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ARAKI. "first-person photography“ at the Albertina Modern

Category: Exhibition 7. June 2021

Many art lovers associate the name of photographer Nobuyoshi Araki (*1940) primarily with pornographic images of bondage, of sex and of bondage sex. In Araki's art, however, nude photos and sex acts are only one theme among many in a surprisingly multilayered body of work. Curator Walter Moser selected 285 photographs for the show from the Araki collection, which German collector and gallery owner Rafael Jablonka made available to the Albertina modern in 2019 on permanent loan. They are mainly black-and-white images that focus on Araki's life and environment.

Beginning in the early sixties with "Satchin and his brother Mabo," where a working-class boy is accompanied by the camera, the show continues with documentary and sometimes humorous series of works about Tokyo's urban life and its changes and upheavals. Sometimes the photographer himself can be seen in the images; the cityscapes are often combined with nudes, making the contrasts of intimacy and outdoor space all the more apparent. Araki's "first-person photography", with its radically subjective view, ultimately became a tradition in photography that has influenced generations of photographers.

A central theme of the show is Araki's influential photo series "Sentimental Journey" (Senchimentaru na Tabi, 1971-2010), a long-standing project with his own life as its subject. They are diary-like photographs of Araki's honeymoon trip to Kyoto and Kyushu with his work colleague and wife Aoki Yoko.
Araki himself said in the preface to this photo series that photography is the closest thing to the autobiographical novel. This understanding of photographic art, in which the loving intertwining of the relationships between photographer and protagonist becomes visible, was to become one of the most influential currents in photography in Japan. Displaying one's own life in all its intimacy for public viewing in this way was cause for controversy in the morally strict Japan of the time, but ultimately paved the way for subsequent generations of photographers to work in this radically subjective form.
Nevertheless, Araki does not limit himself to reflecting only on his loving relationship with his wife; the overall composition Sentimental Journey also tells in a mythological and universal way of the journey of the living into the realm of the dead and also of the presence of the deceased among us living.
Senchimentaru na tabi fuyu no tabi (Sentimental Journey - Winter Journey) is another touching part of his three-part series, which marks the beginning of the "I-photography". It shows the step-by-step farewell to his cancer-stricken wife Yoko, then 42 years old, from the diagnosis to her deathbed.
The third series in the basement of the Albertina Modern ("Spring Journey") shows photographs that revolve around the death of the beloved cat Chiro.

Nobuyoshi Araki hides nothing: Araki has blurred the boundaries between Eros and Thanatos, between art and life; his art always remains committed to the truth, to his truth. (Written by Cem Angeli)

The exhibition can be seen until August 29, 2021 at the Albertina Modern on Karlsplatz.

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