This is how the numbers are embossed into the polaroids – using an old mechanical Olympia SM2 typewriter.
A few months ago, not only was the YAKUZA exhibit hosted in 3 locations across the city of Liège (what a tremendous honour that was), but I also got the chance to show an intimate preview of HEAVENS at Monos Art Gallery.
I'm currently showing the first 48 original polaroids from the skies above the 48 camps of Auschwitz during the Second World War.
As you might have read here before, HEAVENS is a large conceptual photography project in which I set out to photograph the skies above all 1,072 concentration camps from the Second World War... every time exhibiting and selling the previous polaroid to be able to make the next polaroid... and at the very end bringing everything together in a huge, heavy, book.
More on that soon.
Here is the exhibit text on the wall in Liège:
The heavens above us: pure, beautiful and everlasting, they literally connect all people on earth. We're all born under these blue skies and we all die underneath them, ever since the dawn of time. Heaven above is the ultimate context for us all.
These are the forty-eight heavens exactly above the forty-eight Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz during the Second World War. Three main camps and forty-five sub-camps, all located within a radius of approx. 100km in Poland and the Czech Republic.
This is a work in progress. In the end, this work will contain no less than one thousand and seventy-two heavens, every sky photographed above every Nazi concentration camp that ever existed.
Unfortunately, we will never be able to know exactly how many died beneath each heaven. Not even exactly how many camps there were. Like an ultimate irony, sometimes, even in death, a human being does not count.
Yet we are connected to what happened. It seems as if the sadness contained within all these heavens together is larger than what one person can experience, more than what one person can bear.
But can sadness ever transcend what a single human being can feel?
Can one add up all the heavens above, and arrive at something larger, something more encompassing?
What is the weight of history?
Fingers crossed it brings good things to everyone involved, so I can continue and finish the project in the upcoming months and years. (more on how you can support soon!)
all the best, a
Remember the posters you used to hang up on your bedroom wall as a kid? I wonder where they've gone. I even remember there used to be entire poster shops, right? You know, with big plastic covers over the posters and you could leaf through them like a huge book, and when I was a kid sometimes I couldn't even turn over the pages that's how heavy they were. And then when you bought a poster the shop keeper would go into this back room to a huge rack full of rolled up and folded posters and somehow magically knew which poster to give - like he could see through the paper.
What I've always loved about posters is that they're so tangible: you get to wear them out with thumbtacks or tape... and then... then they really start looking good. Just like books... I love books when they're dog eared, coffee stained, and fall apart at the seams... the signs of living a full life.
For a while now I've offered these posters for sale at every exhibit, as a bonus for those who come to visit. On typical thin poster paper, pre-folded, add a little white or black space and some minimal type... they scream "abuse me, hang me up, fold me, tape me, tack me, tear me, let the sun bleach me... or be very careful and frame me. Just don't put me away somewhere dark and lonely..."
7,5€ (approx. $8.5) for a poster and a matching envelope (excluding shipping). They come pre-folded so they ship flat & inexpensive. And I've signed them on the front with a big fat marker pen. Twenty-five times cheaper than an 8"x10" archival quality signed print. Nine images, nine posters.
Yeah sure, you can buy all of them if you want :-)
Oh my. This is fun. Did I mention that I only printed 100 copies of each? The stock isn't gonna last long.... hurry hurry.
The Mitsubishi Hi-uni I love most and buy whenever I'm in Tokyo. The Castell 9000 I just found out about, and is a very good second.... the others have yet to convince me.
Time to write again. Let's see what I come up with. Happy holidays....
I'm on a train to Paris.
Somehow, if I can help it, I like most to sit facing backwards. I have no idea why, but it makes me feel more at ease. Visiting friends this time. Super short, just three days. We're usually scattered all over the globe, every one of us busy as hell, with only the occasional skype or imessage or whatsapp to keep in touch. And the occasional tongue-in-cheek over instagram of course... what else...
So once in a while, we'd be kind of on the same continent, with kind of the same flexibility in our schedules.... a message here, a message there... and suddenly it appears it might actually be possible to physically meet up this time. Yes, sure, more often than not, something still comes up and none of us can make it. Yes, sure, we know we've got so much business to take care of that we'll hardly have time to talk. But I'll wager that it isn't the actual reason why we relentlessly keep on trying to meet up time and again. And as much as I now already miss home, I'm looking forward to this one: that split second of looking each other in the eye again after so long, instantly seeing all is ok, and having a drink. This is what it's about.
Oh, and details get filled in at the inevitable late night campfire that follows, of course.
I'm on a train to Paris.
So the opening of the Yakuza exhibit in Rome at Officine Fotografiche was fantastic. So heartwarming the welcome when I arrived, so professional the help to get the installation built, so overwhelming the opening night... An incredible experience all around. Thank you Tiziana and Emilio for welcoming me, and for trusting me to deliver... and what a great festival fotoleggendo is.
I like to get my hands dirty. For an exhibit installation, usually they expect the artist to kind of "hang around", giving directions when needed and such. Not me... I am first in, last out, working hands on with everyone all the time. Even if all is planned as much as possible, with layouts and 3D models and exact measurements & positions... at that moment, none of that counts anymore. It's the people and their dedication that really make it happen.
And of course always Diego Orlando is there... as a curator, photographer, close friend and absolute eagle eye, it's him who somehow always makes that extra magic happen. I constantly nag him at every build up, telling him I'm waiting for his "genius moment" to come, and that he'd better hurry.
"NOW Diego, it's time for your genius. NOW."
Of course there is no such thing as planning a genius moment. Yet I feel that moment should always happen. It will happen, as long as the energy in the room is right. It's something unplannable, but to me, it's required to make things one hundred percent perfect. So all I can do is be open for the moment... I can never push it, nor expect it. I can only allow it to happen...
In this case, at the very last minute, we decided to change half a dozen images that were already installed 12 feet high up on the walls (you know how it goes, you change one image and the whole edit falls apart). On top of that, we kind of felt that a double row of rice papers instead of the planned single one would be better....
...and you know that the decision has been a good one when you both look back and think: now, now this is killer.
Up to now I've never been bitten by allowing things to happen.... and I hope I won't ever be... or at least not too often. It's just too much fun.
Here's to Diego, Tiziana, Emilio, Elena and everyone else at Officine: thank you... great times. Hope I can return to Rome soon...
(the exhibit still runs until nov 7, so if you're around, come visit!)
A few days ago the printer delivered the last boxes of YAKUZA books to my door (I was able to make a deal with him to stock my books – great guy, by the way). To my surprise – pleasant surprise – he only handed me 8 boxes. "That's all that's left, son".
As you can see each box holds 13 books. And with 4 upcoming exhibitions, in which I want to make sure that people who come to visit can buy a book, you know what this means. Time to declare:
The second edition of ODO YAKUZA TOKYO is now sold out.
Phew, what a ride for this book... I'll be switching off the online orders in a couple of days, so if you're looking to get a last minute order for this edition, do it NOW. Yes NOW.
Or come visit an exhibit of course :) More details on those soon...