Nobuyoshi Araki (contributions by Ian Jeffrey, Akiko Miki, Yuko Tanaka & Jonathan Watkins; bibliography by Kotaro Iizawa)
- Araki Self-Life-Death
Phaidon, London, 2006.
Quarto; hardcover, with black upper board titling and black endpapers; 719pp., colour and monochrome illustrations. Minor wear only; near fine in white dustwrapper with mild wear to edges; now professionally protected by superior non-adhesive polypropylene film. Near fine. "Araki's art overflows with life, and his life is awash in images. They are good, bad, indifferent; posed, random, accidental; prurient, erotic, anarchistic, touching, vulgar, lascivious, lurid, sentimental. The cumulative effect is overwhelming. For some, Araki is utterly beyond the pale, especially because of his depictions of women: women in Kimonos bound and suspended in Japanese rope bondage, women's bodies smeared with what appears to be blood (in fact, it is paint), women masturbating, women with lipstick and cigarettes, women with Araki's bestiary of plastic dinosaurs and lizards. The women look at the man behind the camera, and their gaze reaches us. Often it is a look of severity, as if the spectator was really the one being objectified. What we are watching is the complicit menage-a-trois of photographer, model and camera, a kind of ritualised theatre of objectification. Araki has been described as a pornographer, a monster, a genius, a 'dirty uncle' and much else besides. He has called himself most of these things, too, and makes much of his persona as a somewhat cartoonish, priapic little devil, as though he were himself a character in an erotic 18th-century drawing of the Floating World. His mischievous and wanton energies, his scurrilous, libidinous images are driven by subjectivity and desire; so too are those images that go to the bone of bereavement, nostalgia and loneliness, their pathos being all the more affecting for being set at the heart, as it were, of a body of work - not to mention a work of bodies - full to the brim with life's pleasures and excesses....One must take Araki and his view of the world entire, or not at all; we find ourselves at one moment in the sado-masochistic sex club Tokyo Lucky Hole, the next in the anonymous streets of the modern city. In the bed, in the bathroom, eating a meal. The walls of a side room are entirely covered with Polaroids, a relentless procession of sex, poached eggs, glimpses of bodies, couples, foodstuffs and anything else his eye floated across. It is like being inside the camera obscura of someone's head, on whose walls everything is projected. .. Araki has had much to say about the photographer's relation to the camera - as eye, as a sort of body extension - and Phaidon's book includes a marvellous compendium of his aphoristic, often funny and provocative thoughts. .. The book is in many ways his preferred form, on account of the intimacy, the sequential development, the novel-like structure. Life, he believes, is made up of a succession of moments rather than a great big drama. His books have been described as an equivalent to the genre of the Japanese I-novel, a first-person autobiographical fiction. All this would count for nothing if Araki's photographs did not match up to all the words. Those who detest him, for ideological reasons, or for his spending so much of himself working on porn, and on sometimes cheap shots, won't be persuaded. They probably want to lock him up in some oubliette of the unseen and unacknowledged, or to parade him as a living example of the unconscionable. A bowdlerised Araki would be meaningless. Araki's art cheers me up. Quite often, it turns me on. It is delightful and sad and truthful, and its playfulness is a great antidote to self-pity. It is an injunction to make more of the things in life that matter; love of life and its complexity most of all, in the knowledge that one day it will all end. The shutter stops time, but only for a moment. At best, he makes one appreciate what is both in front of one's eyes and in the back of one's mind. If not a genius, at the very least Araki might be described as a genie, not with a lamp, but a camera." - Adrian Serle
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