Katsuhiro Saiki – Contemporary photography and contemporary capital Berlin
"GOOD LUCK!! an aspect of Contemporary Art"
Tama City Cultural Foundation, Tokyo, Japan, 2002

Katsuhiro Saiki, who was born in 1969, has been working in earnest with photography as a medium to express his ideas since he graduated from Tokyo College of Photography in 1996. Although he is a photographer, he is trying in his work to overthrow the conventional idea that photographs are flat. His work is sometimes composed of combined photographs, or displayed as a square object with a base or as an installation laid on the floor and walls to match with the space.

His work motifs are mainly things related to scenery, e.g. buildings, trees, walls, sky, clouds, birds and airplanes. The object in his photograph might better be called a motif than an object, because he is not taking a picture to record the fact, in other words, he does not let the picture play the primary role of photography, that is, making a real record of a piece of information or a fact. Rather, he photographs an object as an element to reveal how it looks different from reality.

His series “arrangement” is composed of several combined pictures. The half of some pictures shows monotone walls or the sky in the foreground, while the other half shows a brick building or bright-colored walls in the background. Both of them are sharply focused. Such man-made scenery can’t be real because it never happens that one can see, with the naked eye, a scene in the background as clearly as that in the foreground. Furthermore, there are two kinds of regular lines: the middle lines dividing the scenes in half and the lines segmenting combined pictures. In his work “plane”, a jumbo jet, which carries hundreds of passengers, is only recognized as something very small in the center of a square picture that is equally blue all over. Each side of the photo is the same length, and it rests on a rectangular base that is as tall as up to one’s chest. The way of appreciating the work by looking down at it, a perfect situation created by the uniform blue color over the surface, which is difficult to recognize as the sky at first sight, and a tiny jumbo jet far removed from the general idea of a gigantic airplane are the important features of this work. The elements of this work contrast to the real world.

The scenery photos usually indicate, usually without a photographer being aware of it, facts about the place, season, time and a photographer’s existence. However, Saiki’s photos are so calculated, manipulated, composed and arranged that information on when, where, what, how and who is eliminated. This anonymity of the contents takes us away from the general concept of photography that it shows us what is real. The characteristic feature of anonymity is tied to the name of Katsuhiro Saiki.

Saiki’s works were exhibited in Berlin in 2000 and 2002. It is well known that Berlin became the capital of Germany at the time of the unification and the reconstruction work is underway over the whole area. Now after ten and several years since the unification, the government agencies and ministries have finally settled down in Berlin. It is the capital that came late to Germany, an advanced nation and a leader in the EU. Since its birth as a city, Berlin has woven past of world history. For all ups and downs in its history, it has always maintained the municipal existence by preserving the radical ideas and atmosphere peculiar to this city. While it was divided into East and West Berlins with the Wall, rather unique characteristics were brought about. Now it needs to have an appropriate image as a metropolis.

Different from other European capitals that have long developed and played a leading role, Berlin, though it used to be the capital before the war, is trying out how it can be a newborn capital, after things rapidly changed through time, and among countries that look happy with their current conditions. This experiment drawing attention and expectations both at home and abroad should not follow the avant-garde style in the period of West Berlin, designed by the dead-end uncertainty about the future Current Berlin, however should implement a progressive and open try-out of making a new contemporary capital. The embassy buildings, which were designed by world-famous architects and constructed one after another, symbolize the present situation. Everything, visible or invisible, is playing a part in this experiment. “eine neue Idee(a new idea)” is everyone’s concern and hope for the new capital. The new idea does not mean any epoch-making advanced technology or invention, but points out a possibility to propose what we can achieve further in this satisfied-looking society, and a new direction in which we can develop significant ideas. The attitude to seek after new ideas and accept them is linked to the image of Berlin as a new metropolis in Europe that has been under construction since ten and several years ago.

Fortunately in Berlin, anyone, German or not, who has new idea is welcomed and the ideas are inspected. Katsuhiro Saiki approach to deal with contemporary art and photography was introduced and communicated.

Going beyond simple proposals, Saiki’s presentations are in response to this metropolis that is looking for new ideas and trying to construct them. In Berlin, blindness to sense of time is caused by difficulty in inspecting the present day (time in progress), and new buildings are being constructed as to summarize its history, despite the fact that it used to be a historic city, People who are still unknowns are actively working there, and the meaning of the place has been lost. The anonymity of Saiki achieved through elimination of time and place of what is in the picture through his composition and manipulation as well as the ultimate absence of the photographer, overlaps with today’s capital Berlin.

Eri Kawamura
translated by Miki Nishizawa

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Copyright ERI KAWAMURA 2013 all rights reserved.