Lately, I have been researching about Japanese contemporary artists who use clothes as the main subject of their artworks.
Some years ago, I came across Yuki Onodera’s work (オノデラユキ – b. 1962) in the “Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography” in Ebisu. I didn’t see her work at that moment but saw a poster with one of her pieces from the series ‘Portrait of Second-hand Clothes’. Her photographs portrayed abandoned pieces of girls’ clothing, un-crumpled and proudly displayed. Onodera acquired the clothes from Christian Boltanski’s exhibition ‘No Man’s Land’ (2010) in which he filled a room with discarded clothing, evoking feelings of lost childhood and loneliness. Surprisingly, when you look at Onodera’s works, you don’t see those negative feelings portrayed at Boltanski’s installation but instead there’s a new sense of life and peacefulness in every frame.
In 2011, I attended “Feel and Think: A New Era of Tokyo Fashion” exhibition in the Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery in Shinjuku. The exhibition featured 10 Tokyo-based fashion designers. Most of the artworks displayed in the gallery were meant to stimulate your imagination rather than to be worn.
Artists have been fascinated by fashion for as long as people have cared about clothes, and today’s soft border between both comes as no surprise. Fashion has become more accessible and in big cities, like Tokyo, style trends move very quickly.
The work of Japanese menswear designers Wonder Worker Guerilla Band from the brand SASQUATCHFabric was focused on this concept. This duo exhibited a life-size bull and a horse pieced together from deconstructed second-hand leather jackets and leather pants that were discarded after being consumed during the short period in which they were trendy, a symbol of this Century’s disposable fast fashion.
(石内 都 – b. 1947) Miyako Ishiuchi series “Hiroshima” features 48 photographs of clothing and accessories left behind by victims of the 1945 atomic bomb at Hiroshima. When looking at her color photographs, you can feel her intimate encounters with everyday objects which belonged to people who have long passed away. Hiroshima is commonly associated with impersonal monochrome images but in Ishiuchi’s color work you can sense a personal story behind each of the frames. Her photographs are heart breaking and disturbing but you can still find their beauty. All the featured items belong to unknown people and are safely archived in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.