20181208: Ukraine | Japan

Even after more than a month, I still met new Austrian students in the kitchen, so when Kseniya emerged I simply thought she was another timid student whom I hadn’t crossed paths. Ukrainian, bubbly, and talkative, the first conversation I had with her, and most of which that would follow, included a comparison of Austrians to Ukrainians and a reference to a YouTube video. Growing up in the post-USSR, she was pro-West, pro-NGO, pro-Gay Rights, pro-Social Media Millennial. She worked as a journalist but had made a detour in the video arts. Topically she worked like journalist; her most recent project was a series of videos and photos about sex-workers in Poland. The photos were of prostitutes wearing a second-hand wedding dress, but their identity was disguised by a spotlight on their face that left details of the face over-exposed. The accompanying video was the mouths of these woman, close up, talking about their experiences. She showed me a video about the first gay rights parade in Kiev and how the police had to restrain and arrest people who attacked the activists.[1] That was in 2016.

I met Tetsugo Hyakutake while at the ISCP in Brooklyn in 2016. During the residency, curator Walter Seidl saw Hyakutake's work and invited him to exhibit in Camera Austria. In 2018 and Tetsugo invited me to his opening in Graz via Facebook. Like many others from around the world, I accepted the invitation and marked my status as "going." There were two types of “going” on Facebook: physically going and emotional-support going. So when he saw me through the crowd at the opening last night, the red flush that I presumed was his allergy to alcohol blossomed. He was swept away by a manic coordinator of the museum, but before he was, we agreed to meet for a walk through Graz.

Tetsugo work concerned with "the controversial debate concerning the responsibility of Emperor Hirohito, now called Emperor Shōwa, for the wartime atrocities committed by Japanese forces. The media hardly covered the topic of his leadership and responsibility during the war, which was generally considered taboo despite the fact that he had full power over the Japanese military according to the imperial constitution of Japan." Seidl goes on to state,"Tetsugo Hyakutake analyzes moments of Japan’s history since World War II and how they have affected current identity formations within the country, which, for many decades has been under the influence of the United States and, for some, still is."[2]

I recalled seeing these large scale urban photos of bridges and canals in Tokyo in his studio in Brooklyn, as well as his photos that had been treated in chlorine to appear more dated. But the relation that Camera Austria had with Japan was more extensive than just Seidl's Japanphilia; the magazine and organization was co-founded by Seiichi Furuya, a Japanese ex-pat who's lived in Europe since the 1970s and is known for his work about his late wife's suicide, "Christine Furuya-Gössler, Mémoires 1978-1985." [3] The outsider had become an insider, or changed the inside.

Our walk went through the Schloßberg tunnels, down to the Freiheitsplatz, turned through the Stadtpark and ended at Posaune. We ordered a pfandl and talked about the travel, photos, videos and how to live in a city like Tokyo or New York but working abroad. How to stake claims.

[1] “Big turn out for Gay Pride in Kiev,” Associated Press Archive.
[2] "Tetsugo Hyakutake Postwar Conditions," Walter Seidl, Camera Austria, Graz, Austria, 2018.
[3] "Biography," Seiichi Furuya