Shoji Ueda: Nagasaki’s Endless Rainbow

“When we speak about collective trauma and the Second World War, we somehow give credence to Germany in its role of perpetrator and subsequent victim of ashamedness or the Jewish community for their sacrifice to genocide. Both valid. And yet, perhaps it is only my perception of the matter, but Japan ranks third in the tiered economy of the traumatic duress facilitated by that war…until you look at the images”

I always imagine that it looks like what a whisper would look like if a whisper could wail. The atmospheric haze of the prefect’s borders, aggrandize an amount of nostalgia by merit of its geography. Without the haze, the sunset would never remind us of the radiated wheat sheaf, nor the rice fields that returned blacker and blacker ever year. The distinct hum of the bees that stopped so many years ago and that cloud that leaks nearly venomous rays of the sun direct into the eyes of school children are now a dirty talisman of recollection. A time for re-building and a time for our memories to lapse.

The sea this year grew warmer than normal and there seemed to be unusual amounts of tenancy occupying its shores by way of the bloated whale or tuna. The cascade of tumors combined with the blackened rice, the reason why the lapse of memory is only that; a lapse. Daily, I am reminded of the blinding fires, the tinder housing left looking like twisted spinal columns left flaking in the dust of that Omni-present haze. That whisper in blurry Technicolor, the wail is suppressed, as teeth grow loose in gums. A happy childhood is a childhood without these reminders. We try and fly kites. We try and comb the beaches for shells while avoiding those bloated polyps that line its shores and hold our breath around the immoveable former feast of the whale bound to sand, no longer roaming in dark violent waters.

Shoji Ueda’s posthumous catalogue for Chose Commune feels very much like post-war Japanese photography always feels, poetic yet desolate. It is as if every photographer felt that war to a binding degree. Those bombs and that surrender had neutered a proud civilization. When we speak about collective trauma and the Second World War, we somehow give credence to Germany in its role of perpetrator and subsequent victim of ashamedness or the Jewish community for their sacrifice to genocide. Both valid. And yet, perhaps it is only my perception of the matter, but Japan ranks third in the tiered economy of the traumatic duress facilitated by that war…until you look at the images.

 

 

“Shoji Ueda’s posthumous catalogue for Chose Commune feels very much like post-war Japanese photography always feels, poetic yet desolate”

 

The majority of this book and the simulation of Japanese photography to focus on grain contains a parallel to those grainy visions of the atomic bomb. It should not be undersold that there is a connection to grain and radiation. However, the reason that I adore this book is for the color images at the end. There is a blur to them. I suspect that the genesis of this blur is either the distortion of time on the negatives or that more likely, the diapositive slides were scanned a certain way. When re-scanning slides, because of their format, often times that lair of air that a scan bed must read from the surface of the slide and the refractory bounce of light creates a condition not unlike the blur in these images. It becomes a techno-metaphorical pathology that evokes a sense of the bittersweet or loss. The images are saccharine to the point of banality, but under this blur, there exists metaphors in color, likely not intended, but important non the less for considering identity, memory, and loss and for this, I am happy that the publishers have chosen to work with these images.

 

 

What was banal or hinted at the interior life of family now dances like dust particles in a strong beam of sunlight for recollection. Perhaps I am enforcing trauma on these images. It would not be unlike me to do so. It is perhaps what I want to see, but one must question the set of circumstances from which the material has been produced and the combined effort of what it means to add this layer of blur to the once-banal images of children at play or in the field. It certainly feels considered. It is a techno-color spectre still situating itself amongst the smiling faces and golden wheat. The last image is an image of a wood-burning stove with a prism of rainbow dancing playfully on its cold gray surface and speaks volumes for its choice as ultimate image. Highly Recommended.

 

 

 

 

Nagasaki’s Endless Rainbow

Shoji Ueda / Shoji Ueda Office

Chose Commune

(All rights reserved. Text @ Brad Feuerhelm. Images @ Shoji Ueda.)

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