The Family is a Pubis: Motoyuki Daifu and Tokyo
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  • One of the entries in this years ‘Consumption’ themed Fifth Prix Prictet Photography Award was Motoyuki Daifu, a young photographer born in 1985 in the Bubble Economy of Tokyo and now living in Yokohama with his family.

    Alongside other shortlisted artists — Adam Bartos, Rineke Dijkstra, Mishka Henner, Boris Mikhailov, Hong Hao, Juan Fernandeo Herran, Ahbraham Oghobase, Allan Sekula and Michael Schmidt — Daifu’s Project Family placed his own family placed at the centre of a universal image of domesticity and consumption.

    “Tokyo is an important city for me…”

    In a world of plastic products, the ‘age of business’ as Boris Mikhailov explains takes place as much at the supermarket as it does at home or in the office. His “search of formal solutions to translate this monotony of everyday life” is his response to the current social and political situation. Daifu’s search though is less deliberate and more informal, preserving the daily chaos seen from across the dinner table, as if pulled straight from Peter Greenaway’s film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover — a camouflage of apples, oranges, pineapples taking a showers, cellophane wrap and table cloth.

    Seen in relation to other Japanese photographers, like the semi-autobiographical work of Nobuyoshi Araki, the question remains whether these are images of an extremely talented art-director in-the-making? Like Araki however, whats truth or not is of little importance. Photography is no longer a thing unto itself but a way of expressing the consequence of Daifu’s life in a city that places little importance on specific reproduction.

    “I was born in Tokyo and I have been living in the vicinity of Tokyo for 28 years. My work is a consequence of my experience of life here (sic) and if I were to live in a different city, I would definitely produce very different work.” 

    Daifu is a hopeless romantic. The family is a Pubis, so I cover it in pretty panties from which Project Family and Still Life both feature, unflinchingly shows a typical family. Tokyo is the backdrop, along with the kitchen table, the constant distraction, lack of privacy and general lack of space. He’s celebrating Tokyo while laughing at it.

    The truth is, Daifu’s equipped with a great sense of humour and compassion, one aimed squarely at loved ones; Ex-girlfriends; Siblings; Parents and in particular his mother. While at his brother is seen lying head on table next to remains of half-eaten fish bearing the same boss-eyed expression, his mother is reimagined in spectacular form, with a little help from friend and collaborator Ken Kagami. Their matriarchal vision is tongue-in-cheek yet undeniably respectful.

    Vice Magazine’s Global Photo Collaborations (2013), saw Ken become Daifu’s model wearing the face of Daifu’s mother as a mask, after he proposed they collaborate. Without any explicit instruction of what to wear like they both created an amalgamation neither male or female but with hints of both. ‘Gari-Gari-Kun’ popsicle wrappers covered both nipples over a see-through raincoat. “Pear flavoured. Perfect for the summer” . Despite being November, their only regret was not choosing a different flavour. This probably doesn’t make a great deal of sense but, seen in context, this hardly matters. Initially the image of his mother in the future as homeless lent their piece the title of “FUTURE MOM”. Unconsciously Ken went along with it, stuffing his belly with old clothes and pushing a found trolley.

    “As long as I live in Tokyo and am a Japanese photographer, Tokyo will remain an important place, full of a particular meaning.”

    His success to date has been unorthodox to say the least, even by foreign standards. Gallery representation has been a very recent event. He’s part of the collaborative group SPACE CADET, a group of artists self-propelling in charge of their own shows and events and no doubt bound for greatness. Before being represented, he was published (Lovesody, Little Big Man, 2012), exhibited in New York at Lombard Freid Projects (2012) and this summer exhibits at Little Big Man Gallery in LA.

    With further shows in Tokyo planned for later this year along with an appearance at Frieze London, the demand for Daifu’s very Japanese and Tokyo-centric  perspective will see him do great things. Its appeal is in how confounding this life seems to be but one we can all relate to in some small definable way.

    Motoyuku Daifu — motoyukidaifu.com
    Space Cadet — spacecadet.jp

    An abridged version features in Elephant Magazine #20

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    Originally published on September 30, 2014