Kyoto festival focuses lens on meaning of ‘border’

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By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
“Parallel World,” a work by Yuriko Takagi, is exhibited in Nijo-jo Castle’s Ninomaru Palace Daidokoro Kitchen in Kyoto on April 15 as part of the 11th annual Kyotographie. The castle was built in the early 17th century and is a World Heritage site. For more than 30 years, Takagi has taken photographs around the world of people who wear traditional garb in their daily lives. Along with these images, she is displaying photos of clothing that demonstrates new perspectives and was made by fashion designers and other creators. Visitors are able to traverse the two different worlds that the photos represent. As these borders intersect and fuse, visitors face fundamental questions that lie latent in daily life: What is clothing? What is photography? What is happiness? The venue setup, which fuses photo lighting and time and the castle’s austere architecture, was designed by Tsuyoshi Tane, a world-famous architect based in Paris.

KYOTO — Kyotographie, a major international photo festival held in Kyoto, opened for its annual run on April 15.

Fifteen artists and artist groups have been invited from Japan and abroad to participate in the festival and hold various exhibition events at 19 venues in the city. Other related events such as artists’ talks and workshops are also being held in the city.

The photography festival began in 2013 and has been held every year since, making this the festival’s 11th year.

Each iteration of the festival has a unifying theme that guides both the works and venue arrangements, the appeal of which is enhanced by a wide variety of spatial presentations. Many of the venues are a draw in themselves, attracting people who are not otherwise interested in photography.

Last year, the indoor event venues alone were visited by about a cumulative total of 200,000 people, despite the ongoing pandemic.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Visitors examine an exhibit titled “Alba’hian,” created by Joana Choumali in Ryosokuin Zen Temple, in Kyoto during the press preview on April 14. The Kyotographie exhibit consists of embroidered photographs at sunrise. The venue setup was designed by Hiromitsu Konishi. Within the space, boxes are placed in line with the sun’s yearly movement to call to mind the light of dawn.
By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Banners promoting the KG+ event hang in the popular Teramachi Kyogoku shopping arcade, in Kyoto on April 16. The front-most work is titled “80° 05’” and was created by Kouta Takahashi. This is one of a series of works that tell a story about the motives of two explorers, a story passed down for over 100 years. The numbers in the title refer to the latitude at which Japanese explorer Nobu Shirase gave up on continuing his pursuit of the South Pole during his 1912 expedition.

This year, the theme is “border.” Lucille Reyboz and Yusuke Nakanishi, who established the festival and serves as co-directors, explained the inspiration for the theme as countries closing borders in response to the spread of the novel coronavirus, individuals wearing masks and isolating themselves from society, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by crossing the countries’ shared border.

In fact, the co-directors said, all organisms live by maintaining various kinds of borders, and these borders can be said to shape an individual’s existence. They added that while most borders are invisible, they hope that this year’s photography festival can make them more visible, and prompt people to think about the existence of borders.

The festival runs through May 14. The cost of admission differs by venue. For an adult, the cost ranges from free to ¥1,200. Passport tickets, which allow visitors to enter all the venues, also differ in price depending on the type. Prices range from ¥4,500 to ¥15,000 for an adult.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
Photos of modern geiko, usually called geisha in other regions, and maiko entertainers are exhibited in a former ochaya teahouse as part of the KG+ event in Kyoto on April 17. The photos were taken by Patrick Hochner and are collectively titled “Faces of the Kagai.” The teahouse served as a place where geiko and maiko entertained guests in the city’s Gion district.

Also in Kyoto during the festival is a satellite event called KG+. A large number of artists and artist groups from Japan and abroad are participating in the event, displaying visual art that has passed a screening at about 100 venues chosen by the artists, such as temples, hotels and galleries. Most of these installations can be enjoyed free of charge.

This year has also seen the debut of Kyotophonie, a sister event and music festival.

By Ryuzo Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior Photographer
An exhibition titled “Subtle.,” created by Naoki Miyashita, is displayed outdoors on a wall of the Hiiragiya-Ryokan, an inn established in 1818, as part of the KG+ event in Kyoto on April 16.