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33. THE CONCEPTUAL PROTOCOL OF MY SELF-PORTRAITS by Kimiko Yoshida – Solo Show, The Solo Project, Basel, Switzerland, June 2012 – English







My quasi-monochrome self-portraits – large, square, subtly lit monochromic photographs – constitute my signature works since 2001. The conceptual protocol behind my self-portraits is invariable: always the same minimalist etiquette, same setting, same subject, same lighting, same framing… Thus, the same face is repeatedly portrayed but is never identical to itself. The more the figure is repeated, the more different it becomes.


No digital editing, no Photoshop manipulations: make-up only and direct shooting.


My new series of photographs, indecipherable and very nearly abstract portraits conceived with the history of art in mind, is entitled Painting. Self-portrait. The conceptual protocol is accompanied by a second constraint which I impose on myself: the systematic hijacking or diversion of clothing, deflection or misuse of haute-couture garments and fashion accessories, which are always used out of their function. No object is ever used as it is conform with its initial function: dresses or skirts, pants, shoes or handbags become a headdress out of the 19th century, classic finery, historical costumes.


Mutation, permutation, transmutation: it is all a matter of transformation. Art is a subtle process of transposition, an assiduous struggle with the state of things.


Thus this symbolic transposition of the chefs-d’œuvre of the old masters into large archival prints on canvas is based essentially on the process of détournement. The French word détournement means deflection, diversion, rerouting, distortion, corruption, misuse, misappropriation, hijacking, or otherwise turning something aside from its normal course or purpose.


To entitle a photograph « Painting » is to contradict the sense of the word and the thing itself, to set in opposition what is said and what is shown, to reunite these opposites. What the word designates and what it signifies constitute two separate and contradictory references. In the same way, what the image shows is cut off from what it signifies.


I see my self-portraits as timeless and abstract studies, that is to say, portraits detached from any anecdotal reference, from story telling, from narrative of any kind. Conceived by way of recollections of art history, this series of Paintings is a mental evocation of the chefs d’œuvre of old masters. It is a symbolic transposition.


Far from being a mere citation or an imitation or merely depending on resemblance, and vraisemblance, the deliberate transformation into the symbolic is only a retroactive allusion to some detail which has lingered in my memory, often without my even being aware of it.


Art is a subtle process of transposition, an assiduous struggle with the state of things. The only raison d’être of art is to transform what art alone can transform. The question is not an insignificant « Who am I ? » But my work does open on the more pertinent and essential question of identifications: « How many am I ? »  Which obviously has quite a different impact. Remember John Lennon (the very first words introducing to I Am the Walrus): « I am he as you are he as you are me… »


All that’s not me, that’s what interests me. To be there where I think I am not, to disappear where I think I am, that is what matters. It is in fact a variation after the comments by Jacques Lacan on Descartes (cogito ergo sum: I think, therefore I am). Jacques Lacan underlines that « I think where I am not, I am where I do not think », that is to say the being and the thinking are divided, split, disclosed. My work is a reflection upon the division between representation and meaning, representation and disappearance, representation and absence, signifier and signified… I’ve turned my back on any « quest for identity » and what goes with it: appurtenances and « communities », stereotypes of « gender » and determinism of heredity.


The self-portrait isn’t a reflection of oneself, but a reflection on the representation of oneself. The mental allusion to a Painting of an old master introduces immaterial otherness into my own work. I am conscious that it is precisely these characteristics of otherness and dissimilarity which constitute what is unique in a work of art. It is this alterity that alters the representation and aims towards the abstraction.