- Marcel Feil, chair, Deputy-Director, Artistic Affairs, F OA M , Amsterdam, the Netherlands
- Simon Baker, Curator of Photography and International Art at Tate Modern, London, UK
- Sunhee Choi, Freelance Art Adviser, Journalist and Director of Choi&Lager Gallery, Paris, France
- Henk Slager, Dean of the Graduate School at the Faculty of Visual Art and Design, at MaHKU, the Netherlands
- Jiyoon Lee, Director and Independent Curator, SUUM, London, UK , and Seoul, South Korea
Miyako Ishiuchi was born in Gunma, Japan, in 1947, but grew up in Yokosuka, one of the principal mainland American military bases in postwar Japan. She is part of the generation of Japanese photographers which was inspired by the VIVO and Provoke groups in 1960s Tokyo, and by an approach to photography, which balanced the need to document pressing social situations and conditions with a subjective, almost poetic inflexion.
Her early work Yokosuka Story (1976–1977) deals directly with the impact of the American occupation of her hometown, but expressed poetically through a series of oblique and beautiful images of the town and its environment. References to the occupation are restrained and inflected only indirectly, and seem instead to deal with the artist’s memories of the place. In retrospect Yokosuka Story can be seen as a part of a trilogy of works with Apartment (1977–1978) and Endless Night (1978–1980), which established Ishiuchi as one of the most respected and compelling photographers of her generation, as well, importantly, as being a female photographer in a context and moment dominated by her male peers.
This level of respect and esteem in Japan included being awarded the Ihei Kimura Memorial Photography Award for her work as early as 1979. Ishiuchi, however, has never rested on her early achievements and has continued to produce, exhibit and publish new work throughout her career.
A second important moment in her work began with 1 • 9 • 4 • 7 (1988–89), 1906 to the skin (1991–1993), Scars (1991–2003) and Innocence (1994–2007). It is important to note that for this work Ishiuchi completely re-invented her aesthetic, turning away from the grainy, suggestive style of the late 1970s, to a more minimalist, clear-cut registering.
Ishiuchi was chosen to represent Japan at the 2005 Venice Biennale with the work Mother’s (2000–2005). It is based on the documentation of her mother’s possessions, particularly those that had been in direct contact with the body. The object-based and yet highly personal representation of Ishiuchi’s mother offers a unique perspective on a woman’s destiny in postwar Japan.
This work was followed by a lengthy study of the memorialization of the atomic bombings and their effect on Japanese society, ひろしま/hiroshima (2007–), in which Ishiuchi photographed material remains (clothes, personal effects, and objects), left in the aftermath of the bombings and preserved until present day. In one of her most recent series, Silken Dreams (2009–2012), she addresses the history of the Japanese silk industry, including the meaning of the kimono and the site of her birthplace, which was once important in the textile production.
The meaning and treatment of surface is highly significant in Ishiuchi’s work. A surface, whether the human skin or personal clothes, not only has the ability to both hide and reveal what is underneath, it also acts as an intermediate between two spheres: the interior and the exterior, the private and the public, and the past and the present. A surface often bears witness of past events and therefore of the passing of time. For this reason Ishiuchi pays close attention to printmaking and the quality of the surface of the photographic print.
Her decision to head-on tackle the politics of remembrance, and particularly the vexed issues surrounding the atomic bombing of Japan by the United States, places her in the tradition of politically motivated practice that includes the great names of Shomei Tomatsu and Kikuji Kawada. Not only, however, has Ishiuchi had a considerable career in Japan, where she has been publishing and showing works continuously for 35 years, but she is also known and respected internationally. She has exhibited numerously in Europe and the United States, and her work is included in major collections worldwide. Miyako Ishiuchi is one of the most dedicated photographers of her generation. She has continued to innovate, explore and agitate throughout her career, both in terms of ideas and in terms of her style and approach.
The exhibition of Miyako Ishiuchi’s works will open at the Hasselblad Center on 7 November, 2014, and will be curated by Dragana Vujanovic and Louise Wolthers.
Image: © Ishiuchi Miyako / "Frida by Ishiuchi#34"