Daido Moriyama in Cologne

It’s not the first time that I write about Daido Moriyama. The reason is simple: Daido Moriyama is one of my favorite photographers. His photographs and his books – especially the book Shashinyo Sayônara (Farewell Photography) – had a huge impact on my initial idea of Japanese photography. Therefore it had a certain inevitability that soon after we began to work more intensively with Japanese photography at Galerie Priska Pasquer, we did a Daido Moriyama exhibition in 2004. The exhibition took place at the time when Daido Moriyama received the Cultural Award of the German Photographic Society. The award ceremony was held at the Photographische Sammlung / SK-Stiftung Kultur in Cologne (and where I had the pleasure to give the award speech).

Daido Moriyama. Retrospective from 1965
Photographische Sammlung / SK-Stiftung Kultur (Photographic Collection / SK-Culture Foundation)
Sept. 5 – Dec. 12, 2007

Daido Moriyama: Japan Theater, 1967

At the beginning of September Daido Moriyama was in Cologne again. He came for the opening of his exhibition Daido Moriyama. Retrospective from 1965 which is held at the same place where he received the Culture Award three years ago.

This retrospective, which comprises some 500 photographs, presents the decidedly complex work of Daido Moriyama (b. 1938), one of the most renowned Japanese photographers, from 1965 to the present day. It consists of thirteen series of pictures, largely based on vintage material, and a film presentation. Although Moriyama belongs to Japans post-1945 artist generation, who struck out along radically new aesthetic paths in the post-war period, it is interesting to note that to this day his work has lost none of its currency or artistic scope.

Daido Moriyama: Nippon Gekijo Shashincho (Japan Theater Photo Album), 1968

In a compilation assembled by the artist himself, the following series of pictures are on display, each of which has its own resonance and its own speed: Pantomime (1965), Actor Shimizu Isamu (1967), NIPPON GEKIJO SHASHINCHO (Japan Theater Photo Album) (1968), Marine Accident (1969), Smash-Up (1969), Provoke No. 2 and No. 3 (1969), 71 N.Y. (1971), KARIUDO (Hunter) (1971), SHASHINYO SAYOUNARA (Farewell Photography) (1972), Light and Shadow, (1981/82), Daido Hysteric (1993) and Shinjuku (2000-04).
[Quote: Die Photographische Sammlung / SK-Stiftung Kultur]

This is a huge and well presented show which was exhibited in a slightly different version at the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville, last spring and some time ago in a smaller version at the Foam, Amsterdam. It is important to emphasize, that this is the first exhibition in the West which shows Daido’s works in series and not only as a chaotic, albeit impressive universe of fantastic images.

Daido Moriyama: Daido hysteric no. 4, 1993.jpg

The Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo produced a well printed catalogue. The publication contains a remix of photographs from around four decades, which means it follows a similar concept like the two previous retrospective publications Daido Moriyama: Stray Dog by the SFMOMA (1999) and Daido Moriyama by the Fondation Cartier (2003). While these publications were instrumental to introduce Daido’s works to the West, in my opinion it is about time for a monograph which introduces the most important series in a chronological order, in order to give a deeper understanding of how Daido’s work evolved and changed over the years.As a matter of fact this publication exists already. It is the catalogue Hunter of Light – Daido Moriyama 1965-2003 (Jap./ Engl.) to the exhibition with the same title which traveled in Japan in 2003 (Shimane Art Museum, Kawasaki City Museum, e.g.). But this book is virtually unknown since it is hardly available outside (and inside) Japan.

Daido Moriyama: “Kyoku / Erotica”
Galerie Priska Pasquer
Sept. 15 – Dec. 14, 2007

Daido Moriyama: Kyoku / Erotica, 2007

Daido Moriyama also came to the preview of his exhibition Kyoku / Erotica which took place on the day of the opening of his retrospective at the SK-Stiftung. Both events demonstrated how famous Daido has become in the recent years, since both event drew a lot of visitors.

The exhibition ‘Kyoku / Erotica’ features photographs from Daido’s book with the same title which was published in June 2007. The ’Kyoku / Erotica’ series brings together recent photographs (taken since 1999), from cities such as Tokyo, New York, Shanghai, Bangkok, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires and Sydney. For Daido, this is the continuation of a photographic career that began in the 1960s on the streets of Tokyo:

’’Starting with Yokosuka, my earliest work, I have consistently made the external environment – in the cities, on the streets – my territory. The infinite number of cities, the people in them, the shop windows, the signs – all of this comes together in a perfect, harmonious whole that forms a whirlpool and floods the streets’’.
[Quote: Daido Moriyama]

Daido Moriyama: Kyoku / Erotica, 2007

The title of the exhibition – ’Kyoku / Erotica’ – reflects Daido Moriyama’s ambivalent perception of the world. The word Kyoku can be translated as danger zone. For Daido Moriyama, the world is both a danger zone and a minefield of sexual tension, a mixture of danger and allure. The images in this series interact to form a veritable kaleidoscope of the world as seen by a flâneur or a stray dog – the latter having been chosen by Moriyama as his alter ego in his earlier work. From this perspective, there are no special or outstanding places – all scenes are of equal importance. This perception is emphasized by Daido Moriyama through his raw, grainy, high-contrast style; these are photographs that show everyday scenarios in an ambivalent light – dangerous and erotic.

Daido Moriyama: Kyoku / Erotica, 2007

For me it is very interesting to see that Daido’s photographic concept of reality as well as his visual grammar he developed in the past decades is working so well at places he is not as familiar with as with his home country. This can be seen in this exhibition and in his other very recent series like Hawaii and Witness Number Two (with a series about Shanghai).

What if I mixed in photographs of some creek or cove out in the sticks here in Japan, with photographs of New York and Paris? But there’s not much connection, basically, to Japan or the rest of the world. One of the photographs just means I was there; in that sense, my attitude towards Japan and other places in the world is the same.
[Quote: Daido Moriyama: Kyoku / Erotica]

Daido Moriyama: Kyoku / Erotica, 2007

PS: I will give a lecture titled “Daido Moriyama and the Provoke Era” at the Photographic Collection / SK Culture Foundation on October 23 at 7 pm.

Recommended Books:
Daido Moriyama. Retrospective from 1965, Seville 2007
Daido Moriyama: Kyoku / Erotica, Tokyo 2007
Daido Moriyama: Hawaii, Tokyo 2007
Daido Moriyama: Witness Number Two, New York 2007
Daido Moriyama, Paris 2003
Daido Moriyama: Stray Dog, San Francisco 1999


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