Japanisches Kulturinstitut, Köln
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
A selection of images from the exhibition are available here
For more than half a century, internationally acclaimed photographer Eikoh Hosoe has been producing cutting edge works which show a unique mastery of the photographic medium. By calling on mythology, metaphor and symbolism he created images that broke the boundaries of traditional photography. Hosoe developed a unique style situated at the crossroads of several different art forms, combining photography with elements of theatre, dance, film and traditional Japanese art. To this day he continues to push the horizons of photographic expression.
Hosoe began to make a name for himself in the late 1950s with the series Man and Woman (1959) and Ordeal by Roses (1961-1962), but it was his meeting with Tatsumi Hijikata, one of the founders of Butoh dance, that led him to one of the most creative series of his career, Kamaitachi (1965-1968). After seeing one of Hijikata’s highly controversial performances in Tokyo, Hosoe began to work with him on a series of photographs integrating elements of dance, theatre and documentary into an intensely cinematic work that aimed to recreate and dramatise Hosoe’s childhood memories. Hosoe’s long relationship with Hijikata also led him to photograph the renowned Butoh performer, Kazuo Ohno. His photographs of Ohno over several decades were recently published in a companion publication to the seminal book Kamaitachi, Butterfly Dream (Seigensha, 2006).
Hosoe’s latest colour work, Ukiyo-e Projections, revisits his early work by linking it into ukiyo-e and Butoh dance. This series was born when he found out that the experimental Asbestos Dance Studio founded by Hijikata and his wife was to close in 2003 after forty years of activity. Upon hearing about the closure, Hosoe felt the need to pay a photographic tribute “to express gratitude for all that it had produced”. Ukiyo-e Projections was completed on stage at the Studio during a series of sessions held with Butoh dancers. For this series Hosoe created what he calls a “photographic theatre”, projecting a mixture of his own photographs with ukiyo-e prints on to the white-painted bodies of young Butoh dancers.
Hosoe has begun to produce his work on traditionally made silk screens and scrolls, with exquisite prints of his images made onto Japanese washi paper. In addition to a full set of prints from the Kamaitachi series, the exhibition includes several hanging scrolls, folding screens and wall-mounted scrolls combining traditional techniques with the latest digital technology, showcasing the heights to which digital printing has risen and the evolution it has engendered in adapting traditional art forms to a contemporary context.
Eikoh Hosoe: Theatre of Memory brings together photographs of the two giants of Butoh dance, Tatsumi Hijikata in the series Kamaitachi and Kazuo Ohno in the series Butterfly Dream, with his recent Ukiyo-e Projections series. Inspired by his notion that Butoh is a modern form of ukiyo-e this exhibition highlights Hosoe’s ability to manipulate time and place to bring memory to life through the intersection between photography and other artistic disciplines including dance, theatre and painting.
The exhibition will include wall-mounted scrolls from the series Kamaitachi, Butterfly Dream and Ukiyo-e Projections made by printing with pigment inks on Japanese washi paper mounted on silk. In addition to these scrolls it will include 2 folding screens, and a series of gelatin-silver prints from the series Embrace.
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