- Photography as Embalming: Yokota Daisuke’s Post-Production Process
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In recent years the name Yokota Daisuke (1983-) has appeared with increasing frequency in international exhibitions and photography publications. Following the self-publication of his photobook Back Yard (2012), Yokota’s prolific output has been so diverse that it is nearly impossible to grasp a picture of it as a whole. Most of the texts about Yokota’s work to date have been published, not in Japanese, but in English, which can be taken as eloquent testimony to Yokota’s strong presence in the international art scene.
How is Yokota’s work received in the context of contemporary photography? Reference to the self-published magazine Provoke (1968–70) almost always appears in articles on Yokota’s works written in English (and other foreign languages). This would seem to indicate that Yokota’s work, which bears an abundance of visual noise, is typically associated with the so-called style of are-bure-boke (rough, blurred, and out-of-focus) seen in photographs of the late 1960s, such as those by Moriyama Daido (1938-) and Nakahira Takuma (1938–2015). However, such references are often based on superficial similarities. Of course, like many Japanese photographers, Yokota—as he makes clear in interviews—has been influenced considerably by Provoke. Nevertheless, in terms of production processes, what stands out are actually the differences between them.
Yokota’s methods of production are extremely complex: among them, he takes pictures with a digital camera, edits them on a monitor, prints them on various types of paper, and then photographs them again with a medium format camera. This process is often repeated several times, a process that the artist cannot control in full.
At times, he even exposes his film to the faint light of a cigarette lighter or uses hot water in developing his photographs. Yokota continues to search for new photography methodologies even today, by engaging in public live-performances that simulate his own processing methods in the dark room or by presenting abstract color images obtained by boiling dozens of film negatives. [End Page 221]
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As described above, Yokota’s work can be seen as the product of a very complicated post-production process. His photographs bear a unique texture obtained through endless processing, printing, and rephotographing. To put this in terms of the artist’s favorite metaphor of music, while traditional straight photography constitutes “one single recording,” Yokota’s photographs can be regarded as the result of “multiple recordings.” Once an image has been captured by his camera it is processed over and over again, so that when it is finally presented to viewers, it has been transformed into a completely different image. The process is analogous to how a recorded sound (waveform) is altered by effects that are subsequently applied, such as “delay” and “reverb.”
At the same time, Yokota’s work must be strictly distinguished from works that employ existing images (so-called “found footage”), such as pictures found on the Internet. Yokota adheres to using pictures that he himself has taken in the past, although many of them, which are taken with old digital cameras, are far from being good quality images. Yokota’s post-production process is characterized by constant repetition and, the different use of large amounts of images captured in the past. He calls his approach “remix,” again adopting a musical metaphor. The archive of images is thereby constituted from nothing but the artist’s memory and experiences and should be seen as distinct from the method of appropriation, which uses existing images.
What further separates Yokota from many contemporary photographers is his extraordinary love for the material aspects of photography. The French curator and critic Mark Fustel has said of Yokota’s work in TARATINE (2015) that the photographic emulsion appears to be “driven to the limit.” Indeed, the artist has compared his post-production methods...