by Laura Bien
Unquiet photos of toylike bombers, clangorous streets, and pregnant men in the U-M Museum of Art show of contemporary Japanese photographers collectively suggest a modern anomie concerned with uneasy relationships to others and to cultural and even biological standards.
Collected from eleven photographers ages thirty to sixty-five, the touring exhibition includes Tomoko Yoneda's haunting photo trio of a pearly blue sky. Closer inspection reveals a tiny airplane centered in each frame. Taken in England, the works' title, Beyond Memory and Uncertainty — B-52 Bomber Returning from Iraq, invests the simple compositions of a receding jet with a sense of watchful witness.
In contrast to this meditative trio, Keizo Motoda's jangly SNAP OSAKA street scenes bristle with such outsider types as a fifty-something busker playing not a guitar but a drum set, a mohawked teen boy with a bleach-blond teen girl, and what appears to be a child street performer drawing pictures in a notebook on the asphalt by holding a radio to whose antenna is attached a pen. In each case the subjects have separated themselves, by appearance, by spatial distance, or by strangeness of activity, from the city crowds around them, suggesting a modern-day isolation of the individual.
Echoing this theme is Shizuka Yokomizo's disquieting Strangers photo series. The artist created the photos by mailing letters, beginning "Dear Stranger," that asked if the recipients would be willing to stand at their windows to be photographed on a given day and time. Nighttime exterior photos of windows of apartments and homes each show one resident standing and facing the windows, staring at the camera. The odd juxtaposition of the subjects' expressions of wary curiosity about the voyeuristic viewer creates a reciprocal sense of fascination mixed with fleeting guilty embarrassment.
Unease also accompanies Hiroko Okada's manipulated photos of cheerful pregnant men. They're part of The Delivery by Male Project, which includes a video that "documents" the imagined innovation of male pregnancy. The photos imply questions about gender
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