15 September – 22 October 1994
In the ‘Unconscious Tokyo: Tokyo Cube’ series of photographs, Nobuyoshi Araki restlessly chronicled the urban life of his favourite Tokyo neighbourhood, Shinjuku—the city’s steamy, nocturnal nerve centre. For his White Cube show, Araki ran two lines of images around the entire space of the gallery. As his personality is at the centre of this photo-diary (an embodiment of what he calls ‘I-photography’), so the viewer took on that role when they entered the space, being confronted by a world of back streets and sex.
Snapshot-style photos of alleys or ‘love hotels’ were juxtaposed with more provocative images: young girls in suggestive or sadomasochistic poses, limbs and breasts bound; women hanging from ropes; open-crotch shots featuring props such as bananas or sex toys; school girls, neatly dressed-up in their uniforms, reclining seductively. Devouring the world through the lens of his compact, automatic camera, Araki built up a visual diary made up of hundreds of these rapid-fire photos.
Araki ‘s vision was shaped taking photographs for Japanese pornographic magazines, in which the extreme passivity of the poses of female models and a brooding suggestion of violence are recurring elements. His early publications were met with charges of obscenity and frequent clashes with the authorities contributed to his notoriety, gaining him a cult following. Araki’s approach is matter-of-fact; he shares his personal fantasies, and invites the viewer into his world of extreme eroticism. He explores the wide-ranging mechanisms of human desire, as well as confronting the contradictions of Japanese society, which although it has a tradition of erotic imagery, is governed by strict censorship laws. The images are as personal as they are compulsively voyeuristic, reflecting the artist’s view that ‘photography is closely related to the first-person novel; it is what I am.’