Photographs by Yuriko Takagi.
Editions Xavier Barral, 2013. 80 pp., 28 black & white illustrations, 9½x11".
This lusciously produced volume examines the multiple meanings deriving from a single word, also exploring how seemingly similar images can be perceived so differently as a result of our personal associations. ‘Sei’ is a Japanese word which, although always pronounced the same, can be represented by no less than 28 kanji characters with a diverse host of meanings: star, voice, blue, sex, energy, death, betrayal, peace of mind, purity. Here, the photographer Yuriko Takagi opens up this semantic cacophony, in depictions of 28 flower buds, each of which is associated with a separate kanji character. Streaked, folded petals, downy pistils, silken stamens, woolly aigrettes: are these flowers, sexual organs, bits of creased taffeta, or puffed-up tissue paper? Takagi’s images are as polymorphic as the kanji that inspired them. Acclaimed writer Alberto Manguel explores the 28 meanings of the word ‘sei’ in the accompanying text.