• photography by JÖRGEN AXELVALL

    In Yuki Harada’s Spiritual ‘Cave’

    Written by Ksenia Rundin

    Quoting Ludwig Feuerbach, Susan Sontag once argued in her essay ‘In Plato’s Cave’ that our age prefers the photograph to the real thing, the appearance before existence. Sontag claimed that photography has an unlimited power in modern society by replacing reality by virtue of being not only a mirror or interpretation of it, but also a relic of reality, something that is taken straight out of it. The philosopher could not even imagine how right and how wrong she was at the same time. Photographic image, indeed, has an unlimited power today but it does not seem to be a relic of reality anymore. It is the reality itself, bringing meaning to our existence by not mirroring it but rather building it up.

    Brought up with the ‘Abanga-do’ spirit, the Japanese contemporary artist Yuki Harada explores the reality constructed by photographic images, taken by himself quite recently or by someone else a while ago but now placed in his numerous cluster. Re-examining the visual culture of a spiritual photograph, the artist attempts to frame his experience into an artistic endeavour. ‘Living’ a photograph by looking at it during a longer period, the artist establishes a relationship with it by participating in the event the image depicts without being a part of it. While a spiritual photograph contains a captured moment with a distinctive meaning, Yuki Harada tries to explore the moment on his own conditions within his own contemporary context. While capturing his own photos, whose amount could reach a thousand per day, Yuki Harada seeks to step into the unknown and spiritually capture the moment of ‘now’.

    Seemingly, the artist travels between realities — form the one he observes before taking the photo to the other, which is ‘captured’ by his device. Is there anything in the juncture between these realities? Are we able to grasp it? Which of the realities is real? The questions are difficult to answer without bringing a deep philosophical discourse with an unequivocal metaphysical note in it. Another alternative is to creep in into Yuki Harada’s ‘cave’, to behold the artworks and perhaps, to ‘live’ the moment of your own ‘now’.

    Please, tell us about yourself? Who are you and what is your professional activity?
    I am contemporary artist based in Tokyo. I was born in 1989. Worldwide, this year is generally remembered as the end of the Cold War, meanwhile in Japan it also symbolises something else. It was the year when the long Shōwa era, which was named after the the reign of Emperor Shōwa (1926-1989) came to an end. On 7 January 1989, the day after the Emperor Shōwa passed away, the Chrysanthemum Throne was succeeded  by Crown Prince Akihito, marking the start of the Heisei period, which would last till 2019.

    Besides, Japan at that time was in the middle of the so called “bubble economy” caused by inflation of the real estate market and stock market. It was an era when urban culture with such movements as city pop and New Wave was booming. Furthermore, many of the motifs that I am interested in were also inspired by the visual culture that flourished in the “laboratory” of Postwar Japan.

    Since 2012, I have been working on two projects. One is related to painting, the Lassen Project, studying Christian Lassen’s art, and the other one is about photography, the Ghost Photographies project. Through these two projects, I re-exam the part of the visual culture which influenced me and put it into a new form as my own representation. 

    Where did you study photography and/or art?
    In retrospect, although I have studied art in many places, one of the room at my house was the initial direct impact to me, neither Museums nor Universities. In that room, there was a reproduction painting of an American painter Christian Lassen, depicting a dolphin. As a child, I was looking at this painting almost every day. Lassen’s name may not be that familiar to readers of this interview, but he actually was famous like Van Gogh or Picasso. His artistic fame could at that time be compared with one a rock musician would possess in Japan. 

    However, the painting appeared to be very strange, rejecting any of my empathy. I felt the gaze toward the picture bounce off like a mirror. I couldn't feel any empathy at all. But, for some reason, I was attracted to the painting and not being able to ignore it. Glancing back now, this seems to be my formative experience of art.

    What do you consider to be the essence of contemporary art?
    As a child being enchanted by Lassen's painting without understanding the meaning and having no logical explanation to that, I could not help but think about it. Finally, I understood the reason of the process of that constant thinking, what might, in my view, be the essence of contemporary art.

    In one of your interviews you mentioned that photography had never really been your interest but rather a part of your personal life. Could you, please, develop it further and say how you became engaged with the art of photography and how photography is tied to your life?
    Taking photos in my private life, sometimes makes me feel that my life is ‘irreplaceable’, but in fact it is just ‘commonplace’. For me, while my private photos are ‘irreplaceable’; the photos of someone else or of myself are merely ‘commonplace’. I feel that coming and going between these contradictory sensations will create a parallel imagination for ‘my or someone else's life that could have happened’.

    You take about 500 to 1000 pictures a day. What are those pictures? How do you choose your compositions? Why so many? 
    I take an enormous number of pictures on my own account. When I feel like I am retaining ‘meta-data’ in digital data rather than taking any image, perhaps then I am in the zone of digitally stamping of the moment of ‘now’. Why? Probably because of anxiety.

    What is the main idea behind your photographic voice?
    In the realm of photography, I have only senses of 'I do not know’ or ‘I understand’. The former photos include those that are important in history, those that are artistically renowned, and those that are rare. The latter ‘known photos’, which are often relevant to me, are private images. Strictly speaking, it is often impossible to objectively prove that I am ‘related’ to a certain photograph, therefore, I might temporarily forget that the image is not ‘understood' but 'not known’ to me. Thus, for me, every picture is something unknown. I am worried about seeing any photo. Dealing with such unrecognisable, anxious, awe-inspiring feelings is what I face with photography.

    Ghost Photos and Unsigned Photos, what are those? How did you come up with those ideas in your art practice?
    My project, Ghost Photos, is based on the occult boom that occurred in Japan between the 1970s and 1990s. It was extensively featured on television and in magazines, and served as captivating entertainment.

    Globally, the history of Ghost Photos dates back to the 19th century, but all psychic photographs that appeared in Japan during this period are characterised by being produced in the form of unsigned amateur photographs.

    It is crucially different from Ghost Photos, which were made by professionals in the 19th century, and were based on the fact that beholders gave ‘excessive' meaning to casually photographed images. In a way, I thought that it had a structure similar to art photography, and became interested in the phenomenon.

    Please tell us about your collection of unknown photos. What was the idea behind it and what has happened to the collection today?
    Initially, I began researching amateur photography, which became a resource for psychic photography in Japan. My research embraced museums, library archives, flea markets and online markets, but I could not find any amateur photos taken relatively recently in any place.

    Nevertheless, while continuing my research without giving up, I begun to understand that a large amount of these photos are discarded from ordinary households every day, and there are the garbage sorting companies who separate ‘sellable photos’ and ‘unsellable photos’. The former photos, such as those taken during the war, can be found in archives and markets. The later type of photos was taken relatively recently and was deemed to not having any rarity or market value.

    Finally, I came to a conclusion that a large amount of ‘common images’ had been discarded, what made me think through the project and start figuring out how to save such ‘valueless information’ in the world.

    What is Spirit Photography and how does it expand the photographic expression?
    Spirit Photography has a similar meaning to Ghost Photos, but there is a linguistic nuance in the terminology of ‘Shinrei Shashin’ (’Spiritual Photography’). At the moment, it is difficult to accurately translate the Japanese words into another language, so I feel the need to create a new term.

    I also am not too particular about expanding the expression of ‘photography’. Rather, I am interested in re-editing the possible connections between images and humans, just like considering how to deal with the ‘ordinary  images’ mentioned earlier.

    Could you tell us about the logic behind your exhibits, e.g. ‘Psychic Photography’ (2012), ‘Author Unknown’ (2017)?
    When viewing Psychic Photo (or Ghost Photos), the spectator finds the spirit as an unknown author, who should not be there, while reading the meaning and story out of the image. These actions have a structure similar to when beholding fine-art photography, and I think that Psychic Photo might be in a sense an ‘alternative form’ of art.

    Could you tell us about one of your latest exhibits ‘One Million Seeings' (2019)?
    I started collecting the ‘unsellable photos’ that I mentioned earlier, and now the number of the images, which I temporarily store, is reaching about 100.000. Most of them have lost meta-data such as the photographer, subject, location, motivation, and timing, and the images are meaningless — hard to know how to start getting a clue about them. Therefore, they are photos that are difficult to ‘view’ on the one hand, but on the other hand, they must have been ‘irreplaceable’ for somebody. Hence, through this work I tried to perform intimate ‘appreciation’ of those photos by playing the eyes of that someone. In that case, I imposed on myself the rule of ‘seeing until I could establish a relationship with the photo’, ongoing for 24 hours without sleeping or resting, 7 days a week with the non-stop video without editing. In the video work I try to record the ‘relationship between the image and a human’ instead of exposing the image on its own.

    Do you do collaborations with other artists or maybe across industries?
    I cannot go into details in this interview, but in the art project on Christian Lassen I felt like I was collaborating with the artist in a way. I am currently working on a visual book that looks back on the graphics of the ‘Heisei’ era (1989-2019) based on Lassen’s work.

    I have been thinking about making art works like movies for a long time. Especially in commercial films created by a large number of people. There are cases, where smaller frameworks such as ‘movie scores’ and ‘movie picture arts' co-exist within a larger framework of the 'movie work'. In the same way, I would like to focus on art as a project with a larger framework, instead of limiting myself to the old, small-framework.

    What are your future projects?
    I have talked a lot about the project I have worked with so far—besides all above, good balance is important—and most recently I am focusing on creating works with a small framework—One Million Seeings is an example.

    However, when it comes to new projects, we have focused on two main ones since 2012. Soon we will start a new project with the theme of ‘island'. To prepare for this, in 2019 we went to Hawaii, a neighbouring island about 6.500 kilometers east of Japan. In 2020 we plan to conduct research and exhibitions in Taiwan which lies 2.000 kilometers south of Japan and is also a neighbouring island.

    Until now, we have taken up motifs that are culturally positioned on the ‘periphery’, but now we are focusing on the space that can be positioned on the ‘periphery’ in a literally geopolitical sense, what will be our third project then.

  • Reflections of Philip Warkander

    Written by Philip Warkander by Sandra Myhrberg

    The corona crisis has so far led to the cancellation of fashion shows and major events: The Couture Week (Paris), Men’s Fashion Week (Paris), Chanel’s cruise collection show (Capri), Dior’s cruise collection show (Lecce, Puglia) and Hermès resort show (London) have all been either cancelled, postponed or shifted to online presentations. Gucci has stopped all production and in many major cities, stores are now closed. Small, independent brands, without the financial security of the conglomerates, are particularly vulnerable and are risking immediate bankruptcy.
    Even before the corona virus struck, people were well informed that the current culture of consumption was not only unsustainable but a direct threat to civilisation as we know it. Contemporary society has been driven by the mix of urges, needs and desires, transformed into a society of commodities. Granted, many of the things we buy we have a basic need for. Without food, we not only go hungry but actually die. Without garments we lack shelter from both the cold and the sun. Without travel beyond the places we already know, our imagination would lack inspiration. But these needs have been fuelled by our wants, and in tandem with industries that profit from our desires, this has created a viscous cycle that will inevitably lead to the destruction of the very lifestyle these objects symbolize.
    In the same way that we know smoking is bad for us, we know that it is bad for the environment to buy too many garments and to eat too much meat. Yet, most people do it. Why? Because it’s fun and gives our existence a silver lining. Buying stuff creates a sense of reward for working. It’s tangible evidence that your work has paid off. Even though we know that on a larger scale it is bad for us and will affect future generations negatively, we still buy the clothes we want, go on the vacation we have planned, and eat the meat that we have selected at the local supermarket.
    The lockdown being enforced in many countries has led to a strange and unfamiliar quietness. The skies are bluer, the noise from the traffic has lessened and cities are calmer than usual. Articles on the subject are being shared and discussed optimistically on social media, as if a few days without tourists in Venice and Sardinia will undo decades of daily damages. In media – fashion-related and otherwise – people are engaged in daily discussions on the dramatic effects of the current pandemic. Will the corona virus finally be able to stop us from destroying our societies and help us slow down climate change? Is the tipping moment we have been waiting for?
    In many ways, the questions are reasonable. In the past, pandemics have indeed brought with them a long-lasting impact on society. But it is also naïve to wish for the change to be brought to us from an outside force. By hoping that the pandemic will bring changes to the international fashion system and its horrific over-production, use of toxics and exploitation of the workforce, we are attempting to free ourselves of responsibility and instead handing over agency to a faceless virus. This situation illustrates in a nutshell why fashion will never become sustainable: we are constantly hoping for someone else to do the work, so that we don’t have to. As soon as the most acute crisis is averted, business will in all probability return to its usual intensive pace and reckless promotion of constantly new stuff for people to buy, use and discard. It will take some time to rebuild, but in time, there will be very few traces left of this temporary respite from overproduction and mindless consumption that we are now experiencing.

    /Philip Warkander

  • photography by SANDRA MYHRBERG

    stylist ANNA SUNDELIN

    hair & make up PARI DAMANI / Agent BauerAliette wears

    coat & rings CHRISTIAN DIOR
    skirt HOPE
    earrings SOPHIE BY SOPHIE

    Gizem wears
    shirt, skirt & rings CHRISTIAN DIOR
    jacket ADNYM ATELIER


    Written by Ksenia Rundin

    The political-religious state Caliphate emerged around the 6th century and ceased to exist as a political institution with the Mongol destruction of Bagdad in 1258. On  8 April 2013 a formation of Isis was announced. In June 2014, after it seized Mosul, Isis proclaimed its ‘caliphate’. By the end of that year the self-declared state already stretched across two countries, Syria and Iraq. Driven by the romantic idea of the Islamic state raising again, hundreds of young women left their homes in western countries to join Islamic fighters in the Middle East. Pervin, a character of Gizem Erdogan in the series ‘Caliphate’, is one of those girls, who is stuck in Raqqa, where her husband Husam, played by Amed Bozan, has joined Isis. They travelled there together but now she is on her own, face to face with her fears and horrors, trying to find her way back to life. Fatima, performed by Aliette Opheim, is a Swedish-Security-Service agent, who through a phone call finds out about Pervin and a terror attack that is to be conducted in Sweden. Pervin fights for her daughter’s life, while Fatima fights for her credibility but these two diametrically different purposes merge into one story of love, fail, tragedy, and opulence of human soul.

    Depicting such a sensitive and highly political context, the drama is about the essence of human life with all what it means - love and betrayal, lies and hopes, advantages and pitfalls. It tells a story of social inconsistency, which could, if neglected, lead to a disaster of a whole nation, a county, and the world. Each catastrophe does not appear all of a sudden but precedes by a long chain of causalities. ‘Caliphate’ explores this ideas of a disaster starting from the end and meticulously analysing the whole process through the lens of the social structure. Being forced into a state of empathy, while watching Husam flouncing between love and faith, you might get furious and feel betrayed. However, soon after you discover that ability to see a part of human nature in everyone — no matter what — is a vitally essential quality to possess.

    Odalisque Magazine met Gizem Erdogan and Aliette Opheim to speak about their dramatic experience of ‘Caliphate’. A good series is not merely about a good script, a famous film director or a great acting. It is about creating a symbiosis of people and details, where everyone and everything makes sense in connection with the storytelling. Film is about letting a story penetrate your ontological borders, clash with your moral principles and betray your prejudices. It is about letting you manipulate yourself outside the spiritual comfort zone, question your existential affirmations, and, finally, make you feel poetic about it. This is ‘Caliphate’.

    How did you end up being an actress and what does it mean for you?
    Aliette: For me it is about storytelling. There has always been a little storyteller in me. I wanted to be a writer when I was little, later I wanted to become an archeologist. Obviously, I have a fascination for narratives in different ways and in some way, I have actually been able to become both a writer and an archeologist. For that reason, acting for me is about bringing forward a story and narrate this by embodying the latter. I guess, I have some kind of predilection for it. It has become my tool for self-expression.
    Gizem: I am enchanted by a fairytale and opportunity to be able to tell this fairytale. My mind is preoccupied with fairytales that have never been told. When it all began, I used it as a communication instrument for something I was beholding. When I, as a child played theatre, I used to scrutinise the adults around me. It made me discover that they were quite weird doing strange things, such as saying things they didn’t really mean. The aspect of manipulation in it has always been the subject of my interest.
    Aliette: It is also about imitation by penetrating someone else’s body in order to understand the nature of that person. What you are actually doing is an expansion of your emphatic side into the other being. I used to imitate people but only when I were on a safe ground without challenging myself out to the limelight. I was surrounded by a phantasy world that I created for myself. While reading, I also created stories between the lines.
    Gizem: I love listening to other actors talking about their first acting experience, because often you see it right there, when the person only was five years old. Ostensibly, it is in many ways about playing. I think, some part of me would simply succumb if I had not been given a chance to play. While playing, we objectify our dreams and nightmares. It is about our ontology, I think, that has always been there and included the aspect of acting and playing.

    How did you find out about the production?
    At some party I met my friend Amed Bozan, who plays my husband in the series, and he told me that he was going to play a role in an exciting TV series. I tried to find out more about it and a couple of months later the casting side contacted me.
    Aliette: For me it was pretty similar. I also had some contact with Goran, because we belonged to the same agency. I knew he had this project and we briefly talked about it. He saw me as Fatima in the project.

    How did you work with your particular character and what did you bring in from your own world?
    It is always different. Therefore, it is difficult to exactly articulate how I work with a particular role. It is a process that happens sort of naturally and starts already when I read a script for the first time. I observe my first impression thinking about my ideas concerning the character, the first scene that I should play and how I would do it. Certainly, you need more work to understand and to investigate the character, the story as such. However, often I almost from the beginning know who my character is, when the script is skilfully written. How the scenes should be played I have no idea at first and I do not want to think about before I am there, playing. In other words, I do not think I have yet figured out what my algorithm of preparing for a role is. It might require a few roles of me to realise what and how it is happening. For ‘Caliphate’ I had meetings with the Swedish Security Service and received firearms training. I had to wear a belt and uniform and to become a part of it. The costume I had to wear meant a lot, it was a part of my character and I had to learn how to wear it as the character would. My body changed and my gait as well.
    Gizem: For me it started with a research, where I read a lot about young girls and boys who travelled to Syria. I read both nonfiction and fiction literature in the field, watched documentaries. I also spoke a lot with Goran and especially with Amed because we had many scenes together to perform. I cannot tell you how my research affected my character but the information I had taken part of, stayed with me during the working process. I tried to mentally approach the situation that  I had to live through in the series, in my own way. I could clearly see my character when we came to Jordan. It is a collective process, because the most of the character appears when you are there, seeing everything with your own eyes. You, together with other actors and actresses, the film director, photographers, light engineers and many others, create the character there and then.
    Aliette: Our last scene was actually the first one that we had to perform on our first day of filming. When I saw agenda, I got really angry. Later I realised that it was very intelligent to do it that way. I had no idea how to play it, I knew nothing and therefore, the only solution was to survive the scene. It took  a couple of takes before we actually had it. Then I knew where to go — it became my strategy. Goran kind of threw us out of the frying pan into the fire but the result turned out to be great. It is his method.

    Did Goran Kapitanovic push you during challenging episodes? If so, how?
    I would say that we encouraged each other by driving each other to madness. Sometimes we could not find a proper solution, sometimes the acting was bad, making Goran furious. Overall, it was a great induction of us all and for all of us. I think, it would have been worse if we had not sparked each other in any destructive ways, had not gotten mad and had not been near to break down.
    Aliette: I had a scene with Goran, where we ended up screaming at each other, what also made me accomplish the scene I needed. Finally he burst out, “Great! This is how you play it!  Play it!” It has also brought us as a group closer to each other, making us abandon the rules, which usually help keep social distance, and giving us more confidence. It creates a certain intimacy that reminds of a long-term relationship, where you can sort of predict each other.

    What was the biggest challenge in your character? In the production in general?
    Speaking of the project, the biggest challenge was to find a balance in the storytelling for such a sensitive subject that it covers. In my role a hard task was my telephone conversations, where I sometimes had Goran on the other end or no one at all. My objective was to persuade Pervin to act, to find a vein in it and make it nuanced. It was a challenge. Finally, I pretended as she was my boyfriend who suddenly stopped calling and then I could solve it. I knew how to play these scenes. 
    Gizem: Some scenes were especially challenging such as our quarrels with Amed. The difficulty was to make it real, to find a complexity in it, forcing us to start from the beginning a number of times.

    Who was the consultant behind the scenes played in the Syrian context? How did you make it authentic for yourself?
    The brain behind is the artistic team. To be there physically and film creates a certain dimension that is arduous to construct in a film studio. It would never work. The environment, flavours and light altogether create a feeling of authenticity. Jordan is the Middle East, what reminds of the atmosphere in Syria and even in Turkey, where I come from. The region is the key here and the drama takes place in the right context to transmit the feeling. Jonas Alarik’s photography takes it even further, creating a poetic tier.
    Aliette: As you say, all these aspects are of high significance. The light, odours and all other details. Even though spectators cannot see all that, they can see us in the atmospherics of it.
    Gizem: I am a detail oriented person and during the filming process I could daily hear some distant Qu'ran chant recital from a mosque. It affected my body what influenced the whole process. All the energy, all the odours and flavours, all the sounds - they have an impact on us and on the scenes as a whole. It is difficult to fake. There is a certain artistic level in “Caliphate” that makes a poetic statement with something courageous in it such as working with minimal amount of light and having the camera follow us dancing. It is an interplay that sort of ties together all the artists behind the process.
    Aliette: It takes a great photographer. Jonas Alarik is very skilled photographer and he participates in some episodes together with us, living it. And sometimes it is just enough to be there, standing quiet. This is what differs our project from traditional television. The camera becomes an important actor here.

    Did you interact with the locals during the filming period?
    We went out eating to different local restaurants and then we could talk to some people there. Once we were filming in a desert and suddenly we saw a caravan with beduins approaching. It was the landowner - a clan leader, wearing a white rock, long nails and rings. They set up a tent for a repast and then the whole village came there. Everyone was welcome and we ended up next to a granny, who was more than a hundred years old, skilfully working through her pita bread. The clan leader was very proud of being able to provide a meal for the whole village.
    Gizem: I loved filming in the Middle East and I wish I could do it again. Being from Turkey, I experienced a huge feeling of belonging, overwhelmed by being there  and the Jordanian team that we worked with felt very close.

    Did you participate in the creating process of your image or was it already stated in the script?
    I was participating in the process. Since I wore a lot of niqab in the series, we had to try different fabrics, getting the eyes slightly visible. The clothes are very important because it constitutes a character. I thought a lot about that the year was 2015 and that the clothes in the scenes needed to correspond. There was a pair of black sneakers, and we were concerned with whether this model existed in 2014, when Pervin left for Syria. We also ponder a lot about style in general, what style she had before leaving her previous life.
    Aliette: I had a meeting with our costume designer Linn Eklund and spoke to Goran. Often a costume designer makes a suggestion for different looks, enclosing reference images. It is about a collaboration and mutual discussion. Should Fatima be more French with reference to certain brands but at the same time very practical. Should she have any jewellery or not. We went for a gold necklace that she had during her whole life. Long nails was not an alternative to add to the image. A costume tells so much about its character. We had hardly any makeup with exception for eyebrows. It is a hard-working woman who does not pay any attention to makeup.
    Gizem: Nothing should be random when it comes to film costumes. If something is wrong, it could significantly affect the poetic side. Therefore, discussions and disagreements are normal in such a case. It has to be done properly. Why to use a glittering makeup for an actress playing a drug addict? American productions make a great impression on me with their level of proficiency when it comes to film costumes. Your own style preferences are not important here and should be abandoned. It is all about the storytelling and you narrate it through your acting and costumes.

    What did you like respectively dislike in your character?
    I do not really like my character. What I like about her is her tenderness with the baby. She is very inventive though, solving a number of extremely critical situations. She is very sensitive person.
    Aliette: Fatima lives on the edge and really needs to take it easy. She dares take place and this is something I need to learn from her.

    What would your next project be about if you could choose?
    I would like to play in a fable, depicting Sweden under the 18th century with all the odours and grime, not like it is usually framed into something luxurious but an authentic one.
    Aliette: I think, I would like to play a queen. Queen Christina of Sweden or Ulrica Eleanor.

    one piece BOTTEGA VENETA
    dress HERMES