‘Fragments of Calm’), is the name of Suda’s most recent collection, but applies in theme to all the images on show – be they street scenes, portraits, or nocturnal shots of carp in a pond. Curator Harumi Niwa likens the atmosphere of Suda’s images to the feeling in the air when a breeze momentarily stills and exposes us to a fragment of calm, before resuming its movement.  

Combining diverse ethnological and subjective viewpoints, Suda’s work does not cater for Western stereotypes of Japan with stereotypical imageries of eroticism or Zen, and escapes any one school or style. Contemporaneous with Suda’s early career, a group of known as the Provoke Movement were producing photographs characterised by their grainy, blurred and out of focus quality, known as are bure boke. They photographed in pursuit of atmosphere and energy, their style at variance with that of a second group, known as Kompora. A composite created from ‘contemporary’ and ‘photography,’ Kompora aimed to produce a new, coolly objective and precise form to document everyday life.

Though belonging to neither, in intentions and aesthetics, Suda sits between Provoke and Kompora. Subtle distortions such as over-exposure combine with precise focus in his work. Windows simultaneously provide aperture framing and slide reflections into ambiguous space. A sense of intrigue underlies everyday scenes. In the photograph taken at night with a flash, the swimming carp appears like a zeppelin, and the pond around it, a starry night sky. Elsewhere, Suda photographs the tangled halo of a stranger as if capturing a solar eclipse. One of the most surprising photographs in the exhibition is of a little owl. It beams up at the camera, framed in a grid of light produced by a garden fence. The grid is like a photographic test strip; the owl and fence, examples of unforeseen moments in the everyday; and the overall image, a précis for Suda’s practice, working in the still of the breeze.


Issei Suda

Issei Suda

Issei Suda