Mari Katayama, “Bystander # 016” (2016).

Imbued with questions about the world in general and Japanese society in particular, the 2020 edition of the Kyotography festival has opened, despite the tumults linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. Around ten exhibitions of the “in” festival are held in Kyoto until October 18 on the theme of vision, physical function as mental representation of a present or future reality.

Initially scheduled for spring, the annual event was postponed to the fall, the fault of a pandemic that has “Upset human relations, balance and social activities”, says Lucille Reyboz and Yusuke Nakanishi, its creators and directors, and who asks: “What future do we see for the world? “

Destitution of the elderly

At the heart of this questioning, Japan, its environment, its demography and its future, are the subject of several installations, starting with that of Mari Katayama. At the Shimadai gallery, housed in the building of a former sake and silk store, the artist offers a new work of self-portraits with Home Again, a thought “On what is natural and what has been lost or damaged”.

As since his beginnings in 2011, the artist stages his body, amputated in his childhood because of a congenital disease. His reflection is fed this time in part by a visit to Ashio, a mountainous city north of Tokyo, where the exploitation of copper mines at the end of the XIXe century the first environmental disaster in Japan. “I found a parallel between these landscapes and my body. “

Photo from the series

Japanese dramas are also discussed with the work of Atsushi Fukushima. Employed as a deliveryman of bentos, the photographer by training has multiplied for ten years the pictures of elderly customers at home, a work that has become a moving exhibition presented in an old machiya (tea house). “For me, these are not people approaching death. They eat the bento and live one more day. “ The sometimes desperately smiling images show the real destitution of these elderly people in a country where the share of over 65s reached 28.7% in 2019 and where this population is severely affected by loneliness and poverty.

The demographic decline bluntly exposed is a reminder of this collateral damage: desertification of the countryside and loss of artisanal know-how. The first point appears in “The Wonderful World of Kakashi”, an exhibition presented in an “off” festival category called KG + Select. Chika Usui has recreated with humor and scarecrows scenes from the daily life of an almost deserted village.

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