Tomoaki Ishihara “34 LIGHT YEARS”

Dates|July 14 – August 12, 2018
Venue|MEM map
Open hours|12:00-20:00
Closed|Mon. (open on holiday Mon. and closed on the following days)
Tel.|+81 (0)3-6459-3205

Date|July 14, 18:00 –
Guest|Michio Hayashi (art historian/critic)

*Admission free, Japanese version only
*Opening reception will be held after the talk.

Tomoaki Ishihara was born in 1959 and graduated from the Kyoto City University of Arts in 1984. In the 1980s he produced self-portrait photographs printed onto spindle-shaped canvases with photosensitive emulsifiers painted on them as well as huge stitched leather sculptures. His artwork traverses through different mediums such as photograph, painting, and sculpture questioning the framework of art media and the structure of what it means to see. For example, he often digitally converts parts of his body into physical media. Ishihara says that he is experimenting to augment the finiteness of the “body.” In this exhibition, we would like to present 60 works which are self-portraits from 34 years ago which he has printed again as gelatin silver print. The exhibition of more variants of this series are planned.


I had turned a blind eye to them, but in the spring, I finally started to organize the old negatives that I had been neglecting for many years. Curiously the reason that I am hurried is not because of my age but because day by day it is becoming more and more difficult to get my hands on materials for black and white photographs. Even the photographic printing paper that I am accustomed to is difficult to get a hold of and I am anxious how much longer it will last. I installed a blackout curtain on the window of my own room to create an incomplete dark room and I start my print work after the sun sets. There is no air conditioning so I will probably only be able to maintain the temperature of the photographic development chemicals until rainy season from early June to mid-July. This 34-year-old film is from when I had just started the work of “exhibiting” my self-representations but unexpectedly their state of preservation is not bad. When I set the enlarger and switch on my timer, I feel like I have gone back in time. The rough touch of my past lighting technique rises before my eyes.

“This-has-been.” This is a quote from Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes which I read but didn’t understand around the same time that I made that film. A photograph is “existence” transferred through light. I always experience this personally when I am in the darkness of the darkroom. It is quite different from nostalgia. “Here and now” light materializes though chemical changes right before my eyes. “The there that used to be” is transferred and born again into a new “existence.” The same way that light from a distant star reaches us through the night sky. Or perhaps like a zombie. Light takes its time to reach us.

Tomoaki Ishihara, May, 2018