Everywhere around us, a landscape of ravage merged with ocean and sky to present shockingly photogenic scenes. Every modern and postmodern aesthetic, together with memories of the greatest literature, art and cinema, could be found or invoked in what we saw, in the quality of air and light, in the sounds and the silence, and in the emotions we felt or tried to imagine. A photographer could come here, and at the end of a single day’s shooting have enough pictures for the most spectacular photobook – like Robert Polidori or Mitch Epstein’s photographs of New Orleans after Katrina. Yet, what Lieko showed us and talked about demanded another order of engagement. It asked for a constant readjustment and refinement of judgment, in which the power of feeling and recall becomes inseparable from the ethical, the practical and the aesthetic.
This paragraph alone contains more insight about photography after 3/11 than any other entire piece of writing I’ve seen. The rest of the article is also excellent, showing why Shiga’s upcoming Sendai show 2 could be an important one.
Somehow $12 and zine do not go hand-in-hand, nor do $12 and Edition of 500, nor do zine and Edition of 500. Fewer, and actual, spreads would have been more convincing. Both reinforce the trivial manner in which zines have been imported to Asia as commercial opportunity rather than as cultural vehicle.i
i This generalization will be addressed in reviews to follow. To frame this argument, refer to the stated price for Mok’s ichikawadaimon on Panorama.jp’s webshop (¥3150, current conversion is US$38 v. the $10 for which it was acquired directly from the photographer through her Etsy shop). Or to Zines Mate’s (a Tokyo-based organization responsible for Tokyo Art Book Fair) call for “Asian Zines” along with its outcome and their distribution fees and terms.
This is not a sound argument, to put it mildly, and the author knew it; thus the retreat and promise of more evidence down the line. Ah, but it’s six months later, he hasn’t written again for the site, and it still remains a generalization of, well, continental proportions to claim that “zines have been imported to Asia as commercial opportunity rather than as cultural vehicle.” Even if some opportunists do exist on this continent—the largest of all continents, as it happens—there are, indeed, Asian people who create zines for cultural rather than economic reasons 2. In any case, what exactly is a zine anyway, such that it should not be sold for $12 or be published in an edition of 500? More to the point, why would any non-skater make such a zealous attempt to defend its honor in 2012?
I can’t comment on the evil terms that Zine’s Mate proposes because they are not published on their site. Panorama is indeed selling “Ichikawadaimon” for ¥3000. Still, a quick glance at the front page of the site 3 shows that they’re not marking up other books drastically, if at all. The book is no longer available anywhere else, and it’s hardly only Japanese people—excuse me, hardly only Asians!—who sell books (and zines 4) above their retail price.
Zine’s Mate’s own Tokyo Art Book Fair 5 happened just a couple of weeks ago, and while there may have been some people looking to make a fast yen, there were also plenty of others selling their publications for cheap (¥300 or less). Sloth In My Head 6 is a so-called “endless zine project.” The zines are printed well, in color, at an almost unwieldy size larger than A3. They sell for ¥300. Meanwhile, Ye Rin Mok herself had a new zine on display at the fair, published with Tokyo-based Booklet Press. “Ceramics Class” 7 costs ¥650 and is printed in an edition of 100, which hardly seems like the stuff of commercial opportunity.
I stumbled across a review of the “Shutter and Love: Girls are Dancin’ on in Tokyo” show 1, which was held at INFAS in 1996. This is a well-written article, offering a lot of valuable context about the days of HIROMIX and Yurie Nagashima. There was also a book (edited by Kotaro Iizawa) produced around this show 2, which can be had for fairly cheap 3; I need to go get one myself.
I do sometimes wonder what it would have been like to be in mid-90s Tokyo. In my imagination, it’s not at all unlike being in a Fishmans video:
Shiga’s images are always visually striking, but there’s more going on in her photographs than sleight of hand. As this interview shows 3, she cultivates certain relationships (or causes certain situations) to create her work. For the past six years, she’s lived in Miyagi Prefecture, serving as the official town photographer of Natori-shi. This seems like an ideal situation, since it’s put her in the position of interacting directly with the residents of the town as part of her job. From what little I saw of this new work (maybe seven or eight prints) at this summer’s Higashikawa Photo Festival 4 I can say it’s turned out well, and I wouldn’t want to miss the chance to see what Shiga can do with an entire museum floor.