THE BRIDES OF THE WORLD
Self-portraits probably, but extricated from the weightiness of resemblance, ripped from psychological ponderousness, freed from universal gravity, ethereal. A sudden extension of a pre-Socratic Eden. Out of range of the usual nihilistic parody, the ambient trashy eroticism, the imposed sentimentalism. An art that isn't solely ravaged by death.
These faces that devour the space beyond the image where they disappear suit me fine. They don't look like anything and I find them all the more touching. I do recognize, however, in their concentrated, dynamic and universal presence, all the faces of the women I know. In the overturned bubble of Time recaptured, Kimiko Yoshida incorporates all kinds of forgotten rituals and timeless mythologies. The Self-portraits by the Young Japanese woman have already passed through the work of Titian, El Greco, Velazquez, Rembrandt, Fragonard, Manet, Picasso, Bacon, Warhol... They take upon themselves the entire history of the portrait and absorb it. They contain all the Venuses and the Queens of Sheba, the Judiths and the Salomes, the Mary Magdalenes and the Marilyns, the bathing Susannas and the Irises, messengers of the gods, the women warriors and saints, the courtesans and the sultanas ¦ Nudes standing or descending a staircase, effigies seen head-on or in profile, goddesses, bathers, queens, infantas, passers-by, bathers, flowers of evil, young girls in bloom...
Portrait of the artist as a fundamental mythological figure: look at these Self-portraits one by one and each time the face is essential, timeless. Kimiko Yoshida could be Phoenician, Sumerian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Etruscan, no matter. By turns she is a Gorgon, vestal virgin, martyr, Madonna. She can be at one and the same time Athena, Artemis and Aphrodite, Circe or Diana, Lucretia and Antigone, Cleopatra, Olympia, Beatrice, Ophelia... The dance whirls around upon itself.
We see her, black goddess, white idol, female substance levitating or in ecstasy, casual, profound, sublime, thoughtful, indifferent, concentrated, sure of herself, secret, self-effacing, majestic, aristocratic, silent, ethereal, solemn, excessive, fresh, timeless, priestly, pretty, intense, gay, universal, irresistible, untouchable, happy, desirable, unassailable, rigorous, disturbing, inflexible, sensitive, different...
We see the straightforward opposite approach that Kimiko Yoshida chooses to take in order to respond to that absolute master, which is death and on which the play of history and social decay depend. "Death is the absolute master", says Hegel and we remember. We admire the incredible physical freedom with which the artist implements her response to the absolute master and his deadly play.
Thus, through the self-transformations that she brings off herself, there looms up an African, then an Indian, next an Egyptian, with a detour through Russia, Palestine or Tibet... One woman, then another, then still another... Looming up and disappearing, the faces change and don't change, they are exchanged in the mists of time, come together elsewhere, differently, and indicate the way out of the circle. Epiphanies and illuminations...
What would we know of beauty without these head-on views of strangeness? Here we find ourselves by turns before the Neolithic Venus, the Aztec priestess, the Amazon warrior, the Eve of Eden, the Pythia of Delphi, the Bachelor Bride stripped bare, the vestal virgin of Pompeii revealing the erect Phallus of forgotten mysteries.
A disorientation of history? An overflow of Time? Might the artist be in the process of creating an art that is above metaphysics, stronger than dialectics of death and life? That is indeed what she thinks. She looks around her and sees that Time itself is her only contemporary. Her art immediately has the upper hand with respect to oblivion.
No obscure symbolism, no useless irrational mysteries. Kimiko Yoshida shows in colour the ageless beauty illuminating space. But how does true beauty today dare to show itself? See here the moment experienced for the moment, in its form caught at the very instant of awakening, freed from nothingness. Beyond the overvaluing of the negative, far from the falsely hermetic example of a cumbersome style. Simplicity, clarity, subversion itself.
From the first, her works are absolutely wrenched from that withdrawal into the community "like a flight of gyrfalcons outside of the native charnel house" (Heredia). Images that are foreign to the ambient narcissistic depression, they escape altogether the contemporary regression of "identity" and the religious or sexual segregations in fashion.
Kimiko Yoshida rejects this deadly, furious, archaic defense of "identity", the community, nationality - that is her "absolute perfection". No particular adherence defines her, no family, no clan. Obviously, she neither belongs nor adheres to any ethnic, religious or sexual group. She has turned her back on the contemporary epidemics of the affliction of identity: adherence to a religious ghetto, death chambers for one community or another, ethnic endogamy, the humiliated segregation of gender. The artist places herself apart from the depressing nihilism that characterizes the global ideology and economy. Her work indeed responds to the globalisation of goods and images by cutting across constituted cultures and religions, mixing references amongst them, and metamorphosing them. She opposes the clashes between linguistic communities and national belonging by blending rites and mythologies, crossbreeding and transforming them.
Do we know how to hear her? Nothing is less certain.
We need to recall these words written by Rimbaud in his second letter of the Seer (May15, 1871): "When woman's infinite bondage is broken down, when she lives for herself and thanks to herself, man - abominable until now - having given her her dismissal, she too will be a poet. Woman will find the unknown! Will her worlds of ideas differ from ours? She will find strange, unfathomable, delicious things; we will take them, we will understand them."
The moment has indeed come to understand.
The question that Kimiko Yoshida remembers surely doesn't involve an insignificant "Who am I?" But her work does open on the more pertinent and essential question of identifications: "How many am I?" Which obviously has quite a different impact.
In Kimiko Yoshida's work, history is seen from an angle, at once in vain and saved. Ancient rituals, forgotten mythologies, magical liturgies begin again, differently, coming from elsewhere. A history has taken place, another moves ahead: we can see it, sense it, analyse it, guess at it and expose it, again, with a joyous disquiet.
The artist smiles, bowing her head, and shoots your way in a clear voice, "All that's not me, that’s what interests me". What does she mean by that? You haven't the slightest idea but approve, because you suddenly guess that everything having to do with identity, genealogy, even genetics, that religious and social or familial roots - that all that will at last be short-circuited, denied, overstepped. She also has this turn of phrase, which is quite succinct: "Each photograph is a ceremony of disappearance". Let's wait for what comes next: "My Self-portraits are still lifes. What I show is the image of a corpse." You immediately see what it's all about: being and nothingness, the vanity of the image, life and death, and especially getting beyond narcissism.
The disappearance at work in these images discovers for us a more essential obliteration. The image of disappearance has become a disappearance of the image. The obscurity that illuminates the night is finally exchanged for the gentleness of the day beneath a steady sun. Revelation in color has taken place.
The result is profound.
Ultimately, for Kimiko Yoshida art is above all the experience of transformation: "Transformation is, it seems to me, the ultimate value of the work. Art for me has become a space of reversal, of metamorphosis - mutation, permutation, transmutation. My self-portraits, or what go by that name, are only the place and the formula of the transfiguration. All that's not me, that’s what interests me. To be there where I think I am not, to disappear where I think I am, that is what matters."
Everything comes down to absence, disappearance, obliteration. But it is all a matter of transformation, connection and reversal: metamorphoses of the body, changes of meanings. Absence is the presupposition of every image, which only ever represents that which is lacking. However, disappearance itself is the condition of revelation. Erasure is overturned into epiphany.
Suddenly, the past is abolished, the present becomes constant, the future is sucked in. These photographs impose themselves like a succession of epiphanies; a precise sequence, present and transparent, of thought. There is nothing like this thinking in images to affirm Time and reverse it before your eyes, to transform, recover, breathe, isolate, space, listen, pour out, concentrate, dilate, contract, accelerate, brake and multiply time.
Catalogue published by Xin Dong Cheng Space for Contemporary Art,
Beijing, China, 2008