I once held to a vague image of life that, as one passes through uneventful days and the years add up, one moves from being a little girl to being a young woman, and then to being a mother, and then, eventually, to being a grandmother, and that one lives until 80 or so and then one day one dies. But, as I grew older, my days of being an innocent little girl who could defend herself against any and all fears with her imagination ended, and I had to come to grips with the reality that there are diseases prayers cannot cure, that magical incantations do not move people’s hearts, and that there is no magic potion that wipes away misery in a flash. For someone like me who had been a little girl with her head in the clouds, the bitter revelations of the world were harrowing.
When death appeared before my eyes in all its ugly reality, my body grew limp, my hands and feet turned cold, and I felt like I had already passed on from this life. I could never get back to that place where I had once been; my days were engulfed in anxiousness and everything felt numb and distant.
This was the state I was in when my eyes fell upon a series of missing girl posters on the wall of my local train station. For one reason or another, the ordinary course of these girls’ lives had been disrupted. These girls did not fit into my fanciful image of life. Instead, these girls existed inside the posters, as if time had stopped for them. As I contemplated the posters, I felt that my being was superimposed on the girls, because once my imagination had reached that point, I was no longer present in this world. I pictured the girls, and my former existence, like something transparent, like a phantom or an illusion—gespenster in German. That’s when I decided to take self-portraits, taking the actual missing girls as a motif.
I can only imagine the reasons and the situations surrounding the girls’ disappearances. The only thing you can say that’s true about all of them is that their ages and their appearances have continued to change with every moment since their disappearance. And yet we carry on searching for these old images of the girls as they once were. Even if the girls are still alive somewhere, the images we are looking for no longer exist anywhere.
I studied the girls’ ages, hairstyles, outfits, and body types at the time they disappeared and hunted for the right clothes to match these photos. As you can imagine, finding exact matches wasn’t easy. While I was doing this, I felt as if I was scouring the streets for the girls themselves. And again when I posed as the girls with the clothes I had found and took the photos, I fell under the illusion that I was one of the disappeared girls and a kind of intangible fear came over me. Assuming the girls’ defenseless and fleeting complexion, and pretending to be a person who exists but doesn’t exist at the same time, was a strange experience that provoked sensations I had never encountered before.
Every time I spoke with someone about this project and explained that I was creating a work centered on missing girls, I was greeted with a dubious look. Even discussing the existence of these girls is taboo in polite society. The phrase “girls kept out of the light” kept welling up in my mind. But the truth is that these girls do give off a trace amount of light, even if we don't notice it in our everyday lives. Long ago, people used to call the phenomenon of disappearing being “spirited away.” And, I think these girls still emanate a presence, as if they have received power from a supernatural force. In my photos, I tried to capture their tiny light and let it rise to the surface again. In that moment of the photograph, the girls, and I myself, are freed from the axis of time and exist in perpetuity.
I can sense a minute amount of light in the middle of darkness through the photos. I can fix my eyes directly on the subject. And, whereas our corporal bodies change day by day, our photographed selves are immortal. In the act of taking a photograph, I seek the light and try to slip through the darkness.
If I should suddenly pass from this world, the photos I’ve left behind will remain. They are my salvation from the grief of my decaying, perishing flesh.
Entries form: Book (270 x 360 mm) with 21 digital archival pigment prints on art canvas
These are not run-of-the-mill self portraits. These are works of art in which the artist herself has faithfully re-imagined girls who once existed but have gone missing based on the girls’ remaining data (hairstyles, clothing, age, location), and has photographed herself in the stead of the disappeared girls. These portraits are loaded with connotations. In contrast to the missing girls who exist in a timeless, ageless perpetuity, the artist’s own physical appearance changes moment by moment as she ages. The artist underscores this unbridgeable gap by dressing up as the disappeared girls and, in turn, deftly expresses the fleetingness and precariousness that grip Japan’s young generation today.
In the historical context of photography, Cindy Sherman was the pioneer of this form, but the artist has thoroughly assimilated the form into a Japanese framework and produced works that are wholly original to her. The design of the book, the binding method, and the feel of the paper all relay the extremely meticulous nature of this work.
Born in Osaka in 1986
Studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, in 2009 as an exchange student
Graduated from the Graduate School of Arts, Kyoto City University of Arts in 2011
Received a Special Jurists' Honorable Mention Award at the MIO Photo Awards in 2011
Has been active in Japan and abroad as an artist and photographer since 2011
2014 Received an Excellence Award at the 37th New Cosmos of Photography (selected by Noi Sawaragi) and won the Grand Prize at the New Cosmos of Photography 2014 Exhibition
(At the time of 2014)