Ryudai Takano (* 1963 in Fukui, Japan) lives and works in Tokyo. The series, “In my Room” was created between 2002 and 2005. Ryudai Takano was distinguished with the renowned Kimura Ihei Commemorative Photography Award in 2006.
Interview with Ryudai Takano
How do you understand your work in this context?
Many people have an image of a framed country founded in modern age when they think about “country”. It is what is called, “modern nation”. At that time a people governed the nation. However, God was the sovereign in the period of theocracy prior to the modern era. So I suppose that sovereignty descended to the ground after the modern age started.
Both democracy and capitalism were born out of awareness that human beings play the leading role. However, as capitalism has expanded, the foundation of a country’s existence has recently been uncertain. Needless to bring up refugee issues and repeated terrorism, each system, which is a foundation of the contemporary society, is now at the edge of collapse. In the middle of such a turbulent world changing on a massive scale, I myself feel small. But I would like to care for this small presence.
When the nuclear accidents happened at the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, I was made acutely aware that human beings are so arrogant as to think they could control something enormous. People have sought after things “more speedy, more distant, and in more enormous quantity” in modern times and later, however the nuclear accidents in Fukushima, which I think was a man-made disaster, disclosed that their longing has come to the limit. Despite of that, those politicians and economic people, who want to recklessly succeed the modern expansion policy, have tried to neglect the terrible accident. The thought shared by them takes no notice of a human body. Those people think it is worth of carrying uncountable and massive things to a farthest place one cannot reach on foot in lifetime, with speed far beyond physical ability. They ignore a human body but consistency of a numerical value is all for them. They are indifferent to others’ pains and sufferings. Everything must be possible as they want. However when the product (the nuclear power plant) they had wanted collapsed in reality, we had to suffer from the enormous tragedy, which was so devastating that one could not find out who was responsible. In Japan nobody has taken responsibility for the nuclear accidents till now.
We cannot step away, leaving our bodies. Furthermore, it is impossible to get out of this moment. We cannot fly away to the past or to the future. But I want to think about the world with this body which is inconvenient and tiny as a unit. Then, sex means as one of the most fundamental objects for us.
Do you think there is a different understanding of public and private in Japan and Germany?
I do not know much about Germany, but I dare say that the difference between public and private is more ambiguous in Japan than Germany.
Because, when we mean to say “public” in our conversation, we often use “public” in English just as it is. To use a word of foreign origin as it is means that we do not have the equivalent word of it in our language. We certainly have a word “kouteki” meaning public. But this one is rather literary, so if it is spoken, it feels too strong, too heavy or cold. This is also the same for a word “private”. We use “private” in English just as it is. Incidentally, our people make Japanized English; they put “na” to the end of English words such as “private-na” meant to be private. I think “private-na” is more popular than “public-na” among people here.
Thus, there is a situation here in which the equivalent word of “public” has not spread in a daily life, which, I think, means the concept corresponding to a word “public” is not shared in our society. In this respect, there might be more clear concept toward “public” and “private” in Germany, I wonder.
Is sexuality something that is just a private matter?
Sexuality arises by desiring for others. I think that even anime characters can be objects as others. Sexuality cannot exist without a relationship with somebody but me. If two people gather, it makes a society.
As another example, in Japan, sexual relations between men had not been a taboo until the country was opened to the world about 150 years ago. It had been openly practiced not only by the ordinary common people but also by the successive rulers. In the society of those days, probably there was no notion of homosexuality or heterosexuality. Samurais have a sexual relationship with their seniors to strengthen ties and marry women to leave offspring, which was common. A big hit novel (“Tokaidochu-Hiza-Kurige”) for the common people in 19th century was a comedy in which two men travel together. As a matter of fact, they started on a journey to elope. But, there is a scene where one of the men tried to have an affair with a woman in the middle of the journey. Thus, one can tell the both relationships were accepted as quite natural those days.
However, the Westerners who came to Japan after its opening to the West blamed a male prostitute standing on the street as “uncivilized”. The Meiji Government hurriedly issued orders prohibiting male prostitution. Probably this was how the consciousness to distinguish homosexuality from heterosexuality originated in Japan. Then, a new viewpoint was brought; to have a sexual relationship with the same sex is unusual, which is completely different from the level of having a relationship with the other sex. Eventually, a derogatory term “homo (homosexual)” appeared and the division between homosexuality and heterosexuality further deepened. Nowadays when a man claims, “I am a man” on a TV show or in a movie, a sexual relationship with a woman (dominant as well) is implied without fail. A question, “what I am” cannot do without the element of sexuality. Thus, it is well understood that how much society has an influence on sexual love.
Gay and bisexual are called sexual minority. But, how many people would there be actually who could assert that they are “absolute heterosexual”? I wonder if someone’s consciousness is chased in detail, he/she should be found to own mixed sexual preference. I believe that we are living, holding various sexual awareness. In this sense, I do not think that there is a majority as far as sex concerned. Rather, a term, “sexual minority” has produced “sexual majority” which is not supposed to exist in the first place.
Sexual preference is originally ambiguous, in my opinion. This can be guessed by the primates’ activities. Nevertheless, human beings are forced to choose where they should belong when forming themselves. Then, they naturally face social pressure to become a member of the majority in the society. What would happen to their sexual preference if it were repressed? The awareness certainly grows up then to seclude those people who are outside the major sexual framework.
Thus, I conclude that sexuality is not just a private matter but quite a deep-rooted social matter.
And what role does photography play regarding these issues?
“To see” and “to look at” are completely different. In our daily lives, most of things disappear after they come in sight, not being felt. Photographs can forcefully freeze that moment which should have vanished. So people are led to look at a photograph, thinking that the moment there must be a “scene taken with particular consciousness” (or shall I say the moment with intention), which was taken consciously. By linking this “ moment with intention”, a medium called a photograph can represent the world.
Language needs to be expressed according to a strict system; grammar. But, in case of photographs, cameras takes a role of grammar (by optically forming images), so a photographer can express with more sensitivity. Because of the sensitivity, a photographer’s “unconscious” consciousness may be shown in photographs.
I think that it is possible to represent the world based on the further physical feeling by looking at the unconsciousness part.