Interview: Mayumi Hosokura
Jubilee / Syukusai
An interview with Mayumi Hosokura by Kristian Häggblom
In this interview with Kristian Häggblom, Mayumi Hosokura discusses the experimental processes and influences behind works such as Kazan and Jubilee. She also discusses the origins of CRYSTAL LOVE STARLIGHT and what the idea of Tsuka means to her.
We stand in need of a new skin.
It could be something like fur; snake scales; the tri-chrome of a plant or luminous glass.
A new skin blurs the outline of each category, like how manipulation of one gene can create a tomato in which gene of moth exists or a sheep in which gene of frog exists.
I am a woman but I could also be a man, an animal, a plant or a non-living object at the same time.
This new skin blurs the boundaries.
Men and women, human and animal, living object and non-living object.
New skin is a BODY HACK that expands “me” (or “you”) who is (are) dreaming of this imminent future.
- Quote from information pamphlet from the Jubilee exhibition at G/P Gallery, Tokyo.
Kristian Häggblom: We recently met to view your exhibition at G/P Gallery in Tokyo that featured hand-manipulated prints with very specific frames, 3 dimensional LED displays and two video works. Unlike many Japanese photographers who don’t necessarily pay much attention to presentation detail, you are very particular with how your work is presented. Before we speak about ideas or actual images, could you tell me a little about the presentation and the relationship between the elements?
Mayumi Hosokura: I’m really interested in different ways to show and display images. In the present digital era, photography is not a medium to be presented on paper alone. Now we have to think devotedly about how to display images, and even bigger questions, such as what is photography? These new ways of thinking about and questioning photography influence and inspire my dedication to presentation and detail.
KH: While we are discussing methodology and process, can you elaborate on the complex techniques you use to craft your prints?
MH: In my recent work, some images appear many times as slightly different coloured or toned prints. For me this is important because I believe the core of photography is the original image in digital or analogue form and this can then be manipulated and presented in many different ways; such as on paper, on a monitor, through projection, and importantly – also in our my brain.
With this in mind I often re-photograph an image and I print it with different techniques. For example, I have been re-photographing images made with colour negative film, but I develop it with B&W chemicals to get high contrast B&W images. These B&W negatives are then exposed with a colour enlarger in my darkroom so that I get mono colour prints. I designate six colours: red, green, blue, yellow, magenta and cyan because these are obviously the elements that make up photographic process.
"At first I had an image of people dancing with joy, as Jubilee in Japanese translates to (祝祭) ‘syukusai’ and has more festive connotations, and I just really like the sound of the word."
KH: Both photobooks, Kazan and Jubilee, have indented cover markings, one messy and abstract (Kazan) and the other calculated and more mathematical (Jubilee). Is this a signature of your book work? How do these markings relate to the photographs?
MH: These ideas came from the designer who I worked with to make these publications, I liked it because the markings make the viewers think about textures. Texture is an important part of my work, for example skin and print surface.
KH: I am very curious about the title Jubilee, it is such a wonderful word. What is the meaning in reference to your work?
MH: At first I had an image of people dancing with joy, as Jubilee in Japanese translates to (祝祭) ‘syukusai’ and has more festive connotations, and I just really like the sound of the word.
KH: The statement for the exhibition (quoted above) is very powerful. I understand that this is represented in your work by often employing androgynous models. Can you tell me more about this?
MH: Yes, in recent years I have been very inspired and influenced by Donna J. Haraway the American feminist theorist. She wrote many super interesting books especially an essay called Cyborg Manifesto.
She has questioned why our body should end with our skin, and by doing so she has raised poignant questions in relation to physical and perceived boundaries. If societal imposed boundaries of machines, animals, plants, etc. were removed, how would this reinvent and shape our lives and relations between ourselves and the objects and animals that surround us? These strong concepts that Haraway encapsulates and expands on so well are very influential to my work and I hope that this is evident.
"In addition to this, I see prostitution as similar to art and its histories: Who buys who? Who paints who? Who pictures who? Prostitution is often said to be the first occupation for women. Why? Art history and photography history also speak of power, and women were intrinsic to this history. I am posing questions around who has power and why."
KH: Some of the work for Jubilee was produced in China, including one video shot in a nightclub. I’m very interested in the prostitute calling cards that are included in the book and the exhibition. What attracted you to them and what do they indicate for the project overall?
MH: The prostitute calling cards from China are a kind of symbol for this series. I made many pictures in East Asian countries and there were many problems with communication. I can't speak Chinese, and most people in China can't speak Japanese, but we both use ‘kanji’ (Chinese characters) in written form so we can both understand written text to a certain degree. Although the way we pronounce these terms is very different. Twisted and confused (dis)communication was an interesting and influential experience while I was travelling in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
In addition to this, I see prostitution as similar to art and its histories: Who buys who? Who paints who? Who pictures who? Prostitution is often said to be the first occupation for women. Why? Art history and photography history also speak of power, and women were intrinsic to this history. I am posing questions around who has power and why.
Another layer exists that is also interesting… these cards are using images of famous Asian women that are illegally sourced from the internet. I discovered a card in China that mused an image of a popular Japanese idol. It was very interesting to think how we share our images and culture. I am interested in mixing culture, nation, race, gender and imagery while questioning power. These cards are a good example of what I try to achieve with my own work and why they are now part of the work.
KH: You have also been working with objects, especially neon. What instigated this interest?
MH: The use of neon light is inspired by experiences in my darkroom and the joy of walking at night. Making and recording such light sources also is representative of the ideas discussed above.
KH: As I think you are aware, I am very interested in your previous project and subsequent photobook, CRYSTAL LOVE STARLIGHT, can you please briefly outline this project and how it began? Especially the relationships with the newspaper and other ‘New Documentary’ modes of working.
MH: This series started with one small article in the newspaper. First, I was impressed by the bar's name CRYSTAL LOVE STARLIGHT because of the ‘BRINGBRING’ associated with the bar’s name and how it attempts to fill a void often found amongst Japanese suburbs. The case involved many elements that interest me and especially prostitution, so I was attracted to the idea and somehow imaging the story – it expresses many things that I talk about in other works about power and the relationships of skin.
KH: I only recently discovered the work Trailer, it seems very interesting. A zine with prints and a cassette tape. Can you please tell me about this project? I really want to hear that cassette!
MH: Trailer is a subtext to CRYSTAL LIVE STARLIGHT. I did a lot of research for the project, so the book is like a repository of all the research undertaken and the images found and made. The cassette contains recordings that I also made – it’s like a confusing detective file and can be read as an extension or expansion of CRYSTAL LIVE STARLIGHT.
"I regard Tsuka as objects that emit signs to direct humans in a better direction."
KH: For each interview for the dedicated Tsuka website I am asking each artist about a particular image, its making and what it may mean to both you and the audience. In regard to your work, I would really like to know more about the photograph in the publication Kazan of the nude girl in the backseat of a car looking up and out the window. It is so mesmerizing, beautiful yet haunting; in many ways it could be described as sublime. Can you tell me more about it please?
MH: The photograph was taken during a short trip in Izu Oshima near Tokyo. The model is one of my friends and we went on a short shooting trip with two boys. I took this photograph on the way to a Volcano. We stopped the car on a small road in the forest so there are beautiful green reflections in the car windows and the light was amazing. But I didn't plan this image, the situation was a coincidence as with many of my other photographs.
KH: Tsuka! What is Tsuka for you and how could your work be considered a form of homage or atonement?
MH: I regard Tsuka as objects that emit signs to direct humans in a better direction.