Photographs by Osamu Kanemura.
Osiris Co., Tokyo, 2001. 102 pp., 80 duotone illustrations, 11¼x9".
I know an American photographer who works in Japan,
shooting interiors. I asked if she had tried any exteriors or
cityscapes, and she almost visibly shuddered. When I
saw the results of a few attempts at them, I saw her frustration:
the control that she exerted on small spaces, and
the relative composure of the interiors she shot, was
practically lost in urban Japan. There is no such thing as
unobstructed field of view, and power lines hang in dense
clumps that shoot out on new trajectories at every street
and alley. It’s a compositional nightmare. But it’s the
substance of Kanemura’s work, reportedly taken while
on newspaper routes across Tokyo: maximalist compositions
whose vanishing points carom off apartment
blocks, street poles, hoardings and bicycle handles. But
Kanemura counterintuitively works with the density,
often foregrounding a significant obstacle, anchoring the
picture with an unlovely but inescapable feature. The
book is printed quite dark, which accentuates the graphic
claustrophobia; the only breaks in the book come in
the form of two separate sheets printed with a metallic
ink on one side. These breaks don’t seem to relate to
anything, but they provide a welcome break for those
who find the visual experience maddening. Kanemura
may be attempting some kind of integration with this
project; the unconscious response in the city, and perhaps
with such work, is to keep moving and walk briskly
in order to let the chaos blur into a fog of geometry. The
“strategy” here is to get tangled up in it all. ALAN RAPP
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