–Followed by English translation–
“Memories transformed into stories”
Shitamichi Motoyuki, who wanted to become an archeologist when he was young, has now become a camera-toting artist. The things that captured his interest as a boy, however, seem not to have changed much. Shitamichi visits places where trace of specific histories and memories remain, in forms that are both tangible and intangible. He interviews the people associated with a particular place or object, collecting information about their memories and recording the results of his research in the form of photographs, occasionally presenting his own thoughts and musings on these topics as part of his work. the subject of his research ranges from social themes to individual anecdotes, but what all of Shitamichi’s work shares in common is its field study approach: first-hand investigations that consist in verifying facts using his own senses, and making direct contact with the memories that lie embedded in places and objects.
Compared with other works that emerged as a result of follow-up investigations of war ruins in Japan and torii gates (typically found at the entrance to Shinto shrines) in Japan’s former territories, “Sunday Painter” has a conspicuously personal tone to it. Comprising several photos and a handmade book, this series was created after several visits spent tracking down some oil painting left behind by his grandfather, an amateur artist.
Curiously enough, however, although the subjects of these photos are the works left behind by his grandfather, their focus is not always on the paintings. In some of photos, the paintings are removed from the center of the composition, and others are even somewhat unfocused. The photographer’s gaze appears to be trained not so much on paintings, but rather on their current owners and the rooms that reveal something about their lives. In other words, what Shitamichi captures in this work through his photographs is the things and people that surround these paitings.
The book that accompanies the photographs, on the other hand, focuses on the rich variety of memories related to Shitamichi’s grandfather that were told to him by the recipients of the paintings. Transcribed into stories written in a colloquial style, the recounted memories retain the accent, tone of voice and expressions unique to each person. Shitamichi’s style of writing, which makes use of the distinctive voice of each speaker, gives the reader the impression that this is a faithful rendering of the material that was collected during his research. What we see, however, is nothing but a selective part of what was actually recounted to the artist. Just as memory is often said to be edited, elements with any truth to them become unconsciously exaggerated, while other parts are completely forgotten about. The memories recounted by the owners of the paintings in the work, as it turns out, are no exception. To put it another way, this book is a kind of “story” based on dramatized truths, recounted in the form in the form of “memories” that Shitaimichi father edited and polished.
History and memory are often transformed by human subjectivity without us ever being aware of it. Shitamichi’s gaze is trained not on the tangible remnants or concrete traces left behind by history, but rather the things that undergo a metamorphosis, losing the contours of their from and becoming only a vague recollection in our subconscious. One of the things that he has done through this work is to restore a semblance of from to memories that have been shifted or distorted in the interval between the past and the present and become misshapen, so to speak. In so doing, Shitamichi teases out anecdotes whose faint traces still remain in the minds of these individuals, and reworks them into stories.
For “Sunday Painter,” Shitamichi set himself the task of tracking down his grandfather’s painting. by paying visits to the owners of the paintings to collect their memories, he transformed them into his own work through the act of editing. These recollections, which have recovered some sort of “shape” thanks to Shitamichi, recount to the viewer stories that are somehow nostalgic and familiar. Similar memories are evoked in the deepest recesses of the viewer’s mind-and along with them, perhaps the anecdotes attached to those memories will also start to rise to the surface. If they do, perhaps the viewer will find his/her own joy in listening to the stories that their own so-called memories have been transformed into.
Yuu Takehisa (curetor, Contemporary Art Center, Art Tower Mito)