Over a previous weekend I saw Hitoshi Toyoda’s slideshow NAZUNA at Yokohama Trienalle. He uses several projectors to project his ‘visual diaries’. Travelling to America and then to different parts of the world, including Japan, his documentation play out less like dry and factual but drama, the life of someone never ‘in frame’ but clearly close by. Some of the people he, and in turn we, follow either disappear or pass away.
Alone, each image tells of an incidental and ancillary moments when seen separately do little to prepare you for how they work when threaded together. When stitched together in the projector carousel, a theme rises albeit slowly to the surface. An accumulation over the years of reoccurring figures and vistas. Overgrowth surrounding the quiet structure of old buildings advances and then recedes through the reoccurrence of places photographed over and over again.
Toyoda works exclusively in slideshows. They’re the only way of seeing his work. There are no books to speak of, or shows to visit. You see them communally. With other people. The cinema is probably an easy example to draw in comparison but both are different with Toyoda, silently translating the slides that feed narrative structure intermittently giving particular context; the war in Afghanistan; The discovery of an Amish village in rural Japan. He swaps carousels when he needs to, elevated above everything and everyone else in an un-authoritative, purely functional sense.
Whats particularly amazing is NAZUNA’s length. Filmic, they hold the attention from beginning to end, drifting here and there in the meantime. Each slide holds the attention as the projector’s focus is pulled back and forth. Its clever as you’re waiting for that moment, anticipating the on-screen shift as things wildly out of focus remain so while things nearly legible are vividly pulled back into view. The screen and the image, if only briefly, contain depth and the sense that your no longer looking at something flat but something alive.
He spoke at the end of how the timing changes each time its shown. The decision he makes on how images are stitched together carry with them a resolutely personal narrative that is perhaps harder to unpick and make sense of. But this is what makes his approach unique to him, how he decides upon the images he chooses. Its an intensely personal piece of work made pubic. The ‘theatre’ setting only makes that experience of trespassing through the more intimate parts of someones past more affecting. With the intimacy and focus of using slide-film along with a projector whose focal length is temperamental, the ‘traumatic’ is experienced through the sobering lens of his camera.
I hope I get to see his other films soon.