I can’t look at Yokota’s work without thinking about disintegration.
His work emphasizes imagery keen on eschewing concrete visual representation and instead offering something teetering on the brink of abstraction. The effect might best be described as a strobe used with infrared film shot in near complete darkness and the film subsequently pushed, over-developed or otherwise mangled post exposure. There’s frequently a fixation with grain enlarged to the size of golf balls, the space between grain as a sort of craquelure; fixer streaks mar the film, dust and hair become randomized, scintillating scotoma-esque focal points and the occasional hint of color reads somewhere between an opalescent oil smear on rainwet asphalt and B&W negs left to sit overnight in spent blix.
I’ll grant the use of color is masterful. But for the most part methinks the work doth seethe too much. It’s too bleak to be so entirely ambiguous about whether what it’s presenting is beautiful, a nightmare or a bit of both. (I’d wager that Yokota is probably very into Brakhage.)
That’s why the Taratine series appeals to me–unlike the rest of the work which seems clinical and detached. There’s a sense of relationship and involvement, something from which the rest of the work suffers from the abject lack of.
I object to a lot of the compositional decisions undertaken but there is something compelling about the poses in the above images. Except for the miasmatic haze hovering above the figure on the bed, the image on the right might very well be a lost Callahan of his beloved Eleanor. It’s all more painterly than that and I can’t help but think of someone like Titian or Goya.
Yet, what’s most fascinating is the image on the left. The pose is stunningly dynamic–but the visual dynamism of it is actually played away from the camera but in a way where it isn’t lost in the image.
It reminds me of Romanian auteur Cristian Mungiu’s post screening comments at the US premiere of Beyond the Hills. He spoke about working exclusively with long uninterrupted takes and how frequently at least one of the two phenomenally talented actresses wound up with their back to the camera. How does a performer convey emotion when at least half of their facilities for expressing that emotion are obscured? We in the modern world have a desire to see everything in an immediate, unmediated fashion; this urge is actually to our detriment as frequently what we don’t see is more compelling than what we do see and how an awareness of this notion permeated much of the blocking in the film.
If I had the opportunity to ask one question of Yokota, it would be: to what extent are you consciously aware of trying to formulate a new language of photographic representation of the human body exclusive to lens based visual culture?
It may not be at the forefront of his practice but it’s something that would very much be in keeping thematically with his work up to this point. Further, I think it’s actually an entirely crucial endeavor.