2016 / 07
‘…when the headlights momentarily peeled off the darkness of existence, the woman’s face had been unexpectedly illuminated. But it was not the ones being observed who were startled, but those who watched behind the trees.’, Mishima wrote of the voyeuristic pursuit of the lawyer Honda in his novel The Temple of Dawn. The work in ‘Shikijo: eroticism in Japanese photography’ at Blindspot Gallery are as much about the eroticism in the work of the six female and the seven male photographers as they are about the viewers’ act of looking.
Many of these works would easily run against the current of feminism, they are certainly difficult to stomach without the wit of sincerity. A picture by the famous Nobuyoshi Araki shows two young men carrying a naked woman wrapped in plastic under Japanese bondage across a gallery space, it is as if she is just another object like the paintings at the background, to be unwrapped and displayed. As with other works of Araki that capture female genitalia and women’s bodies, he makes no excuse of objectifying the female body. Daido Moriyama’s snapshots of nameless naked women in nameless hotels reveal not the identity of the subjects but how the gaze identifies with its own pleasure. These are unapologetic display of male gaze indeed, but to disapprove them solely on this ground amounts to denying the existence of the erotic pleasure of looking. For pleasure is real before it is gendered, and its existence asks for no preceding sanction of morality - it doesn’t but we do. Our society asks the individual to question his/her own private pleasure.
Such is the moralising air that haunts the viewers – whatever one’s gender(s) and sexual orientation is/are. We question whether we have exploited and abused someone as the object of our observation, whether erotic pleasure can be publicly displayed, whether we should synchronise our gazes with those of the photographers, whether the photographers’ gazes mean more than the transparent pleasure of eroticism so that looking at these pictures should elicit critical questions about morality. It is therefore not the nudes of men and women that are the subjects of this exhibition but the self-questioning self of each viewer who pits pleasure against guilt, giving eroticism its dangerous beauty.
Eroticism exists as the antagonism between the right to pleasure and self-censorship. It is joy unasked to be unspoken. In giving expression to them, each photographer - male or female, gay or straight - displays different degree of anxiety in justifying their right to erotic pleasure. Tokyo Rumando did so by explicitly staging observers inside the pictures, to the point of being anxiously didactic. Kohei Yoshiyuki’s pictures of men in their voyeuristic pursuit in the dark reflect very well all that exists as unspoken when this very exhibition engrosses its viewers in private thought.
This exhibition exists as the long instant when the headlight in Mishima’s novel just descended on the voyeuristic observers but right before their moral alerts the call to retreat. It is a show that quietly captures the private violence of eroticism in men and women.
 p.212, The Temple of Dawn, Yukio Mishima, Vintage Classics
討論作品：Shikijo - eroticism in Japanese photography