Wednesday 17 October 2012

Daido Moriyama printing show @Tate Modern, London

Our Associate editor, Brad Feuerhelm on the rare opportunity to create his own limited-edition, photo book with legendary Japanese photographer, Daido Moriyama.

I was lucky enough to get to the Tate Modern last week to take part in making a book with Daido Moriyama along with a bevy of other photography aficionados. The idea of the printing show has been successfully resurrected by curator, writer and Goliga Press head Ivan Vartanian for the Tate’s current show Klein + Moriyama, which in itself is a great behemoth of a dual retrospective.

Mr. Vartanian has taken his cue from the original printing show that Moriyama did in New York City in 1974 wherein he notoriously and, in perfect participatory harmony, assembled a small workshop in the commercial gallery and invited interested parties to become part of the performance of book arts selection. Members were allowed to pick an amount of Moriyama’s images to collate into their own book. A highly probable gesture to the unique and collaboration bereft of the pressures of commerce normally associated with a commercial gallery endeavour. This seemed to be a kind of citizen artist project with a nod to the happenings of the 60’s. Collaborative. Inspirational. Effective. 

On the sixth floor of the Tate Modern with its expansive views over a lovely sunny London, participants were asked to repeat the process whereby they are allowed to pick through a pre-selected amount of Moriyama’s works to collate and produce their own book on the spot with other members allotted the same time. It was a hubbub of friendly, weekend activity with museum curators milling about with the public and of the photographic enthusiasts on the same level, the level of artist. The sort of open experience is one of the many reasons the London photographic community has been greatly enabled by the Tate’s push towards photography under the tutelage of Simon Baker, chief in staff of bringing photography howling down on London, the beast tamed and now sharply in the spotlight.

Before entering the sanctity of the Tate, I had already decided to reduce my knowledge of Daido Moriyama into one image and to repeat it over and over, making a repetitive, yet completely unique object barring any other paraphoto nerds had not beat me to it in 1974 at the original staging or at the recent Tokyo happening. At $40,000 for an original copy of the 1974 book, I think I will decline to pursue its possibility. In selecting an image of lips, I felt that I selected an iconic summation of the desire in Moriyama’s work. My ultimate choice would have been the ‘stray dog’ image, which I can still envision as a single image book.

Moriyama, ever the provocateur, was clever to exclude ‘stray dog’ and the famous tights image for his pre-selection of works available in the book making process. I remember chuckling on the way in when I realised it was not there, knowing he had got the best of me under his controlled and fairly so, tyrannical application of what we could choose. The images on display were gorgeous and the second-guessing about making it a more straightforward book still swayed to repetition and the single idea/image.

After selecting your images on a card (all cleverly organised), you give the selection to a printing assistant who then goes through the process of stapling the images to a pre-made screen printed cover of which there are two choices to pick from. I went blue. The title… Menu

I waited while my book was assembled to have my number called out to retrieve it from Simon Baker. My Menu served, a deserved light chuckle from him at its insistence to be different and I was sent off to wonder in the big smoke for the rest of my Sunday, feeling that the experience was well worth the obscenely cheap £20 ticket. Whether I felt I collaborated or parasitically stole myself into a vain collaboration with Mr. Moriyama is another matter entirely!
Brad Feuerhelm